Web surfers in February 2014 experienced a median malware encounter rate of 1:341 requests, compared to a January 2014 median encounter rate of 1:375. This represents a 10% increase in risk of encountering web-delivered malware during the second month of the year. February 8, 9, and 16 were the highest risk days overall, at 1:244, 1:261, and 1:269, respectively. Interestingly, though perhaps not unexpectedly, web surfers were 77% more likely to encounter Facebook scams on the weekend compared to weekdays. 18% of all web malware encounters in February 2014 were for Facebook related scams.
Update 2014-03-21: For clarity, the old kernel is a common indicator on the compromised hosts. We are still investigating the vulnerability, and do not yet know what the initial vector is, only that the compromised hosts are similarly ‘old’.
Update 2014-03-22: This post’s focus relates to a malicious redirection campaign driven by unauthorized access to thousands of websites. The observation of affected hosts running Linux kernel 2.6 is anecdotal and in no way reflects a universal condition among all of the compromised websites. Accordingly, we have adjusted the title for clarity. We have not identified the initial exploit vector for the stage zero URIs. It was not our intention to conflate our anecdotal observations with the technical facts provided in the listed URIs or other demonstrable data, and the below strike through annotations reflect that. We also want to thank the community for the timely feedback.
All of the affected web servers that we have examined use the Linux 2.6 kernel. Many of the affected servers are using Linux kernel versions first released in 2007 or earlier. It is possible that attackers have identified a vulnerability on the platform and have been able to take advantage of the fact that these are older systems that may not be continuously patched by administrators.
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Last week at RSA 2014, Chris Young and I joined a Live Social Broadcast from the Cisco Booth to discuss our announcements of Open Source Application Detection and Control and Advanced Malware Protection, as well as to answer questions from you, our partners and customers, about the trends, the challenges, the opportunities we’ve seen in the security industry this year.
Below is a link to view the recording of the broadcast. If you have any questions that didn’t get answered, please leave them in the comments, and Chris or I will get back to you.
January 2014 started with a bang, with one in every 191 web requests resulting in a web malware encounter. The Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) observed this same trend, witnessing a 200% increase in web malware encounters experienced by Cisco employees for the month. Overall, January 1, 25, and 26 were the highest risk days for encountering web delivered malware. In the chart below, the lower the number, the higher the risk of encounters. Still, with a median encounter rate of 1:375 requests, every day of January 2014 represented significant risk for web browsing.
“There is no silver bullet.” That’s one of our favorite sayings at Cisco Security. We use it to convey the point that malware prevention is not 100%. As new attack vectors emerge and the threat landscape evolves, some malware will get through – regardless of which security vendor you choose.
In fact, our recently released 2014 Annual Security Report found that “100 percent of business networks analyzed by Cisco have traffic going to websites that host malware.” Basically, everyone will be compromised to one degree or another.
There are two factors at play. First, as modern networks have expanded and extend beyond the traditional perimeter to include endpoints, mobile devices, virtual desktops, data centers, and the cloud, new attack vectors have emerged. Attackers don’t discriminate and will take advantage of any gap in protection to accomplish their mission.
Second, attackers are focused on understanding security technologies, how they work, where they are deployed, and how to exploit their weaknesses. For example, they outsmart point-in-time defenses – like sandbox technologies that only scan files once – by creating targeted, context-aware malware that can modify its behavior to evade detection and infiltrate the extended network where it is difficult to locate, let alone eradicate.
So what can you do about it? Well, at Cisco we advocate for continuous protection across the entire attack continuum – before, during, and after an attack. We believe security strategies that focus solely on perimeter-based defenses and preventive techniques will only leave attackers free to act as they please, once inside your network.
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