Saturday, October 15th 2011

Got A Virus? It's Your Fault Says Microsoft

Yes, that's right the maker of notoriously vulnerable software is now blaming you, the user, should you get a virus, trojan or other malware infection on your Windows computer. However, it does look like they have some justification for saying this. For those with long attention spans, Microsoft have just released their 168 page Microsoft Security Intelligence Report 6MB PDF, with the stated aim of providing:
An in-depth perspective on software vulnerabilities and exploits, malicious code threats, and potentially unwanted software in the first half of 2011
The first thing to note about the report is that it is limited to its Malicious Software Removal Tool and Microsoft's other anti-malware products. Zero-day attacks that it can't detect are not included in the findings. So, surely it can't all be the user's fault then? It also means that the security angles from third party security vendors such as Kaspersky, Norton and McAfee aren't represented here.

By far the biggest attack vector with 44.8% is infection with the help of the user, where they're duped into running some dodgy attachment or clicking an equally dodgy link. What with the generally very low level of computer literacy of most ordinary users, this is hardly surprising. Taking second and third place are two autorun options, USB at 26% & network at 17.2%, with all the others at surprisingly low levels, especially the exploit when update is long available, standing at only 3.2%.

Next up are the well known operating system vulnerabilities. 32-bit XP SP3 is by far the most insecure of recent OS's, with 10.9 Computers Cleaned per Thousand (CCT) which is unsurprising, considering the many hundreds of patches required since its 2001 release. Vista SP1 32-bit is a bit better at 8.8 CCT (so much for the much-touted enhanced security at it's 2007 retail launch), with the 64-bit version somewhat better at 6.7 CCT. From there, OS security improves significantly with the best being Windows 7 SP1 64-bit, which is to be expected, at a low 1.1 CCT. Server infections are surprisingly high though, considering that they are based on the same code base as their client counterparts. For example, Server 2008 R2 has the same underlying code as Windows 7, yet it's CCT is 3.3 times higher, at 3.6. Why should this be, since the admins that run them can be assumed to know about patching and general good security practice?

Of infections due to third party software vulnerabilities, Java takes the cake with between one-third and one-half of all observed exploits. Again, old versions are the most vulnerable and as Java auto updates, there's really no excuse to be running such old versions.

Because core OS security has increased so much in recent years, cybercriminals haven't stood still. Since duping uninformed "clueless" users is the most effective form of attack, they have now moved on to social networks in a big way, as they are so popular. Considering the type of fraudulent ads which can sometimes be seen on the side of a Facebook page, where the picture and text suggest one thing, but actually lead you to something completely different and obviously fraudulent when looked at a little more closely, it looks like the social networks themselves could do more to protect their users by vetting their advertisers more stringently.

One significant enhancement to computer security, is Microsoft's proactive stance on eradicating botnets in the last few years. On several occasions now, stories have been published covering particular botnets that were taken down by Microsoft working together with law enforcement in various countries to track down the command and control servers and websites, putting them out of action and thus disrupting the botnet. The infected machines can then be cleaned up later. This writer has from personal experience, seen spam drop from up to around 50 items a day to maybe 6 or 7 per week which is a great improvement, so this strategy is clearly working.

The conclusion for such a big report is remarkably concise, so is quoted in full:
Unfortunately, the process of eliminating malware from a computer is likely to become much harder in the next few years. Malware has become a lucrative business for the criminals who create and distribute it, and they have a financial incentive to find new ways to evade detection and make malicious files and processes harder to remove.

Therefore, understanding how malware spreads, operates, and defends itself at a fundamental level should be considered a prerequisite for IT professionals charged with protecting their users from attack and containing outbreaks when they occur. However, the best guidance is that which helps prevent malware infection from ever occurring. For more information about how to prevent malware infection, see the Microsoft Malware Protection Center at www.microsoft.com/security/portal.
Overall though, it doesn't seem like infections are down much, with social media phishing taking up the slack as clueless users blindly run malware and click on bad links. It would be desirable if the overall rate dropped, so that criminals would be put out of business and be forced to work for a living like everyone else or preferably, sit in jail.

One thing that surprisingly wasn’t mentioned in the report is the need to run a hardware edge firewall on your network. Without it, it's only a matter of time until Windows gets hacked into, regardless of how well patched it is. Thankfully, every decent modern home router has one of these built in and is switched on by default, addressing this critical requirement. For corporate networks, using a hardware firewall is a standard security policy decision.

Another worthy line of attack against botnets is the ISP. In some cases, ISP's monitor their user's internet connections, looking for patterns of behaviour that indicates a compromised machine. If found, they notify the user, usually by email. They may also slow down the connection, filter it or turn off access completely, depending on the user agreeemnt and the severity of the attacks, until the customer has addressed the problem

Due to its 168 pages, the report is very detailed and covers a wide range of topics, so covering them all is beyond the scope of this story. However, some of the more interesting areas covered in the report are: the rising attacks on Android smartphones, Flash Player exploits, spam, phishing and malware sites, rogue security software, Process Explorer and strategies for eradication of malware from infected machines.

Finally, the big takeaway from this report, is the usual advice of running the latest versions of all your software, including the OS (64-bit where possible) patch it as patches are released, use internet security software, use a hardware firewall and of course not forgetting user savvy to avoid getting duped by social engineering tricks into doing something stupid. Reckless user behaviour is by far the biggest part of this problem, just like car accidents.Source: InfoWorld, Microsoft Security Intelligence Report 2011
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106 Comments on Got A Virus? It's Your Fault Says Microsoft

#1

They are right. Most the time people blindly open random e-mails, visit badly compiled sites etc. That is how most viruses are taken. No matter which OS you have, there is always a chance of taking a virus if you don't know what you're doing. As long as you secure your PC real-time, and do not fall for anything, you pretty much will never get hacked.
Posted on Edit | Reply
#2
theJesus
by: qubit
Due to its 168 pages, the report is very detailed and covers a wide range of topics, so covering them all is beyong the scope of this story.
:p
Posted on Reply
#3
Dave63
by: John Doe
They are right. Most the time people blindly open random e-mails, visit badly compiled sites etc. That is how most viruses are taken. No matter which OS you have, there is always a chance of taking a virus if you don't know what you're doing. As long as you secure your PC real-time, and do not fall for anything, you pretty much will never get hacked.
I agree and stay away from them side ads and 3rd party apps like java and flash.
Posted on Reply
#4
Wile E
Power User
I agree with MS. The majority of infections are user error. I don't run AV on my machine full time, only install and run one every once in a while. When I do decide to run one, I'm always clean.
Posted on Reply
#5
HTC
Question: was it the user's fault when simply connecting to the Internet gave you a 50% chance of getting infected by the Blaster worm within 12 minutes on Internet connection back in 2003?
Posted on Reply
#6
Mussels
Moderprator
quite an interesting article, but i doubt i can be stuffed reading the source PDF
Posted on Reply
#7
Wile E
Power User
by: HTC
Question: was it the user's fault when simply connecting to the Internet gave you a 50% chance of getting infected by the Blaster worm within 12 minutes on Internet connection back in 2003?
2003 is irrelevant to the scope of this article. Back then it was an insecure OS. This is about current rates, in which we have much more secure OSes.
Posted on Reply
#8
Kreij
Senior Monkey Moderator
by: theJesus
:p
If you find a grammar or spelling error in a news article, please PM the writer instead of posting in the thread.

On Topic : Microsoft's report is right. the majority of infections are caused by people clicking on things they do not examine, oblivious to the consequenses.
The social networks (ie. Facebook) are going to be a HUGE problem as 99% of the people who happily share all their personal data and click on everything have no clue what they are doing.
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#9

by: HTC
Question: was it the user's fault when simply connecting to the Internet gave you a 50% chance of getting infected by the Blaster worm within 12 minutes on Internet connection back in 2003?
I had KAV Internet Security and never got it back then. The only stuff I got was from DL'ing porn over KaZaa back in Millenium, Bullguard lol.
#10
n-ster
The only virus I ever had was 100% my fault and I knew I had a 80% chance that I was going to get infected for downloading and installing the program. I did it anyways in the off-chance it was real, because my A/V scan turned up negative xD Stupid.

I don't have an A/V, but I do scan suspicious files if I decide to want to try them. I now practically never download suspicious files, actually none since a year (when I got the virus).

BTW, I download a shit-ton of stuff and go on dodgy sites, click on ads by accident all the time, have bouncing boobs a few times as well, but in my 12 freaking years of massive PC using, I only had 1 virus and it was 100% my fault. Also note that I've been regularly using my computer massively since I was 7 years old, and even at that age I didn't do something stupid, and I was stupid enough to delete Windows files because I wanted to save HDD space LOL so USE YOUR FREAKIN' COMMON SENSE

Also, Apple's OS X is much less secure than Windows. If hackers would target OS X as much as Windows, it would be hell for Mac users
Posted on Reply
#11
NC37
Funny.. I got a trojan on mine a month back, only after I installed MSE. Reason being, MSE turned off Defender which was by default stopping it, then MSE by default opened up the hole for it to get on.

So yes, it was my fault for trying out M$ branded AV software.

Epic M$, real epic.
Posted on Reply
#12
n-ster
Lol I have the default Firewall disabled also. I run without ANY A/V except anything that I cannot turn off. I might be lucky though
Posted on Reply
#13
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: n-ster
Lol I have the default Firewall disabled also. I run without ANY A/V except anything that I cannot turn off. I might be lucky though
It looks like you practice Safe Sex Surfing, which can get you surprisingly far. ;)

Are you sitting behind a hardware firewall in your router? That's the important one. This and keeping your Windows and apps patched are the two biggies to staying safe, besides user behaviour.
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#14
v12dock
omg yes! I thank you Microsoft of speaking up
Posted on Reply
#15

by: qubit
Are you sitting behind a hardware firewall in your router? That's the important one.
Actually, it isn't as important as people think. I run a single port modem, no routing. But I have my ports closed so it's a non-issue. AV however is more important IMO. It's easier to get a virus from Google images...
#16
erocker
by: n-ster
Lol I have the default Firewall disabled also. I run without ANY A/V except anything that I cannot turn off. I might be lucky though
Same here. I run in DMZ mode on my modem, no A/V and I also have Windows Defender turned off. The only protection I have is Windows Firewall and that really isn't much. I haven't had anything bad happen, but if it did I have a backup. Just wipe the drive and clone.
Posted on Reply
#17
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: John Doe
Actually, it isn't as important as people think. I run a single port modem, no routing. But I have my ports closed so it's a non-issue. AV however is more important IMO. It's easier to get a virus from Google images...
Yeah, I've seen that too. Kaspersky flags up a big warning when it leads to an infected page and blocks it from downloading.

Still though, with a hardware firewall, you can actually sit online with no patches at all on the OS and not get nailed. With the big caveat of course, that you basically don't do anything online with it. ;) The only place one should go with a newly installed, unpatched OS is Microsoft Update and patch it completely, before doing anything else.

In the end though, there's no silver bullet with computer security. It's a strategy involving many different components, all working together.

by: erocker
Same here. I run in DMZ mode on my modem, no A/V and I also have Windows Defender turned off. The only protection I have is Windows Firewall and that really isn't much. I haven't had anything bad happen, but if it did I have a backup. Just wipe the drive and clone.
I'll bet you do that to get low ping rates in online games? ;)
Posted on Reply
#18
IlluminAce
ID-ten-T errors have always been the biggest cause of security breaches, in whatever field - technical or otherwise. Back "in the day", the likes of Kevin Mitnick (now global icon) utilised this to their advantage in what's come to be known as social engineering. This involved such old favourites such as phoning up a support operative, claiming to be one of the company's managers who had forgotten the password for a critical piece of infrastructure... you get the idea.

It used to be perpetrated against large corporates the most; now the focus seems to have shifted to individuals. Instead of getting poorly paid workers to hand over access to corporate mainframes or communications infrastructure, the common thread seems to be persuading individuals to click on the wrong thing on their screen, thereby adding their machine to a botnet, or providing an attacker remote access, or joining a spamming/DDOS task, or passing back keypresses, or whatever it may happen to be. The fact is: it's easier to get non-technical people to click something accidentally, then it is to wade through thousands of lines of source code, or try to understand countless lines of assembly, or test every possible input field for non-validation, etcetera.

If only we could do away with that living organism between the chair and the keyboard, the Internet would be a much safer place...
Posted on Reply
#19
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
by: qubit
32-bit XP SP3 is by far the most insecure of recent OS's, with 10.9 Computers Cleaned per Thousand (CCT) which is unsurprising, considering the many hundreds of patches required since its 2001 release.
That's still remarkably low. Only 1.09% of computers scanned by Malware Removal Tool are infected. Malware Removal Tool is a security update by all versions of Windows since XP so virtually everyone has it (unless you're a pirate :ohwell:).

I agree with the findings though. User error is the most common cause and vulnerabilities in HTML/JavaScript/browsers is second, in my experience.


by: qubit
Why should this be, since the admins that run them can be assumed to know about patching and general good security practice?
Either stupid admins browsing the web/email on the server or they're more vulnerable because they tend to have more ports exposed for...serving. Ehm, Windows itself might not be the vulnerability; it could be the software sitting on those exposed ports (JVM, anyone?).
Posted on Reply
#20

There's no substitute for browser plugins that block active content by default. It can be a pain in the ass if you're online shopping and going to a lot of new sites where you have to enable javascript or flash, but otherwise requires little effort and prevents the most common types of online exploits since they virtually always rely on one or the other.

Personally, I love Avira. My only qualm is the fact that it doesn't give you the max protection it's capable of out of the box and to get that you have to go in and change at least a half dozen settings.
#21
exodusprime1337
I am in complete support of this, people need to learn to use the internet. It's not that hard, i spend a good part of my job cleaning up the mess left by virus's on client pc's. It sux, and it's always the same bullshit "how did this happen to me?" "i didn't do anything wrong" Google this shit people, learn to browse safely lol.
Posted on Reply
#22
exodusprime1337
by: NC37
Funny.. I got a trojan on mine a month back, only after I installed MSE. Reason being, MSE turned off Defender which was by default stopping it, then MSE by default opened up the hole for it to get on.

So yes, it was my fault for trying out M$ branded AV software.

Epic M$, real epic.
Not necessarily true. Defender is re-enabled on windows vista-7 machines after the install. Next things is that the definitions mse uses are all inclusive of what defender has so it will catch whatever defender would catch and more
Third thing, is that it's still your fault you ever got the trojan in the first place


This article simply states that if people knew how to browse safely and didn't fall prey to stupid and obvious schemes virus scans and virus removal wouldn't be so hard or widespread as it is

Sure mse didn't catch your trojan, but that doesn't change the fact that it was your fault it ever got there int he first place.
Posted on Reply
#23
Mussels
Moderprator
oh look, a pirated copy of that software i didnt want to pay for!

*double clicks crack, blames ensuing virus on crap antivirus product/OS*
Posted on Reply
#24
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: Mussels
oh look, a pirated copy of that software i didnt want to pay for!

*double clicks crack, blames ensuing virus on crap antivirus product/OS*
Yes, that's a point. Microsoft plays up the infected software angle from illegal downloads for all it's worth, but it's true. They are from an unknown and untrusted source, so it's no surprise that they come with little "extras".

The only time you can be sure is if you know the official Microsoft SHA1 for the ISO file you're downloading and then use something like md5summer to compare it. That pure file will of course come without the trojan crack you need to run the software...

Moral of the story: just go legit.
Posted on Reply
#25
Batou1986
Chances are if your reading this you already know it to be true.
Thankfully ppl are stupid so i will still have plenty of computers to fix.
Posted on Reply
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