Constant security improvements to Microsoft products are finally starting to pay off dividends, a Microsoft security engineer revealed last week.
Speaking at the BlueHat security conference in Israel, Microsoft security engineer Matt Miller said that widespread mass exploitation of security flaws against Microsoft users is now uncommon –the exception to the rule, rather than the norm.
Miller credited the company’s efforts in improving its products with the addition of security-centric features such as a firewall on-by-default, Protected View in Office products, DEP (Data Execution Prevention), ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization), CFG (Control Flow Guard), app sandboxing, and more.
These new features have made it much harder for mundane cybercrime operations to come up with zero-days or reliable exploits for newly patched Microsoft bugs, reducing the number of vulnerabilities exploited at scale.
Mass, non-discriminatory exploitation does eventually occur, but usually long after Microsoft has delivered a fix, and after companies had enough time to test and deploy patches.
Miller said that when vulnerabilities are exploited, they are usually part of targeted attacks, rather than cybercrime-related mass exploitation attacks.
For example, in 2018, 90 percent of all zero-days affecting Microsoft products were exploited part of targeted attacks. These are zero-days found and used by nation-state cyber-espionage groups against strategic targets, rather than vulnerabilities discovered by spam groups or exploit kit operators.
The other 10 percent of zero-day exploitation attempts weren’t cyber-criminals trying to make money, but people playing with non-weaponized proof-of-concept code trying to understand what a yet-to-be-patched vulnerability does.
“It is now uncommon to see a non-zero-day exploit released within 30 days of a patch being available,” Miller also added.
Exploits for both zero-day and non-zero-day vulnerabilities usually pop up much later because it’s getting trickier and trickier to develop weaponized exploits for vulnerabilities because of all the additional security features that Microsoft has added to Windows and other products.
Two charts in Miller’s presentation perfectly illustrate this new state of affairs. The chart on the left shows how Microsoft’s efforts into patching security flaws have intensified in recent years, with more and more security bugs receiving fixes (and a CVE identifier).
On the other hand, the chart on the right shows that despite the rising number of known flaws in Microsoft products, fewer and fewer of these vulnerabilities are entering the arsenal of hacking groups and real-world exploitation within the 30 days after a patch.
This shows that Microsoft’s security defenses are doing their job by putting additional hurdles in the path of cybercrime groups.
If a vulnerability is exploited, it is most likely going to be exploited as zero-day by some nation-state threat actor, or as an old security bug for which users and companies have had enough time to patch.
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Work from Home Security
Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.
Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.
This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.
- Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
- Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
- Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
- Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management
Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.
A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.
Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.
Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure
Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:
- Ease of deployment
- Outstanding ROI
- Overall TCO improvement
Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.
Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:
- Improving overall performance for backups
- Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
- Replacing components difficult to manage and support
In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.
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