When it comes to security, chaos may be your friend

Randomness, not organization could be the answer

Viruses and other malware are getting better at evading antimalware systems despite the sophisticated behavioral-analysis systems that are used to detect them. This week a rogue trader in France was able to hide a growing loss until it reached US$7 billion and was impossible to hide. What do these two events have in common? Both exploit the predictability of defenses to evade detection.

Malware creators use multiple tricks in their malware to help them evade detection. Evasion mechanisms have evolved from simple compression and encryption algorithms that obfuscate the code to sophisticated polymorphic designs and self-mutating code that constantly create new variants.

All of these evasion tactics have resulted in "zero day" attacks where malware is undetected until it becomes widespread enough to provoke an update from the vendors. Interestingly, some studies have shown that the antimalware software suites with the lesser market share are often able to detect malware that their more popular competitors miss. It is becoming increasingly evident that malware authors are testing their creations against as many different antimalware suites and versions as they can. The more popular the antimalware system, the more likely malware will be tested against it. This way, malware spreads wider and for longer because it can start off one step ahead of the defenses.

The rogue trader most likely tried to hide a bad trade by throwing money at it. As the hole grew deeper his trading positions became harder and harder to hide. But because this trader had spent a few years working on the audit side of the back office, he knew what an auditor would be looking for. He knew what activities would raise a red flag and how to balance the trades with fake trades so as to hide the hole. An investigation is still under way, but it is likely that the trader used his knowledge of the audit methodologies to suppress any early warning in the hopes of covering the loss. It was only revealed by a market crash that made the financial hole so big it almost swallowed the bank that employed him.

Security systems and security teams are vulnerable to such attacks because they are predictable. Either through repeated trial-and-error or insider knowledge, the attacker is able to predict the behavior of the security system and stay one step ahead. Predictability becomes a weakness of the system. An attacker need not be superbly intelligent or innovative. They only need to think "outside the box". The "box" being the rather small set of predictable attacks that the system has been designed to defend against.

Perhaps an orderly and well-organized security system is not best. When building a security organization or some security software perhaps you should consider adding a touch of randomness. Chaos may be your friend.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Andreas M. Antonopoulos

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?