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!

Or

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?