SANS Institute points spotlight at security problems

SANS claims that many zero-day attacks that target Microsoft products are initiated in China

In its annual review of the worst security problems spotted for the year, the SANS Institute Wednesday cited zero-day attacks and human gullibility in falling victim to phishing scams or other social engineering tricks as among the most dismal trends of 2006.

The annual SANS "Top 20 Internet Security Vulnerabilities," this year called the "Top 20 Attack Targets," were highlighted by SANS Institute representatives in an appearance today at Britain's security agency, the National Infrastructure Security Coordination Centre in London. The SANS Institute listed one of the worst problems this year as zero-day vulnerabilities and attacks that have gone beyond Microsoft Internet Explorer.

According to SANS, a zero-day vulnerability is a known flaw in software that does not have a patch available. SANS said 45 "serious and critical vulnerabilities were discovered in Microsoft office products alone" and among them nine were zero-day vulnerabilities in which an exploit or worm was actively making use of the flaw and no patch was available, the SANS report notes.

But it's not just Microsoft products at stake, says Rohit Dhamankar, editor of the SANS Top 20 report and senior manager of security research at TippingPoint, a division of 3Com. "The rise of zero-day attacks, at least 20 of them this year, also included Apple's Safari browser and wireless driver." But according to SANS, the focus of most zero-day attacks remains Microsoft products, particularly Internet Explorer.

The SANS report published today claims that many zero-day attacks that target Microsoft products are initiated in China.

"There are various theories about why China is such a hotbed for zero-day attacks, but most likely it is the fact that much of Microsoft's source code is available there with little intellectual property-rights restriction on distribution, the culture supports reverse-engineering of proprietary code and research into exploiting code vulnerabilities, and there are few enforcement investigations into the crews launching the attacks against targets in other countries," the SANS report states.

Other attack trends spotted by SANS this past year include growth in targeted attacks, such as "spear phishing" where an e-mail-based scam is perpetrated against an organization or individual.

"For the first time this year we're citing the human factor," said Dhamankar. "It might be secretary out front that gets 'spear phished' with mail that looks like it comes from the CIO or the security office but it doesn't. It's an attack to get sensitive information."

Other threats SANS is highlighting for 2006 include VOIP attacks, including the type to "make money by reselling minutes and potentially injecting misleading messages and even creating massive outages in the old phone network."

"The VOIP servers are interfacing with the traditional networks," Dhamankar points out. Attackers can get to circuit-switched networks via VOIP servers that could have vulnerabilities.

"By compromising a VOIP server, an attacker now has the ability to inject bad messages in the phone network," Dhamankar says, adding that the most disastrous consequence can be bringing down the old phone network.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?