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Targeted attacks should be met with unique technologies, advises Symantec Malaysia

AvantiKumar | Feb. 4, 2014
Evolving, targeted attacks constitute one of the main concerns for IT and information security officers across all industries, says Symantec Malaysia country director Josephine Hoh.

New Country Director, Josephine Hoh (R) and Principal Consultant, David Rajoo (L) modified 

Photo - (On right) Josephine Hoh, Country Director, Malaysia, Symantec; and David Rajoo, Principal Consultant, Symantec Malaysia.


Symantec recently introduced new technologies in Malaysia to counter increasingly sophisticated targeted attacks, said the security solutions provider.

The new solutions include Disarm technology in Symantec Messaging Gateway and the addition of Network Threat Protection in Symantec Endpoint Protection for Mac computers, said Symantec Malaysia country director Josephine Hoh.

"One of the main concerns for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and IT managers today is safeguarding their organisations against evolving targeted attacks, which have become an established part of the threat landscape," said Hoh.

She said defending against sophisticated targeted attacks is now the norm, and it's not just large companies that are being impacted. "Targeted attacks are growing significantly among businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Small businesses globally are the target of 31 percent of all attacks, according to the 2013 Internet Security Threat Report."

Small companies are an attractive target for cybercriminals as they have fewer security safeguards and often have business relationships with larger companies which may be the ultimate target of attackers, said Hoh.

"The new technologies, combined with our comprehensive solution portfolio, will protect organisations in Malaysia from threats at the gateway, on the endpoint and in the data centre," she said.

Disarm at Gateway 10.5

Hoh said the new Disarm technology, developed by the company's advanced research division, uses "a first-of-a-kind technique to protect companies from targeted attacks."

She said most targeted attacks were now delivered in the form of malicious, but seemingly innocuous, documents delivered over email. "Each such malicious document, e.g., a PDF, DOC or XLS file, contains an embedded attack, and when a victim simply views the document, their computer is automatically and silently compromised." 

Traditional protection technologies attempt to scan documents for suspicious characteristics, said Hoh. "The problem is that many of these document-based attacks are purposefully crafted so they don't look suspicious, and as a result, they go undetected."

Symantec Malaysia principal consultant, David Rajoo, said, "Disarm technology takes a whole new approach. Instead of scanning the document, it essentially makes a digital harmless carbon copy of every incoming email attachment/document, delivering this carbon copy to the recipient, rather than the original, potentially malicious document. The result is that the recipient is never exposed to the attacker's malicious attachment."

According to Symantec's research, the Disarm technology would have blocked 98 percent of attacks that exploit zero-day document vulnerabilities thus far in 2013 - these are attacks that were entirely unknown and would therefore have likely evaded all traditional scanners, heuristics, emulators and even Virtual Execution (VX) solutions.

 Endpoint: network threat protection for Macs

Rajoo said Symantec has included advanced Network Threat Protection technology to the Mac version of the Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1.4.

"Many Mac users think they're impervious to attacks, and as a result don't take security seriously," he said. "But the reality is that this makes Mac users a potential goldmine for targeted attackers. Symantec's Network Threat Protection technology intercepts incoming network traffic before it can impact the Mac computers, looking for targeted attack exploits and automatically blocking them."

He said the Network Threat Protection technology uses a patented, application-level, protocol-aware Intrusion Prevention System to not only identify and block known attacks, but also identify and block many unknown or day-zero attacks.

 The data centre

Rajoo said Symantec also protected an organisation's critical assets and information in the data centre. Symantec offers Symantec Critical System Protection (CSP), a server lockdown solution designed to protect both physical and virtual infrastructure.

"Organisations can install and configure CSP so it only allows known-legitimate activities on your servers and blocks all other (anomalous) activities," he said. 

"If a targeted attacker does compromise a server, they must - by definition - perform activities that will deviate from the norm in order to access sensitive data on the machine, or elsewhere in the data centre," said Rajoo. "CSP automatically detects and blocks those deviations, stopping the attack automatically. Only approved software programs are allowed to run, and those programs are only allowed to perform approved behaviors, access approved resources, etc."

In addition to these new innovative technologies, Symantec's security solutions are powered by the Symantec Global Intelligence Network (GIN) and a team of more than 550 researchers around the world, he said.


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