Trend Micro takes aim at targeted attacks with custom-designed security service

Often called "advanced persistent threats", these APT attacks compromise employee PCs

Trend Micro has outlined a product-development strategy it calls "Custom Defense" intended to augment traditional signature-based anti-malware defense with custom-designed signatures to thwart stealthy, targeted attacks.

"We see hundreds of these targeted attacks every day," said Steve Quane, chief product officer at Trend Micro. Often called "advanced persistent threats," these APT attacks compromise employee PCs, often starting with a spoofed email with a malware-based attachment directed at a target. If the spear-phishing attack is successful, the hunt is on to get to sensitive information, such as what might be in a database. On compromised machines, there's often activity indicating the attacker is seeking to connect out to a command-and-control server for instructions or to send data, and Trend's Custom Defense concept is aimed at detecting that and stopping it.

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The Custom Defense strategy builds on Trend Micro's security appliance out earlier this year called Deep Discovery, intended to watch for signs of intruders. Yesterday Trend added a capability it calls "Deep Discovery Advisor" that can take images of user computers and corporate servers and run them in the Deep Discovery sandbox to spot signs of stealth activity from intruders.

Quane said this capability is also tied into Trend cloud-based Smart Protection Network, the collection and distribution point for threat information and signature updates for several Trend anti-malware products. The Deep Discovery Advisor and the Smart Protection Network working together let the customer identify malicious URLs and IP address immediately, and "understand the characteristics of the attack group," said Quane.

As part of Custom Defense, Trend announced specialized sniffer tools that work watching for attempts by attackers to worm their way into a corporate network. One tool watches for signs of suspicious activity directed at a Microsoft Active Directory server -- hackers often try to go there first to see who has administrative rights so they can target that person. Another Trend tool is intended to watch an email server, or endpoint software to monitor browser behavior for signs of attacks or compromise.

Custom security updates are basically custom signatures related to specific IP address and domain blacklists that the enterprise can define based on APT-style attacks that are detected, said Quane, adding that by year-end, Trend Micro expects to have the ability to generate custom antivirus signatures as well.

The concept with custom signatures is to be able to add them to Trend's email protection product as well as its Web gateway, endpoint security and ScanMail for Exchange, as part of an APT defense strategy.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email:

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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