The market leader in cloud-based, real-time internet threat detection for consumers, businesses and enterprises . Learn more

Cloud-based threat aggregation replacing “self-defeating” signature-based security as endpoints diversify

A large-scale “stamina game” – in which ever more-resourceful cybercriminals are proving adept at avoiding “self-defeating” signature-based protections – was likely to intensify as online criminals attacked new technologies, a security executive of one endpoint security vendor has warned.

The changing rules of this game had become clear early on after “traditional antivirus business efficacy collapsed because of the way the tools worked,” Webroot product marketing manager George Anderson told CSO Australia.

“We saw very early on that the antivirus market was not working,” he continued. “The volume was going up quickly, and the ability to create a database of signatures became self-defeating. So we began examining a different approach to handling malware.”

That approach, which has become commonly used by a range of security vendors, adopted a strength-in-numbers philosophy that saw threats aggregated and analysed through a consistent cloud-based platform.

Files and processes running on an endpoint are analysed and their hash values calculated for upload to the cloud service; these values are then used for later comparisons as files on any given endpoint change over time.

“We send it to the cloud and let our proprietary technologies decide,” Anderson said. “If it's something that's a known good we don't worry; a known bad, we stop it right away; and if it's undetermined, we can work more with it and make a decision” by activating monitoring and journaling, then activating the malware within a contained 'sandbox' environment to see what it does.

This approach had enabled Webroot's technology to keep up with the pace of infections regardless of the explosion in malware volumes. “We've been very successful against ransomware and other attacks,” Anderson said, “and we are very quickly getting 0-day malware because the platform has been designed to deal with that.

“A lot of what we've done is to move into making real-time decisions, and making them extraordinarily quickly. And as soon as we solve that problem for one individual, we also solve that problem for everyone else.”

Despite some wins on the part of the endpoint security providers, however, rapidly-shifting malware variants were continuing to keep the pressure on.

Riding on the broader availability of exploit kits like the user-friendly Angler, some 260,000 new ransomware samples were detected in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, up from 100,000 new samples in the third quarter and just 70,000 in the second quarter.

Even with strong tools in place, keeping up with this onslaught had become a “stamina game”, Anderson said. “This stuff is really smart, and attacks based on multiple vectors,” he said.

“Larger companies are just under constant attack, and there's no letup. It's not like you're fighting one fire; you're constantly fighting fires in every direction.”

The situation was only likely to get worse as the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm rapidly increased the number of endpoints – and, at the same time, increased the number of potential security vulnerabilities.

Centralising the threat-analysis logic in the cloud would prove useful in extending security to cover IoT environments, since the design had allowed for a thin and lightweight software client that weighs in at less than 1MB in size – making it suitable for all kinds of embedded and other device environments.

“Unlike with a traditional endpoint security solution, this approach means there are no updates,” Anderson said. “That cuts out a huge amount of bandwidth usage and the significant management costs you otherwise have to have every day.”

“Paired with the fact that we do automatic remediation – so that staff don't have to go in and rebuild the laptop or server or device – we have sucked the cost out of running that technology,” he said. “We have also sucked the expertise out of it. We're doing the work, rather than users having to do the work.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Webrootonline criminalsInternet of Things (IoT)Cloud-based threatSecurity LeadershipcybercriminalsmalwareCSO AustraliaGeorge Anderson

More about CSOEnex TestLabWebroot

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by David Braue

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts