Tuesday, November 28, 2006

MS AntiMalware Team paper

I know I'm a little behind on this one, but I saw this morning that back in June, the MS AntiMalware team released an MSRT white paper entitled "Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool: Progress Made, Trends Observed".

I've seen some writeups and overviews of the content, particularly at the SANS ISC. Some very interesting statistics have been pulled from the data collected, and as always, I view this sort of thing with a skeptical eye. From the overview:

This report provides an in-depth perspective of the malware landscape based on the data collected by the MSRT...

It's always good for the author to set the reader's expectations. What this tells me is that we're only looking at data provided by the MS tool.

Here are a couple of statements from the overview that I found intersting:

Backdoor Trojans, which can enable an attacker to control an infected computer and steal confidential information, are a significant and tangible threat to Windows users.

Yes. Very much so. If a botmaster can send a single command to a channel and receive the Protected Storage data from thousands (or tens of thousands) of systems, this would represent a clear and present danger (gotta get the Tom Clancy reference in there!).

Rootkits...are a potential emerging threat but have not yet reached widespread prevalence.

I don't know if I'd call rootkits a "potential" or "emerging" threat. Yes, rootkits have been around for quite a while, since Greg Hoglund started releasing them with the NTRootkit v.0.40. In fact, commercial companies like Sony have even seen the usefulness of such things. It's also widely known that there are rootkits-for-hire, as well. Well, I guess what it comes down to is how you define "widespread". We'll see how this goes...I have a sneaking suspicion that since it's easy enough to hide something in plain sight, why not do so? That way, an admin can run all the rootkit detection tools they want and never find a thing.

Social engineering attacks represent a significant source of malware infections. Worms that spread through email, peer-to-peer networks, and instant messaging clients account for 35% of the computers cleaned by the tool.

I can't say I'm surprised, really.

These reports are interesting and provide a different view of the malware landscape that many of us might not see on a regular basis...it's kind of hard to see the forest for the trees when you're face down in the mud, so to speak.

Even so, what I don't think we see enough of in the IR and computer forensics community is something along the same lines but geared toward information that is important to us, such as forensic artifacts. For example, how do different tools stack up against various rootkits and other malware, and what are the artifacts left by those tools?

Most of the A/V vendors note the various changes made when malware is installed on a system, but sometimes it isn't complete, and other times isn't correct (remember the MUICache issue??).

What would be useful is a repository, or even various sites, that could provide similar information but more geared toward forensic analysts.

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