RSA: Microsoft on 'rootkits': Be afraid, be very afraid
There are few strategies for detecting kernel rootkits on an infected system, especially because each rootkit behaves differently and uses different strategies to hide itself.
It is sometimes possible to spot kernel rootkits by examining infected systems from another machine on a network, said Dillard. Another strategy to spot kernel rootkits is to use Windows PE, a stripped-down version of the Windows XP operating system that can be run from a CD-ROM, to boot a computer and then compare the profile of the clean operating system to the infected system, according to Dillard and Danseglio.
Microsoft researchers have developed a tool called Strider GhostBuster that can detect rootkits by comparing clean and suspect versions of Windows and looking for differences that may indicate that a kernel rootkit is running, according to a paper published by Microsoft Research.
The only reliable way to remove kernel rootkits is to completely erase an infected hard drive and reinstall the operating system from scratch, Danseglio said.
Although rootkits are not unique to Windows, the popular operating system is a rich target and makes it easy for malicious hackers to disguise the presence of such programs, according to Jonathan Levin of Symantec Corp.'s @stake division, who attended the presentation at the RSA conference.
The operating system's powerful application programming interfaces make it easy to mask behaviors on the system. Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser is also a frequent avenue for malicious hackers, viruses and worms that could drop a rootkit on a vulnerable Windows system, Levin said.
Better tools could be built to detect the current crop of kernel rootkits. However, rootkit authors are adept at spotting new detection techniques and modifying their programs to slip around them, Danseglio said. "These people are smart. They're very smart," he said.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts