Security UPDATE--Spyware Detection and Classification--July 20, 2005

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1. In Focus: Spyware Detection and Classification

2. Security News and Features

- Recent Security Vulnerabilities

- VeriSign Buys iDEFENSE

- Firefox 1.0.5 Fixes a Dozen Security Problems

- IIS Application Isolation

3. Instant Poll

4. Security Toolkit

- Security Matters Blog

- FAQ

- Security Forum Featured Thread

5. New and Improved

- PC Protection

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==== 1. In Focus: Spyware Detection and Classification ====

by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net

You've probably heard by now that Microsoft is, or was, interested in making a deal to acquire Claria--a company known for its personal- information-tracking software. Formerly known as Gator, Claria is for the most part considered to be a propagator (no pun intended) of spyware that's bundled with many popular software packages such as the Kazaa peer-to-peer file-sharing application.

Last I heard, Microsoft scrapped its plans to acquire the company, although I'm not sure if that's true. Nevertheless, Microsoft caught some additional heat last week because it downgraded the severity rating of Claria's software in Windows AntiSpyware. The severity rating of similar software from other companies, such as WhenU and 180solutions, was reported to have also been downgraded.

In an open letter published at its Web site (see the URL below), Microsoft said it made no exceptions for Claria and that the company "decided that adjustments should be made to the classification of Claria software in order to be fair and consistent with how Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) handles similar software from other vendors."

http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/claria_letter.mspx

The letter goes on to say that "Today, anti-spyware vendors use different approaches, definitions, and types of criteria for identifying and categorizing spyware and other potentially unwanted software. This has limited the industry's ability to have a broad, coordinated impact in addressing the problem. That is a key reason Microsoft is a founding member of the Anti-Spyware Coalition, a group of technology companies and anti- spyware companies working alongside public interest groups to address key spyware issues."

The Anti-Spyware Coalition (first URL below) was actually convened by the Center for Democracy and Technology earlier this year. Microsoft was one of over a dozen entities that took part in the initial meeting. The coalition recently published the first draft of its "Anti-Spyware Coalition Definitions and Supporting Documents" (second URL below), which is now open for a 30-day public comment period.

http://www.antispywarecoalition.org

http://www.antispywarecoalition.org/definitions.pdf

The definitions outline a number of different types of spyware and describe the underlying technology and why it might or might not be useful. Microsoft and numerous other companies undoubtedly use these definitions as part of their guidelines for classifying software in their respective antispyware solutions. So reading the documents might help you get a better understanding of what spyware is from the perspective of various vendors.

Another interesting part of the documents is the outline for vendor dispute and false positive resolution. I'd guess that Claria and other vendors have used that, or a similar process, to have Microsoft review its software more closely, resulting in changes in software's severity rating in Windows AntiSpyware.

If you're interested in learning more and helping shape the way coalition members handle spyware detection and classification, be sure to read the first draft and send any comments you might have to the coalition before the end of the public comment period, August 12. After that time, the coalition will work to publish a final release sometime in the fall.

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==== 2. Security News and Features ====

Recent Security Vulnerabilities

If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at

http://www.windowsitpro.com/departments/departmentid/752/752.html

VeriSign Buys iDEFENSE

VeriSign announced that it acquired security research firm iDEFENSE for $40 million in cash. iDEFENSE provides security-related information to companies around the world.

http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/47037

Firefox 1.0.5 Fixes a Dozen Security Problems

Mozilla Foundation released Firefox 1.0.5, which fixes a dozen security problems and improves stability. While Firefox 1.0.5 does represent an improvement over previous versions, it has some known issues, so be sure to read about those for any caveats that might apply to your particular systems.

http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/47033

IIS Application Isolation

From time to time, you're probably called on to deploy a Web application that traffics sensitive information. That application might also reside on an IIS server that hosts other applications. What questions and considerations do you think about as you devise your plan for implementing the highest degree of application isolation you can manage? Brett Hill helps you think things through in this article on our Web site.

http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/45549

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==== 3. Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll: Does your network firewall provide stateful application-layer inspection in addition to the traditional stateful packet inspection?

The voting has closed in this Windows IT Pro Security Hot Topic nonscientific Instant Poll. Here are the results from the 10 votes.

- 50% Yes

- 50% No

New Instant Poll: Do you regularly scan your external network IP addresses for open ports on your network and compare the results against a known good baseline?

Go to the Security Hot Topic and submit your vote for

- Yes, I regularly scan my network and compare against a baseline.

- Yes, I periodically scan but merely review the results.

- No, I don't scan, but I think I should.

- No, I don't think scanning is useful.

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==== 4. Security Toolkit ====

Security Matters Blog: Endian Firewall--Check It Out

by Mark Joseph Edwards, http://www.windowsitpro.com/securitymatters

Endian Firewall easily turns a computer into a firewall appliance. The open-source project is based on IPCop, sports a Web-based configuration, and has OpenVPN built in for quick setup of a VPN.

http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46911

FAQ

by John Savill, http://www.windowsitpro.com/windowsnt20002003faq

Q: How can I determine whether a Dfs root is a standalone root or a fault- tolerant root stored in Active Directory (AD)?

Find the answer at

http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46992

Security Forum Featured Thread: Changing a Password Without Logging In

A forum participant wants to know whether there is a way for users to change their passwords themselves without logging on to the domain. Join the discussion at

http://forums.windowsitpro.com/web/forum/messageview.aspx?catid=42&threadid=42107

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==== 5. New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]

PC Protection

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