Windows 8 is apparently more secure than Windows 7. Perhaps this is true, and it is best to learn what security features there are for the new operating system. Some of these security features are verified to help out very well in the security of Windows 8, and some may not be in time, or lastly some may not work at all.
One of the most discussed security features is Secure Boot. Now, Secure Boot is a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specified in the boot process to check cryptographic signatures of kernel-mode drivers, making sure they aren’t modified or corrupted. In other words, the boot process is now made to check if the operating system has been corrupted by malware or some other issue.
This is all part of a hardware restriction process called Hardware DRM. All non-ARM devices have the option to turn Secure Boot off, however ARM devices must keep it on. Experts state that it will be resistant to rootkits, since the MBR and BIOS cannot be accessed, unless if someone working on the computer penetrates it.
Next, Windows 8 features better built in antivirus software, with a much better improved Windows Defender. The software in Windows 8 is combined with the optional tool Microsoft Security Essentials. Now, with Windows Defender super-powered with MSE, it has much more anti-malware features.
With better anti-malware features, Internet Explorer is now made with better features as well. It has the ability to prevent zero-day exploits much greater than previous versions of Internet Explorer. With the challenges of exploiting Windows 7, there was the issue risen up again for Java and Flash Player, so hackers can gain control over the operating system. Those browser plugins are now easier to exploit than the Internet Explorer’s code.
A new application sandboxing environment called AppContainer provides the ability to run all apps in a controlled environment, where it controls how apps work. This prevents apps from disrupting the operating system. Of course, this is just supplemented by Internet Explorer’s SmartScreen filter, which prevents the download/install of known malicious software. However, Windows 8 now has SmartScreen available for any app, allowing even more prevention. Of course, this means Microsoft employees are going to increase in numbers, if they really want to keep up. Now that hackers know their new challenges, they will be relentless.
The questions are still played on whether Windows 8 will be a repeat of Vista or not. The reality of the situation, is if Windows 8 has big popularity, then the security issues will also light up big time. However, many will stick to Windows 7, so the security issues for Windows users are not close to be over. Feel free to take a look at related articles below for Symantec’s opinions, which aren’t too well on the new OS.
Added October 31, 2012: Trusted Platform Module, read more
Keep up with the latest security tips on our blog here. In addition, please donate to help us continue to write these awesome whitepapers.
- Over Half Of Windows 8 Users Still Prefer Windows 7 (webpronews.com)
- Gates: New Windows 8 system is `very exciting’ (seattletimes.com)
- Windows 8 Security Is Not Good – Symantec (news.softpedia.com)
- UEFI and Secure Boot: The Hell I Went Through (prismdragon.wordpress.com)
In this frequently asked questions post, I will publish some of the questions people ask me, and then will post some answers from my expertise about Sirefef or ZeroAccess.
Q: How to protect from this atrocity?
Q: Are Sirefef and ZeroAccess the same thing?
A: YES! They are both the same, but names different by many antivirus companies. This is sometimes due to language translations and competitiveness.
Q: Can the ZeroAccess virus infect my flash drive?
A: I doubt that the virus could activate on the flash drive, unless you plugged it in while logged on to the infected Windows. If you’re worried about running something accidental on the flash drive, use USB Immunizer from BitDefender to disinfect it.
Q: Should my passwords be changed after the ZeroAccess infection? Is it only active ones to change?
All active passwords and even passive ones need to be changed. If you’re unsure about passive ones, then don’t set a new password based on old passwords. Go all fresh with new passwords. See more on passwords.
Q: What is Sirefef, how did it infect my computer, or when are new variants released?
Sirefef or ZeroAccess is a transitional rootkit, virus, and/or backdoor trojan. It is still being watched and studied constantly, having 2-3 new variants every two weeks. We stay abreast of all changes.
Q: How did Sirefef infect me?
Viruses or other malware get embedded in to webpages through iFrame exploits commonly, or through vulnerable plugin exploitation. For iFrame exploits, malware authors can create a small (1x1px) iFrame, which contains scripts necessary to run malware on a target machine by automatically downloading and installing malware. The vulnerable plugin problem happens when people fail to update Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, Java Runtime Environment, Apple QuickTime, Mozilla Firefox, etc. Many times, malware authors use these vulnerable versions of the plugins to distribute an exploit, which can allow them to take control of a computer.
Other malware can be distributed by means of operating system and program bugs. Sometimes programs and very often, Windows, becomes vulnerable to attacks, because of certain bugs in the code.
Those whom do not have proper Internet security protection will fall victim to exploits.
Many people are being hit with Sirefef because of these exploits. I’d say 3/4 of people I’ve seen here on the forums have out-of-date plugins, inevitably leading to infection. Sirefef is one of the most prevalent and highly engaged malware coded problems in the past year.
It is highly recommended to have proper Internet security protection! We recommend you to read that post and pick out a premium antivirus program for your computer RIGHT AWAY!
By Jay Pfoutz
Apparently, the new showy security threat is Rakshasa… At Black Hat Las Vegas, this new security technique was unveiled.
This new malware by researcher Jonathan Brossard is apparently ‘impossible to disinfect’.
Now, FIRST OF ALL!! – Anything created with man’s hands can be destroyed. I’d like to see this opinion last: undetectable, can’t be disinfected, etc.
The paper on Rakshasa can be found here. It describes a hardware backdoor. Unbeknownst to this artist researcher, companies like Kaspersky or ESET have already begun to craft hardware antivirus drivers. So, this backdoor hardware malware scheme is a bit late, but maybe just in time, too.
Will it be used? Who knows. That’s the scary part!
It is realistically a BIOSkit, a rootkit that infects the BIOS of the computer. What’s wrong with this…? It can be easily disinfected by flashing all of the devices of the computer, which apparently would be infected.
However, this malware has not been tested in an enterprise-based beta, which means just because it worked on a couple of machines does not mean it would work on any other computer. Impressive? Yes! But, not at all scary, yet.
What makes me more shocked, is that people will actually believe that this malware will not be able to be disinfected. But, this is the turnaround: it can be! This is nothing more than a BIOSkit, and we have seen BIOSkits removed in our leagues many times.
But, then again, people commonly believe rootkits are impossible to be removed too. Look…we proved them wrong!
By inflicting code signing for BIOS, just like all other hardware driver signing, can easily keep it blocked. Also, if BitLocker evolves in Windows 8 and further technologies, it could easily secure the OS. Also, things like device encryption, could be taken to a new level.
This is not a new vulnerability, and Brossard agrees.