The Confluence Of Influenza, 0Day Viruses and Least Privilege

BeyondTrust, December 2nd, 2011

What does influenza, 0day viruses and least privilege have in common you may ask? Besides just being a cool title to get you to read this blog, it turns out that natural mutations, the fear of the unknown and reducing attack surfaces is the short answer.

The long answer is best understood by first reading this article titled “Fighting 0days With Fundamentals” by Vincent Lu over at Dark Reading to see his views on how to pre-emptively secure systems against 0day attacks that, by definition, we know nothing about. In this article Mr. Lu ties 0day viruses to influenza by stating: “A close analogy in the real world is influenza. Over successive infections, the virus mutates into a new form that must be identified and analyzed before a vaccine can be created. After the mutation, the influenza virus is like a 0day because it has a new pattern that no immune system has previously encountered. So it easily infects thousands of people — even those who had previously been inoculated — before a vaccine can be created.”

For those of you who don’t know how anti-virus software works, it first requires a signature so that the perscriptive technology can be setup to fight it. Therefore a 0day virus can be particularly nasty if you are the one to get it before your anti-malware vendor. Thus the need, as Mr. Lu puts it, “is the reduction of your systems’ attack surface.”

Enter a least privilege solution. By eliminating admin rights on all IT systems (desktops and servers) you inhibit a 0day virus from hijacking full admin credentials and wreaking havoc on you corporate iT security.