Exploits able to bypass layered defence: Report

When cyber security products and strategies are layered, it is commonly believed that their combined effects will effectively insulate organizations from cyber attacks. A recent study conducted by Texas-based security research and advisory firm NSS Labs, however, suggests that the layered approach largely fails to block exploits.

NSS looked at 37 security products from 24 vendors and layered them in pairs, creating 606 unique combinations. The company found that only three per cent of those combinations were able to detect the 1,711 known exploits employed in the penetration tests it conducted.

Layered defence is “still good” according to Stefan Frei, research director of NSS, but technologies such as intrusion prevention systems, endpoint protection and next-generation firewalls showed “significant” failures to detect exploits.

He said the failure of many products to detect exploits can be partly blamed on shared threat intelligence. According to Frie most vendors use the same sources of threat intelligence. The result is that their products tend to have the same deficiencies as well.

In order to be effective, user need to know what the right combination of products to deploy, he said.

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Frei also advised users to mix things up and use different vendors.

He cautioned against deploying products from the same vendors. He said the study found that failure correlation between products from the same vendor extremely high.

Using multiple vendors, however, could introduce more complexity, according to Michael Fey, executive VP of security software firm McAfee Inc. He said organizations need to determine the detection methods being used by the products they deploy in order to avoid duplication of functions.

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