A quick review of vulnerability postings to the emerging threats content of this blog is sure to make clear just how popular the anti-virus as exploitation vector has become. Major levels of security research and exploit development continue to be aimed at the anti-virus vendors and their products. And, why not? It stands to reason from the attacker view point. All of these years infosec folks have been staging education and awareness programs to make sure that nearly every PC on the planet has anti-virus software installed.
It stands to reason, that given the near ubiquity of AV tools, that it would be a very easy, albeit traditional, way to compromise systems at large. Vulnerabilities in anti-virus tools are an insidious mechanism for attack, often run with enhanced privileges and carry enough “in your face” and “gotcha” temptation to be a very interesting target. No wonder they have become a favorite attack vector.
On the other hand, from the security standpoint, who else besides anti-virus vendors and purveyors of critical applications linked into the defensive infrastructure should be the poster children for secure development. Every piece of code has bugs, mine included. But, shouldn’t anti-virus vendors be doing extensive code reviews, application assessments and testing? Isn’t this especially true of vendors with large corporate names, deep budgets and pockets and extensive practices in application security and testing?
Anti-virus tools are still needed for nearly every PC on the planet. Malware still remains a large concern. AV has its value and is still a CRITICAL component of information security processes, initiatives and work. Vendors just have to understand that, now more than ever, they are also a target. They have to do a better job of testing their AV applications and they have to embrace the same secure coding tools and processes that many of their own consultants are shouting from the virtual hills to the cyber-valleys. We still need AV, we just need better, stronger, more secure AV.