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Vulnerability and Identity Management (VIM) Fusion

Posted January 23, 2013    Morey Haber

Why BeyondTrust?

BeyondTrust is a unique company in the security industry that has created the first and only fusion of Vulnerability and Identity Management (VIM). While the industry has spent over a decade refining the process of vulnerability identification and reporting using standards like OVAL and CVE, BeyondTrust has taken the leadership position in understanding what risk users face when working with potentially vulnerable applications. This concept is only achievable when a solution has the inherent understanding of what a vulnerability is, how it works, and most importantly an active knowledge of what users are doing, with what security permissions, and in real time on an asset.

Consider this example of a recent Zero Day vulnerability, “Internet Explorer CButton Use-After-Free Vulnerability”, that was released just before the new year. The description is:

“A use-after-free vulnerability exists in Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8. This has been seen exploited in the wild in December 2012 in targeted attacks. Successful exploitation allows the attacker to execute arbitrary remote code in the context of the current user.”

This vulnerability is only a risk to the current user based on the permissions they are logged in with or credentials used to execute Internet Explorer. Threats like this are easily identifiable with a vulnerability management solution like Retina (and dozens of other vulnerability assessment solutions on the market) but as a best of breed solution fail to consider what the permissions are of the user if this vulnerability was to be exploited.

As an example, consider a system that is vulnerable to this attack. Users that log in to the system with “standard user” permissions are less at risk than a user that logs in with “administrator” privileges since an exploit executes in the context of the current the user. This is the difference between complete system wide control to do anything malicious verses restricted permissions based on a standard user that can generally only operate in the confines of their login. The next question is logical, if everyone is logging into their systems as standard users, is the zero day risk as a great of a threat compared to users that login as administrators? The answer is no. A standard user is less of a risk. Therefore, a potential exclusion or mitigation for your vulnerability report is based on the context of the users executing Internet Explorer within your environment. But what if no one uses Internet Explorer, and you have standardized on another browser like FireFox or Chrome? Yes, the system is technically vulnerable but the offending application is not used and therefore a lower risk even if you login as an administrator. Finally to understand the true meaning of this risk, this vulnerability has been observed in the wild exploiting targets. So, users running as administrators are highly susceptible to drive by attacks verses the standard user. A traditional vulnerability report does not know the difference.

This is why BeyondTrust is different.

The integration of Identity Management and vulnerabilities produces a unique perspective from our solutions. Using tools like PowerBroker for Windows and Retina integrate what applications are executing on a host, what user privileges they are executing with, and what risk they represent using standards like CVSS and if the vulnerability is available in an exploit toolkit or not. Consider the dashboard below available from Retina Insight:

Retina Insight

Eight applications have been executed that have a high CVSS score in relationship to the vulnerabilities identified during their runtime.  33.33% of them are exploitable and can be compromised with toolkits easily accessible for purchase or download. The solution is aware and records in its databases when the application was run, who executed it, what privileges where used, and then correlates the information to vulnerabilities and other metrics. All of this is available as dashboards and comprehensive reports within the solution.

This perspective is more than the traditional phone book of vulnerabilities found. It is more than just controlling and metering application usage by system and user for privilege identity management. It is a new type of fusion for vulnerability and identity management that links real would user activity to the risk of the applications they operate on a daily basis. Whether the vulnerability is a zero day used in this example, or legacy vulnerability that just has never been patched, understanding the risk by user, permissions, system, and application provides superior guidance for remediation, mitigation, and exclusions  than just a massive report of what was found during a scan.

For more information of BeyondTrust and our solutions, please contact us. We would be honored to demonstrate how using this fusion of technology can simplify your security risk management processes.

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