Understanding the Threats in .NET

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CHAPTER
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Understanding the Threats
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A phone is no longer a phone and a BlackBerry is no longer a BlackBerry. All of these devices now need to be considered enterprise mobile workstations. As such, they need to be protected like mobile workstations and contain the very same protections (and more) that are afforded to LAN-based desktop workstations. Remember, these devices are on the front lines and they require indepth protection not providing it would be ridiculous. Take a moment to think about all of the sensitive information that can be contained on these devices. Emails, confidential documents, and contact information are commonly stored on mobile devices. Now think about how small these devices actually are and how easy it is to have them lost and stolen. Then, realize that lost and stolen devices are just the tip of the iceberg. Another important realization is that mobile devices don t stop being used once the user enters the corporate office. These devices are routinely connected to PCs to be synched and to download or upload all types of data. What is protecting that data What is protecting your PCs from these mobile devices The truth of the matter is that the threats to mobile devices extend far beyond the obvious situation of a BlackBerry getting lost or stolen. Fortunately, these threats can be categorized.
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Part I
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Understanding the Threats and Devices
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Quantifying the Threat
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Regardless of the type of device being used, the threats are pretty much the same. This goes for laptops and desktops, as well as for BlackBerrys, PDAs, and cell phones. To really understand how to protect these types of devices, it is imperative to grasp the categorical threats that will be discussed in the upcoming sections.
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The Malware Threat
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Malware is the most well-known security threat to computers today. Even casual everyday users know something about viruses and understand that antivirus software is needed to protect against them. If a device runs a computer program and additional data can be loaded onto the device, it is susceptible to malware period. BlackBerrys, PDAs, and cell phones are no different. There s not an enterprise out there that doesn t have antivirus software installed on their LAN-based desktop computers. The main reason for this is that everyone knows malware is bad, it can easily infect computers, and the next malware threat is only a day away. Even though antivirus software does an extremely inefficient and poor job of catching malware, it is the most standard security application out there today. Why then, don t enterprises ensure all of their mobile computer devices have antivirus software It s for two reasons. The first is that they simply don t know any better. Why would a BlackBerry or cell phone need antivirus protection The second is that they don t know of the appropriate solution to implement; the malware threat is realized, but what can be done about it on mobile devices Fortunately, this book will address these two points directly. Understanding the malware threat is important, as is understanding how antivirus programs operate. Let s take a moment to consider how antivirus programs attempt to protect against these threats. Antivirus programs rely on the signature (a unique identifier) of the particular virus, worm, or other threat to detect that a piece of code actually is a threat. If a piece of malware contains the actual and unique text c: <ENTER> Jamie 3363 as part of its code, then it makes sense to look for that text to determine if a threat is present. It s pretty simple, and that s the problem it s too simple. If the text in that piece of malware were changed to c: <ENTER> Izzy 2006, the threat would go undetected. Another issue with signature-based antivirus is that it is reactive instead of proactive. For the threat to be detected it needs to be known first. To become known, the malware needs to have already infected enough machines to garner the attention of the antivirus software vendors. That seems like a bit of a Catch-22 you ll be protected once enough computers have become infected.
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