McAfee, the antivirus division of Network Associates, has teamed up with other security firms to protect the Internet from Zombie agents and the like.
Of course we're not talking about the flesh eating deadites from George A. Romero films, rather zombie software which hackers use to seize control of computers and launch distributed denial of service attacks on Web sites, such as those inflicted on eBay, Yahoo! etc. back in the early months of last year.
McAfee has begun development efforts with DDoS solutions providers Arbor Networks, Asta Networks and Mazu Networks to "create a more comprehensive solution through which enterprise service providers and Internet data centers can combat DDoS attacks and zombie agents".
It is hoped the work will lead to the development of threat management products, which not only monitor for anomalous traffic entering a network (to identify if an attack is taking place), but also detect the presence of zombies within a network.
So what we have here is an agreement to achieve better integration between McAfee's antivirus software and traffic monitoring products from those of its vendors. This concentrates very heavily on looking to restrict the prevalence of Zombies on client machines, as useful step but difficult to achieve in practice because of (let's face it) user stupidity.
If you doubt that then consider the continuing prevalence of viruses like the SirCam worm.
What McAfee is doing is likely to be restricted to its users alone, so while welcome it's not the breakthrough some have painted it as, just another piece in a bigger picture.
The consensus among security professionals is that denial of service attacks are almost impossible to prevent, but there are quiet a lot of measures you can take to minimise their impact, many of which are deployed at the target of attacks rather than Zombie infected clients.
Chief among these is the use of more sophisticated routers and switches, such as those developed by Top Layers networks and their ilk, which can selectively drop types of traffic connected with an attack.
Neil Barrett, technical director of security consultants Information Risk Management, said even this approach is limited because hackers might find it possible to change the type of flooding an attack generates.
Barrett said key to preventing DDoS attacks is the work of Internet Engineering Task Force which is working with manufacturers to make sure attacks can be blocked at the backbone router level, so that the load of dealing with traffic generated by attacks is taken off border gateways and firewalls. ®
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