Vulnerable applications that fail to lend themselves to updating through corporate tools are creating a security gap, according to a ludicrous list from whitelisting firm Bit9.
Bit9's list of "threats in plain sight" names Firefox at the top of a "Dirty Dozen", essentially because it's both popular and has been the subject of critical vulnerabilities over the last year. Firefox and many of the other applications listed, including iTunes and Acrobat, do have auto-updating features, though that's not obvious from what Bit9 says.
True, as the little-known Bit9 suggests, many of these applications are infrequently updated, but to go on to suggest that they are akin to more inappropriate applications such as P2P file sharing programs and the like is a bit much. Throwing VMWare and Symantec into the list is just plain silly. And when Bit9 releases its report in PDF format while implying Acrobat is an "under the radar" security threat, you really have to wonder what's going on.
"Often running outside of the IT department’s knowledge or control, these applications can be difficult to detect; they create data leakage risk in endpoints that are otherwise secure; and cause compliance breaches that can result in costly fines," Bit9 said (our emphasis).
We've emailed the firm challenging it to come up with evidence of any organisation fined for using iTunes or Firefox, no word yet.
Bit9 said its research is designed to "highlight the need for greater visibility and control over organizations’ endpoints, including laptops, PCs servers and Point-of-Sale systems". End-point protection, preventing malware infection and keeping patches up to date on clients, is a key topic in information security but to overplay the significance of users installing Yahoo! on their machines contributes little to the debate.
Bit9's research report (pdf, registration required) list the "Dirty Dozen" applications as below (actually a list of software developers, like Apple and Symantec, not applications at all).
- Mozilla Firefox
- Adobe Flash & Acrobat
- EMC VMware Player, Workstation and other products
- Sun Java Runtime Environment (JRE)
- Apple QuickTime, Safari & iTunes
- Trend Micro
- Citrix Products
- Aurigma, Lycos
- Yahoo! Assistant
- Microsoft Windows Live (MSN) Messenger
The list only covers Windows apps popular with consumers (so how does Citrix get in the list?), that had a critical vulnerability over the last year, and rely on end users to update, as explained in Bit9's flame-baiting press release here. ®