Q

How to thwart a drive-by cache attack

Threats expert Nick Lewis explains how a drive-by cache attack can infect user machines, and what you can do to prevent it from infiltrating your enterprise.

A recently discovered drive-by attack technique called drive-by cache evades signature-based antivirus and loads malware directly into the browser cache. How can I protect my enterprise systems from this threat?

The drive-by cache attack works by executing malware placed in the browser cache when a local system visits a malicious webpage. The malicious webpage could be a legitimate website that has been compromised to include malware or a malicious site from a third-party domain, and might include flash files, JPGs, javascript or other infected files. When a user visits such a webpage, his or her browser automatically downloads/caches the malware to disk in the browser cache, executes the exploit and the shellcode, and finally executes the malware. At the time of this writing, zero of 42 malware scanners detected the exploit and one of 42 detected the malware.

You could potentially protect your enterprise from this very specific attack by disabling the browser cache, but this could have a negative performance impact on Web servers or users' browsing experience. However, this might be a reasonable trade-off until malware definitions for this attack are released or other protections are available and enabled in your Web browsers. Since this attack requires writing something to disk, it could be detected by client-side antimalware software. But, since the malware isn’t being detected, like much of the other malware out there, other protections need to be in place, which has been covered in previous questions.

This was first published in September 2011

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