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How can the Angler exploit kit's latest capabilities be mitigated?

As the Angler exploit kit evolves and adopts new functionality, it's becoming harder to detect and defend against. Enterprise threats expert Nick Lewis advises how to mitigate the threat.

The Angler exploit kit has been in the news a lot lately, with new variants popping up. What are the dangers of this hacking tool and how can they be mitigated on an enterprise level?

The Angler exploit kit is a standard exploit kit that has a modular framework for malware development and to manage the attack lifecycle. It has capabilities for hiding from antimalware detection -- such as making false calls to interact with the system and encrypting the data over the network -- to prevent it from being analyzed.

Angler can include multiple different vulnerabilities in the module depending on the target network and the exploits available; this makes customizing the malware easier and faster to adapt. Once the initial exploit is executed on an endpoint via a drive-by download, the Angler exploit kit runs its payload to infect the system with malware. It also has functionality for tracking which systems have been infected so the malware author can use these systems to send spam or other attacks.

One of the latest variants of the Angler exploit kit targeted three vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash Player.

Enterprises can mitigate the latest Angler risks by disabling Flash or using a network-based tool to block the malware, such as an intrusion prevention system or dedicated antimalware network tool.

Standard security control recommendations around securing endpoints are needed, such as keeping systems updated with the latest patches, securing configurations and using modern antimalware tools.

Not installing Flash on endpoints so they're not exposed to Flash vulnerabilities is also an option, or enterprises could potentially run Flash or Web browsers in a sandbox, making a Flash vulnerability more difficult to exploit.

Enterprise security awareness programs should include policies and information about using caution when opening attachments and clicking on links, but, of course, this goes in hand in hand with leveraging other technical controls.

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This was last published in July 2015

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