Microsoft Says Recovery from Malware Becoming Impossible

A Microsoft security official said businesses should consider investing in an automated process to wipe hard drives and reinstall malware-infested operating systems on a rare interview. "When you are dealing with rootkits and some advanced spyware programs, the only solution is to rebuild from scratch. In some cases, there really is no way to recover without nuking the systems from orbit," Mike Danseglio, program manager in the Security Solutions group at Microsoft, said in a presentation at the InfoSec World conference.

He cited a recent instance where an unnamed branch of the U.S. government struggled with malware infestations on more than 2,000 client machines. "In that case, it was so severe that trying to recover was meaningless. They did not have an automated process to wipe and rebuild the systems, so it became a burden. They had to design a process real fast," Danseglio added.

News source: EWeekDanseglio, who delivered two separate presentations at the conference—one on threats and countermeasures to defend against malware infestations in Windows, and the other on the frightening world on Windows rootkits—said anti-virus software is getting better at detecting and removing the latest threats, but for some sophisticated forms of malware, he conceded that the cleanup process is "just way too hard."

Danseglio said malicious hackers are conducting targeted attacks that are "stealthy and effective" and warned that the for-profit motive is much more serious than even the destructive network worms of the past. "In 2006, the attackers want to pay the rent. They don't want to write a worm that destroys your hardware. They want to assimilate your computers and use them to make money."

According to Danseglio, user education goes a long way to mitigating the threat from social engineering, but in companies where staff turnover is high, he said a company may never recoup that investment. "The easy way to deal with this is to think about prevention. Preventing an infection is far easier than cleaning up," he said, urging enterprise administrators to block known bad content using firewalls and proxy filtering and to ensure security software regularly scans for infections.

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