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Data governance matters now more than ever

April 30th, 2020 No comments

Knowing, protecting, and governing your organizational data is critical to adhere to regulations and meet security and privacy needs. Arguably, that’s never been truer than it is today as we face these unprecedented health and economic circumstances. To help organizations to navigate privacy during this challenging time, Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Julie Brill shared seven privacy principles to consider as we all collectively move forward in addressing the pandemic.

Organizations are also evaluating security and data governance more than ever before as they try to maintain business continuity amid the crisis. According to a new Harvard Business Review (HBR) research report released today commissioned by Microsoft, 61 percent of organizations struggle to effectively develop strong data security, privacy, and risk capabilities. Together with HBR, we surveyed close to 500 global business leaders across industries, including financial services, tech, healthcare, and manufacturing. The study found that 77 percent of organizations say an effective security, risk, and compliance strategy is essential for business success. However, 82 percent say that securing and governing data is becoming more difficult because of new risks and data management complexities brought on by digital transformation.

In a world in which remote work is the new normal, securing, and governing your company’s most critical data becomes more important than ever before. The increased volume of information and multiple collaboration systems create complexity for managing business records with serious cost and risk implications. As organizations across a variety of industries face ever-increasing regulations, many companies move data to different systems of record to manage them and comply with regulations. However, moving content to a different system, instead of managing it in place, can increase the risk of missing records or not declaring them properly. 

General availability of Microsoft 365 Records Management

Today, we are excited to announce the general availability of Microsoft 365 Records Management to provide you with significantly greater depth in protecting and governing critical data. With Records Management, you can:

  • Classify, retain, review, dispose, and manage content without compromising productivity or data security.
  • Leverage machine learning capabilities to identify and classify regulatory, legal, and business critical records at scale.
  • Help demonstrate compliance with regulations through defensible audit trails and proof of destruction.

You can now access Records Management in the compliance center in Microsoft 365.

Data governance matters now more than ever

Striking the right balance between data governance and productivity: Records Management is built into the Microsoft 365 productivity stack and existing customer workflows, easing the friction that often occurs between enforcing governance controls and user productivity. For example, say your team is working on a contract. Thanks to built-in retention policies embedded in the tools people use every day, they can continue to be productive while collaborating on a contract that has been declared a record—such as sharing, coauthoring, and accessing the record through mobile devices. We have also integrated our disposition process natively into the tools you use every day, including SharePoint and Outlook. Records versioning also makes collaboration on record-declared documents better, so you can track when edits are made to the contract. It allows users to unlock a document with a record label to make edits to it with all records safely retained and audit trails maintained. With Records Management, you can balance rigorous enforcement of data controls with allowing your organization to be fully productive.

Building trust, transparency, and defensibility: Building trust and providing transparency is crucial to managing records. In addition to continuing to audit all events surrounding a record in our audit log, we’re excited to announce the ability to obtain proof of disposal and see all items automatically disposed as part of a record label. Proof of disposal helps provide you with the defensibility you need, particularly to meet legal and regulatory requirements. Learn more in this Microsoft docs page.

Leveraging machine learning for scale: Records Management leverages our broader investments in machine learning across information protection and governance, such as trainable classifiers. With trainable classifiers, you can train the classification engine to recognize data that is unique to your organization. Once you define a record or retention label, you can apply the label to all content that matches a trainable classifier that was previously defined. So, for example, any document that appears to be a contract or have contract-related content will be marked accordingly and automatically classified as a record. For more information on creating trainable classifiers, please see this documentation. Apart from using trainable classifiers, you can also choose to auto-apply retention labels either by matching keywords on the content, its metadata, sensitive information it contains, or as the default for a particular location or folder. These different auto classification methods provide the flexibility you need to manage the constantly increasing volume of data.

Please visit this portal to learn more about Records Management.

Importance of information protection and governance

There’s never been a more important time to ensure your data, especially your most critical data, is protected and governed efficiently and effectively. Records Management is generally available worldwide today, and you can learn even more in our post on Tech Community. Eligible Microsoft 365 E5 customers can start using Records Management in the Compliance Center or learn how to try or buy a Microsoft 365 subscription.

Lastly, as you navigate this challenging time, we have additional resources to help. For more information about securing your organization in this time of crisis, you can visit our Remote Work site. We’re here to help in any way we can.

The post Data governance matters now more than ever appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Defending the power grid against supply chain attacks: Part 3 – Risk management strategies for the utilities industry

April 22nd, 2020 No comments

Over the last fifteen years, attacks against critical infrastructure (figure1) have steadily increased in both volume and sophistication. Because of the strategic importance of this industry to national security and economic stability, these organizations are targeted by sophisticated, patient, and well-funded adversaries.  Adversaries often target the utility supply chain to insert malware into devices destined for the power grid. As modern infrastructure becomes more reliant on connected devices, the power industry must continue to come together to improve security at every step of the process.

Aerial view of port and freeways leading to downtown Singapore.

Figure 1: Increased attacks on critical infrastructure

This is the third and final post in the “Defending the power grid against supply chain attacks” series. In the first blog I described the nature of the risk. Last month I outlined how utility suppliers can better secure the devices they manufacture. Today’s advice is directed at the utilities. There are actions you can take as individual companies and as an industry to reduce risk.

Implement operational technology security best practices

According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 80 percent of hacking-related breaches are the result of weak or compromised passwords. If you haven’t implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all your user accounts, make it a priority. MFA can significantly reduce the likelihood that a user with a stolen password can access your company assets. I also recommend you take these additional steps to protect administrator accounts:

  • Separate administrative accounts from the accounts that IT professionals use to conduct routine business. While administrators are answering emails or conducting other productivity tasks, they may be targeted by a phishing campaign. You don’t want them signed into a privileged account when this happens.
  • Apply just-in-time privileges to your administrator accounts. Just-in-time privileges require that administrators only sign into a privileged account when they need to perform a specific administrative task. These sign-ins go through an approval process and have a time limit. This will reduce the possibility that someone is unnecessarily signed into an administrative account.

 

Image 2

Figure 2: A “blue” path depicts how a standard user account is used for non-privileged access to resources like email and web browsing and day-to-day work. A “red” path shows how privileged access occurs on a hardened device to reduce the risk of phishing and other web and email attacks. 

  • You also don’t want the occasional security mistake like clicking on a link when administrators are tired or distracted to compromise the workstation that has direct access to these critical systems.  Set up privileged access workstations for administrative work. A privileged access workstation provides a dedicated operating system with the strongest security controls for sensitive tasks. This protects these activities and accounts from the internet. To encourage administrators to follow security practices, make sure they have easy access to a standard workstation for other more routine tasks.

The following security best practices will also reduce your risk:

  • Whitelist approved applications. Define the list of software applications and executables that are approved to be on your networks. Block everything else. Your organization should especially target systems that are internet facing as well as Human-Machine Interface (HMI) systems that play the critical role of managing generation, transmission, or distribution of electricity
  • Regularly patch software and operating systems. Implement a monthly practice to apply security patches to software on all your systems. This includes applications and Operating Systems on servers, desktop computers, mobile devices, network devices (routers, switches, firewalls, etc.), as well as Internet of Thing (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Thing (IIoT) devices. Attackers frequently target known security vulnerabilities.
  • Protect legacy systems. Segment legacy systems that can no longer be patched by using firewalls to filter out unnecessary traffic. Limit access to only those who need it by using Just In Time and Just Enough Access principles and requiring MFA. Once you set up these subnets, firewalls, and firewall rules to protect the isolated systems, you must continually audit and test these controls for inadvertent changes, and validate with penetration testing and red teaming to identify rogue bridging endpoint and design/implementation weaknesses.
  • Segment your networks. If you are attacked, it’s important to limit the damage. By segmenting your network, you make it harder for an attacker to compromise more than one critical site. Maintain your corporate network on its own network with limited to no connection to critical sites like generation and transmission networks. Run each generating site on its own network with no connection to other generating sites. This will ensure that should a generating site become compromised, attackers can’t easily traverse to other sites and have a greater impact.
  • Turn off all unnecessary services. Confirm that none of your software has automatically enabled a service you don’t need. You may also discover that there are services running that you no longer use. If the business doesn’t need a service, turn it off.
  • Deploy threat protection solutions. Services like Microsoft Threat Protection help you automatically detect, respond to, and correlate incidents across domains.
  • Implement an incident response plan: When an attack happens, you need to respond quickly to reduce the damage and get your organization back up and running. Refer to Microsoft’s Incident Response Reference Guide for more details.

Speak with one voice

Power grids are interconnected systems of generating plants, wires, transformers, and substations. Regional electrical companies work together to efficiently balance the supply and demand for electricity across the nation. These same organizations have also come together to protect the grid from attack. As an industry, working through organizations like the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), utilities can define security standards and hold manufacturers accountable to those requirements.

It may also be useful to work with The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC), The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), or The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC) to better regulate the security requirements of products manufactured for the electrical grid.

Apply extra scrutiny to IoT devices

As you purchase and deploy IoT devices, prioritize security. Be careful about purchasing products from countries that are motivated to infiltrate critical infrastructure. Conduct penetration tests against all new IoT and IIoT devices before you connect them to the network. When you place sensors on the grid, you’ll need to protect them from both cyberattacks and physical attacks. Make them hard to reach and tamper-proof.

Collaborate on solutions

Reducing the risk of a destabilizing power grid attack will require everyone in the utility industry to play a role. By working with manufacturers, trade organizations, and governments, electricity organizations can lead the effort to improve security across the industry. For utilities in the United States, several public-private programs are in place to enhance the utility industry capabilities to defend its infrastructure and respond to threats:

Read Part 1 in the series: “Defending the power grid against cyberattacks

Read “Defending the power grid against supply chain attacks: Part 2 – Securing hardware and software

Read how Microsoft Threat Protection can help you better secure your endpoints.

Learn how MSRC developed an incident response plan

Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. For more information about our security solutions visit our website. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Guarding against supply chain attacks—Part 3: How software becomes compromised

March 11th, 2020 No comments

Do you know all the software your company uses? The software supply chain can be complex and opaque. It’s comprised of software that businesses use to run operations, such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and project management. It also includes the third-party components, libraries, and frameworks that software engineers use to build applications and products. All this software can be difficult to track and can be vulnerable to attack if not known and/or not managed properly.

In the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, a supply chain risk is defined as “the risk that an adversary may sabotage, maliciously introduce unwanted function, or otherwise subvert the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of a covered system so as to surveil, deny, disrupt, or otherwise degrade the function, use, or operation of such system.”

If you rely on a web of software providers, it’s important that you understand and mitigate your risk. This Part 3 of our five-part blog series entitled “Guarding against supply chain attacks” illustrates how software supply chain attacks are executed and offers best practices for improving the quality of the software that undergirds your applications and business.

Examples of software supply chain attacks with global reach

Starting in 2012 the industry began to see a marked increase in the number of attacks targeted at software supply chains each year. Like other hacking incidents, a well-executed software supply chain attack can spread rapidly. The following examples weaponized automatic software updates to infect computers in large and small companies in countries all over the world and highlight how they have evolved over time.

  • The Flame malware of 2012 was a nation-state attack that tricked a small number of machines in the Middle East into thinking that a signed update had come from Microsoft’s trusted Windows Update mechanism, when in fact it had not. Flame had 20 modules that could perform a variety of functions. It could turn on your computer’s internal microphone and webcam to record conversations or take screenshots of instant messaging and email. It could also serve as a Bluetooth beacon and tap into other devices in the area to steal info. Believed to come from a nation state, Flame sparked years of copycats. While Flame was a supply chain “emulation” (it only pretended to be trusted), the tactic was studied and adopted by both nation states and criminals, and included noted update attacks like Petya/NotPetya (2017), another nation-state attack, which hit enterprises in over 20 countries. It included the ability to self-propagate (like worms) by building a list of IP addresses to spread to local area networks (LANS) and remote IPs.
  • CCleaner affected 2.3 million computers in 2018, some for more than a month. Nation-state actors replaced original software versions with malware that had been used to modify the CCleaner installation file used by customers worldwide. Access was gained through the Piriform network, a company that was acquired by Avast before the attack was launched on CCleaner users. As Avast says in a blog on the subject, “Attackers will always try to find the weakest link, and if a product is downloaded by millions of users it is an attractive target for them. Companies need to increase their attention and investment in keeping the supply chain secure.”
  • In May 2017, Operation WilySupply compromised a text editor’s software updater to install a backdoor on target organizations in the financial and IT sectors. Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) discovered the attack early and Microsoft worked with the vendor to contain the attack and mitigate the risk.

Implanting malware

There are three primary ways that malicious actors infect the software supply chain:

  • Compromise internet accessible software update servers. Cybercrooks hack into the servers that companies use to distribute their software updates. Once they gain access, they replace legitimate files with malware. If an application auto-updates, the number of infections can proliferate quickly.
  • Gain access to the software infrastructure. Hackers use social engineering techniques to infiltrate the development infrastructure. After they’ve tricked users into sharing sign-in credentials, the attackers move laterally within the company until they are able to target the build environment and servers. This gives them the access needed to inject malicious code into software before it has been complied and shipped to customers. Once the software is signed with the digital signature it’s extremely difficult to detect that something is wrong.
  • Attack third-party code libraries. Malware is also delivered through third-party code, such as libraries, software development kits, and frameworks that developers use in their applications.

Safeguarding your software supply chain

There are several steps you can take to reduce the vulnerabilities in your software. (We’ll address the vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies related to people and processes in our next post.):

  • Much like the hardware supply chain, it’s important to inventory your software suppliers. Do your due diligence to confirm there are no red flags. The NIST Cyber Supply Chain Best Practices provide sample questions that you can use to screen your software suppliers, such as what malware protection and detection are performed and what access controls—both cyber and physical—are in place.
  • Set a high standard of software assurance with partners and suppliers. Governmental organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, SafeCODE, the OWASP SAMM, and the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre’s Commercial Product Assurance (CPA) provide a model. You can also refer to Microsoft’s secure development lifecycle (SDL). The SDL defines 12 best practices that Microsoft developers and partners utilize to reduce vulnerabilities. Use the SDL to guide a software assurance program for your engineers, partners, and suppliers.
  • Manage security risks in third-party components. Commercial and open-source libraries and frameworks are invaluable for improving efficiency. Engineers shouldn’t create a component from scratch if a good one exists already; however, third-party libraries are often targeted by bad actors. Microsoft’s open source best practices can help you manage this risk with four steps:
    1. Understand what components are in use and where.
    2. Perform security analysis to confirm that none of your components contain vulnerabilities
    3. Keep components up to date. Security fixes are often fixed without explicit notification.
    4. Establish an incident response plan, so you have a strategy when a vulnerability is reported.

Learn more

“Guarding against supply chain attacks” is a five-part blog series that decodes supply chain threats and provides concrete actions you can take to better safeguard your organization. Previous posts include an overview of supply chain risks and an examination of vulnerabilities in the hardware supply chain.

We also recommend you explore NIST Cybersecurity Supply Chain Risk Management.

Stay tuned for these upcoming posts as we wrap up our five-part series:

  • Part 4—Looks at how people and processes can expose companies to risk.
  • Part 5—Summarizes our advice with a look to the future.

In the meantime, bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. For more information about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/business. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

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Data science for cybersecurity: A probabilistic time series model for detecting RDP inbound brute force attacks

December 18th, 2019 No comments

Computers with Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) exposed to the internet are an attractive target for adversaries because they present a simple and effective way to gain access to a network. Brute forcing RDP, a secure network communications protocol that provides remote access over port 3389, does not require a high level of expertise or the use of exploits; attackers can utilize many off-the-shelf tools to scan the internet for potential victims and leverage similar such tools for conducting the brute force attack.

Attackers target RDP servers that use weak passwords and are without multi-factor authentication, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other security protections. Through RDP brute force, threat actor groups can gain access to target machines and conduct many follow-on activities like ransomware and coin mining operations.

In a brute force attack, adversaries attempt to sign in to an account by effectively using one or more trial-and-error methods. Many failed sign-ins occurring over very short time frequencies, typically minutes or even seconds, are usually associated with these attacks. A brute force attack might also involve adversaries attempting to access one or more accounts using valid usernames that were obtained from credential theft or using common usernames like “administrator”. The same holds for password combinations. In detecting RDP brute force attacks, we focus on the source IP address and username, as password data is not available.

In the Windows operating system, whenever an attempted sign-in fails for a local machine, Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) registers Event ID 4625 with the associated username. Meanwhile, source IP addresses connected to RDP can be accessed; this information is very useful in assessing if a machine is under brute force attack. Using this information in combination with Event ID 4624 for non-server Windows machines can shed light on which sign-in sessions were successfully created and can further help in detecting if a local machine has been compromised.

In this blog we’ll present a study and a detection logic that uses these signals. This data science-driven approach to detecting RDP brute force attacks has proven valuable in detecting human adversary activity through Microsoft Threat Experts, the managed threat hunting service in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection. This work is an example of how the close collaboration between data scientists and threat hunters results in protection for customers against real-world threats.

Insights into brute force attacks

Observing a sudden, relatively large count of Event ID 4625 associated with RDP network connections might be rare, but it does not necessarily imply that a machine is under attack. For example, a script that performs the following actions would look suspicious looking at a time series of counts of failed sign-in but is most likely not malicious:

  • uses an expired password
  • retries sign-in attempts every N-minutes with different usernames
  • over a public IP address within a range owned by the enterprise

In contrast, behavior that includes the following is indicative of an attack:

  • extreme counts of failed sign-ins from many unknown usernames
  • never previously successfully authenticated
  • from multiple RDP connections
  • from new source IP addresses

Understanding the context of failed sign-ins and inbound connections is key to discriminating between true positive (TP) and false positive (FP) brute force attacks, especially if the goal is to automatically raise only high-precision alerts to the appropriate recipients, as we do in Microsoft Defender ATP.

We analyzed several months’ worth of data to mine insights into the types of RDP brute force attacks occurring across Microsoft Defender ATP customers. Out of about 45,000 machines that had both RDP public IP connections and at least 1 network failed sign-in, we discovered that, on average, several hundred machines per day had high probability of undergoing one or more RDP brute force attack attempts. Of the subpopulation of machines with detected brute force attacks, the attacks lasted 2-3 days on average, with about 90% of cases lasting for 1 week or less, and less than 5% lasting for 2 weeks or more.

Figure 1: Empirical distribution in number of days per machine where we observed 1 or more brute force attacks

As discussed in numerous other studies [1], large counts of failed sign-ins are often associated with brute force attacks. Looking at the count of daily failed sign-ins, 90% of cases exceeded 10 attempts, with a median larger than 60. In addition, these unusual daily counts had high positive correlation with extreme counts in shorter time windows (see Figure 2). In fact, the number of extreme failed sign-ins per day typically occurred under 2 hours, with about 40% failing in under 30 minutes.

Figure 2: Count of daily and maximum hourly network failed sign-ins for a local machine under brute force attack

While a detection logic based on thresholding the count of failed sign-ins during daily or finer grain time window can detect many brute force attacks, this will likely produce too many false positives. Worse, relying on just this will yield false negatives, missing successful enterprise compromises: our analysis revealed several instances where brute force attacks generated less than 5-10 failed attempts at a daily granularity but often persisted for many days, thereby avoiding extreme counts at any point in time. For such a brute force attack, thresholding the cumulative number of failed sign-ins across time could be more useful, as depicted in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Daily and cumulative failed network sign-in

Looking at counts of network failed sign-ins provides a useful but incomplete picture of RDP brute force attacks. This can be further augmented with additional information on the failed sign-in, such as the failure reason, time of day, and day of week, as well as the username itself. An especially strong signal is the source IP of the inbound RDP connection. Knowing if the external IP has a high reputation of abuse, as can be looked up on sites like https://www.abuseipdb.com/, can directly confirm if an IP is a part of an active brute force.

Unfortunately, not all IP addresses have a history of abuse; in addition, it can be expensive to retrieve information about many external IP addresses on demand. Maintaining a list of suspicious IPs is an option, but relying on this can result in false negatives as, inevitably, new IPs continually occur, particularly with the adoption of cloud computing and ease of spinning up virtual machines. A generic signal that can augment failed sign-in and user information is counting distinct RDP connections from external IP addresses. Again, extreme values occurring at a given time or cumulated over time can be an indicator of attack.

Figure 4 shows histograms (i.e., counts put into discrete bins) of daily counts of RDP public connections per machine that occurred for an example enterprise with known brute force attacks. It’s evident that normal machines have a lower probability of larger counts compared to machines attacked.

Figure 4: Histograms of daily count of RDP inbound across machines for an example enterprise

Given that some enterprises have machines under brute force attack daily, the priority may be to focus on machines that have been compromised, defined by a first successful sign-in following failed attempts from suspicious source IP addresses or unusual usernames. In Windows logs, Event ID 4624 can be leveraged to measure successful sign-in events for local machine in combination with failed sign-ins (Event ID 4625).

Out of the hundreds of machines with RDP brute force attacks detected in our analysis, we found that about .08% were compromised. Furthermore, across all enterprises analyzed over several months, on average about 1 machine was detected with high probability of being compromised resulting from an RDP brute force attack every 3-4 days. Figure 5 shows a bubble chart of the average abuse score of external IPs associated with RDP brute force attacks that successfully compromised machines. The size of the bubbles is determined by the count of distinct machines across the enterprises analyzed having a network connection from each IP. While there is diversity in the origin of the source IPs, Netherlands, Russia, and the United Kingdom have a larger concentration of inbound RDP connections from high-abuse IP.

Figure 5: Bubble chart of IP abuse score versus counts of machine with inbound RDP

A key takeaway from our analysis is that successful brute force attempts are not uncommon; therefore, it’s critical to monitor at least the suspicious connections and unusual failed sign-ins that result in authenticated sign-in events. In the following sections we describe a methodology to do this. This methodology was leveraged by Microsoft Threat Experts to augment threat hunting and resulted in new targeted attack notifications.

Combining many relevant signals

As discussed earlier (with the example of scripts connecting via RDP using outdated passwords yielding failed sign-ins), simply relying on thresholding failed attempts per machine for detecting brute force attacks can be noisy and may result in many false positives. A better strategy is to utilize many contextually relevant signals, such as:

  • the timing, type, and count of failed sign-in
  • username history
  • type and frequency of network connections
  • first-time username from a new source machine with a successful sign-in

This can be even further extended to include indicators of attack associated with brute force, such as port scanning.

Combining multiple signals along the attack chain has been proposed and shown promising results [2]. We considered the following signals in detecting RDP inbound brute force attacks per machine:

  • hour of day and day of week of failed sign-in and RDP connections
  • timing of successful sign-in following failed attempts
  • Event ID 4625 login type (filtered to network and remote interactive)
  • Event ID 4625 failure reason (filtered to %%2308, %%2312, %%2313)
  • cumulative count of distinct username that failed to sign in without success
  • count (and cumulative count) of failed sign-ins
  • count (and cumulative count) of RDP inbound external IP
  • count of other machines having RDP inbound connections from one or more of the same IP

Unsupervised probabilistic time series anomaly detection

For many cybersecurity problems, including detecting brute force attacks, previously labeled data is not usually available. Thus, training a supervised learning model is not feasible. This is where unsupervised learning is helpful, enabling one to discover and quantify unknown behaviors when examples are too sparse. Given that several of the signals we consider for modeling RDP brute force attacks are inherently dependent on values observed over time (for example, daily counts of failed sign-ins and counts of inbound connections), time series models are particularly beneficial. Specifically, time series anomaly detection naturally provides a logical framework to quantify uncertainty in modeling temporal changes in data and produce probabilities that then can be ranked and thresholded to control a desirable false positive rate.

Time series anomaly detection captures the temporal dynamics of signals and accurately quantifies the probability of observing values at any point in time under normal operating conditions. More formally, if we introduce the notation Y(t) to denote the signals taking on values at time t, then we build a model to compute reliable estimates of the probability of Y(t) exceeding observed values given all known and relevant information, represented by P[y(t)], sometimes called an anomaly score. Given a false positive tolerance rate r (e.g., .1% or 1 out of 10,000 per time), for each time t, values y*(t) satisfying P[y*(t)] < r would be detected as anomalous. Assuming the right signals reflecting the relevant behaviors of the type of attacks are chosen, then the idea is simple: the lowest anomaly scores occurring per time will be likely associated with the highest likelihood of real threats.

For example, looking back at Figure 2, the time series of daily count of failed sign-ins occurring on the brute force attack day 8/4/2019 had extreme values that would be associated with an empirical probability of about .03% out of all machine and days with at least 1 failed network sign-in for the enterprise.

As discussed earlier, applying anomaly detection to 1 or a few signals to detect real attacks can yield too many false positives. To mitigate this, we combined anomaly scores across eight signals we selected to model RDP brute force attack patterns. The details of our solution are included in the Appendix, but in summary, our methodology involves:

  • updating statistical discrete time series models sequentially for each signal, capturing time of day, day of week, and both point and cumulative effects
  • combining anomaly scores using an approach that yields accurate probability estimates, and
  • ranking the top N anomalies per day to control a desired number of false positives

Our approach to time series anomaly detection is computationally efficient, automatically learns how to update probabilities and adapt to changes in data.

As we describe in the next section, this approach has yielded successful attack detection at high precision.

Protecting customers from real-word RDP brute force attacks through Microsoft Threat Experts

The proposed time series anomaly detection model was deployed and utilized by Microsoft Threat Experts to detect RDP brute force attacks during threat hunting activities. A list that ranks machines across enterprises with the lowest anomaly scores (indicating the likelihood of observing a value at least as large under expected conditions in all signals considered) is updated and reviewed every day. See Table 1 for an example.

Table 1: Sample ranking of detected RDP inbound brute force attacks

For each machine with detection of a probable brute force attack, each instance is assigned TP, FP, or unknown. Each TP is then assigned priority based on the severity of the attack. For high-priority TP, a targeted attack notification is sent to the associated organization with details about the active brute force attack and recommendations for mitigating the threat; otherwise the machine is closely monitored until more information is available.

We also added an extra capability to our anomaly detection: automatically sending targeted attack notifications about RDP brute force attacks, in many cases before the attack succeeds or before the actor is able to conduct further malicious activities. Looking at the most recent sample of about two weeks of graded detections, the average precision per day (i.e., true positive rate) is approximately 93.7% at a conservative false positive rate of 1%.

In conclusion, based on our careful selection of signals found to be highly associated with RDP brute force attacks, we demonstrated that proper application of time series anomaly detection can be very accurate in identifying real threats. We have filed a patent application for this probabilistic time series model for detecting RDP inbound brute force attacks. In addition, we are working on integrating this capability into Microsoft Defender ATP’s endpoint and detection response capabilities so that the detection logic can raise alerts on RDP brute force attacks in real-time.

Monitoring suspicious activity in failed sign-in and network connections should be taken seriously—a real-time anomaly detection capable of self-updating with the changing dynamics in a network can indeed provide a sustainable solution. While Microsoft Defender ATP already has many anomaly detection capabilities integrated into its EDR capabilities, we will continue to enhance these detections to cover more security scenarios. Through data science, we will continue to combine robust statistical and machine learning approaches with threat expertise and intelligence to deliver industry-leading protection to our customers.

 

 

Cole Sodja, Justin Carroll, Joshua Neil
Microsoft Defender ATP Research Team

 

 

Appendix 1: Models formulation

We utilize hierarchical zero-adjusted negative binomial dynamic models to capture the characteristics of the highly discrete count time series. Specifically, as shown in Figure 2, it’s expected that most of the time there won’t be failed sign-ins for valid credentials on a local machine; hence, there are excess zeros that would not be explained by standard probability distributions such as the negative binomial. In addition, the variance of non-zero counts is often much larger than the mean, where for example, valid scripts connecting via RDP can generate counts in the 20s or more over several minutes because of an outdated password. Moreover, given a combination of multiple users or scripts connecting to shared machines at the same time, this can generate more extreme counts at higher quantiles resulting in heavier tails, as seen in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Daily count of network failed sign-in for a machine with no brute force attack

Parametric discrete location/scale distributions do not generate well-calibrated p-values for rare time series, as seen in Figure 6, and thus if used to detect anomalies can result in too many FPs when looking across many machines at high time frequencies. To overcome this challenge dealing with the sparse time series of counts of failed sign-in and RDP inbound public connections we specify a mixture model, where, based on our analysis, a zero-inflated two-component negative binomial distribution was adequate.

Our formulation is based on thresholding values that determine when to transition to a distribution with larger location and/or scale as given in Equation 1. Hierarchical priors are given from empirical estimates of the sample moments across machines using about 1 month of data.

Equation 1: Zero-adjusted negative binomial threshold model

Negative binomial distribution (NB):

To our knowledge, this formulation does not yield a conjugate prior, and so directly computing probabilities from the posterior predicted density is not feasible. Instead, anomaly scores are generated based on drawing samples from all distributions and then computing the empirical right-tail p-value.

Updating parameters is done based on applying exponential smoothing. To avoid outliers skewing estimates, such as machines under brute force or other attacks, trimming is applied to sample from the distribution at a specified false positive rate, which was set to .1% for our study. Algorithm 1 outlines the logic.

The smoothing parameters were learned based on maximum likelihood estimation and then fixed during each new sequential update. To induce further uncertainty, bootstrapping across machines is done to produce a histogram of smoothing weights, and samples are drawn in accordance to their frequency. We found that weights concentrated away from 0 vary between .06% and 8% for over 90% of machines, thus leading to slow changes in the parameters. An extension using adaptive forgetting factors will be considered in future work to automatically learn how to correct smoothing in real time.

Algorithm 1: Updating model parameters real-time

Appendix 2: Fisher Combination

For a given device, for each signal that exists a score is computed defined as a p-value, where lower values are associated with higher likelihood of being an anomaly. Then the p-values are combined to yield a joint score across all signals based on using the Fisher p-value combination method as follows:

The use of Fisher’s test applied to anomaly scores produces a scalable solution that yields interpretable probabilities that thus can be controlled to achieve a desired false positive rate. This has even been applied in a cybersecurity context. [3]

 

 

[1] Najafabadi et al, Machine Learning for Detecting Brute Force Attacks at the Network Level, 2014 IEEE 14th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering
[2] Sexton et al, Attack chain detection, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining, 2015
[3] Heard, Combining Weak Statistical Evidence in Cyber Security, Intelligent Data Analysis XIV, 2015

The post Data science for cybersecurity: A probabilistic time series model for detecting RDP inbound brute force attacks appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Go passwordless to strengthen security and reduce costs

December 12th, 2019 No comments

We all know passwords are inherently unsecure. They’re also expensive to manage. Users struggle to remember them. It’s why we’re so passionate about eliminating passwords entirely. Passwordless solutions, such as Windows Hello, FIDO2 security keys, and the Microsoft Authenticator app, provide more secure and convenient sign-in methods. But transitioning your organization to passwordless authentication takes time and careful planning. You may wonder where to start and how long it will take to realize benefits. Today, we examine:

  • How biometrics improve security while safeguarding user privacy.
  • The cost reductions Microsoft realized from passwordless migration.
  • Steps you can take to better secure your organization and prepare for passwordless.

Image of three devices, one showing Windows Hello, another Microsoft Authenticator, and finally FIDO2 Security Keys.

Microsoft passwordless solutions include Windows Hello, the Microsoft Authenticator app, and FIDO2 security keys.

Biometric technology improves security and safeguards user privacy

The goal of user authentication protocols, including passwords, is to verify user identity. But just because a user knows a password doesn’t mean they are the person they claim to be. In fact, 81 percent of breaches leverage stolen or compromised passwords.1 Passwords are not unique identifiers.

To improve security, we need a better way to uniquely identify users. This is where biometrics come in. Your iris, fingerprint, and face are unique to you—nobody else has the same fingerprint, for example. Passwordless solutions, like Windows Hello, rely on biometrics instead of passwords because biometrics are better at accurately identifying a user.

Biometrics, like other personal identifying information (PII), may raise privacy concerns. Some people worry that technology companies will collect PII and make it available to other entities. Or that their biometric image might get stolen. That’s why Microsoft and other security companies in the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) Alliance developed the FIDO2 standard to raise the bar for securing credentials. Rest assured, Microsoft uses FIDO2-compliant technology that does NOT view, store, or transfer ANY biometric images.

Here’s how it works:

  • When a user creates a biometric sign-in, Windows Hello uses an algorithm to create a unique identifier that is stored locally on the device, encrypted and secured, and never shared with Microsoft.
  • Each time a user signs in, the biometric is compared against the unique identifier.
  • If there is a match, the user is authenticated to the device.

Technologies like Windows Hello are secure, convenient, and safeguard user privacy.

Image of a PC screen showing Windows Hello.

Users can sign in to Windows Hello with a fingerprint scan. The fingerprint image is turned into a unique identifier stored on the device. It does not get stored by Microsoft.

Improve security, reduce costs, and increase productivity

To help you think about the costs associated with passwords, we’ll share some numbers from Microsoft’s own experience rolling out passwordless to its users. After about a year since Microsoft began this journey, most users don’t use a password to authenticate to corporate systems, resources, and applications. The company is better protected, but it has also reduced costs.

Passwords are expensive because users frequently forget them. For every password reset Microsoft incurs, soft costs are associated with the productivity lost while a user can’t sign in. The company also incurs hard costs for every hour a Helpdesk administrator spends helping a Microsoft user reset their password.

Microsoft estimated the following costs before rolling out passwordless to its employees:

  • $3 million a year in hard costs.
  • $6 million a year in lost productivity.

As of today, Microsoft has achieved the following benefits from its passwordless rollout:

  • Reduced hard and soft costs by 87 percent.
  • As Microsoft costs go down, attackers’ costs go up, so the company is less of a target.

Going passwordless starts with Multi-Factor Authentication

Whether you’re ready to roll out a passwordless authentication strategy today or in a few years, these steps will help get your organization ready.

  • Step 1: Define your passwordless and biometrics strategy—At Microsoft, we allow more than one biometric factor to choose from for authentication, which gives people options and helps us meet accessibility needs.
  • Step 2: Move your identities to the cloud—Leverage Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) user behavior analytics and security intelligence to help protect your identities, uncover breach patterns, and recover if there is a breach.
  • Step 3: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)—MFA increases security by requiring more than one factor of verification, usually in addition to a password. By enabling MFA, you can reduce the odds of account compromise by 99.9 percent.2 But passwords don’t have to be a factor. With passwordless authentication, the biometric identifier is one factor of verification and the device possession is another, removing the risk of passwords from the equation.
  • Step 4: Pilot passwordless—Start a pilot test with your riskiest users or groups.

Image of the Microsoft Authenticator app being used.

The Microsoft Authenticator app can be used to augment a password as a second factor or to replace a password with biometrics or a device PIN for authentication.

If you aren’t ready to go passwordless, enable MFA to reduce your odds of a breach. We also recommend that you ban the most easily guessable passwords. Azure AD processes 60 billion authentications in a month and uses the telemetry to automatically block commonly used, weak, or compromised passwords for all Azure AD accounts, but you can add your own custom banned passwords, too.

Learn more

Microsoft passwordless solutions include Windows Hello, the Microsoft Authenticator app, and FIDO2 security keys from select partners. Each can help you accomplish the following:

  • Stronger security.
  • Reduced costs over time.
  • Increased attacker costs.
  • More productive users.

Read more about Microsoft passwordless solutions.

Watch the CISO Spotlight Series: Passwordless: What’s it worth?

 

12018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report
22018 Microsoft Security Research

The post Go passwordless to strengthen security and reduce costs appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Experts on demand: Your direct line to Microsoft security insight, guidance, and expertise

October 28th, 2019 No comments

Microsoft Threat Experts is the managed threat hunting service within Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) that includes two capabilities: targeted attack notifications and experts on demand.

Today, we are extremely excited to share that experts on demand is now generally available and gives customers direct access to real-life Microsoft threat analysts to help with their security investigations.

With experts on demand, Microsoft Defender ATP customers can engage directly with Microsoft security analysts to get guidance and insights needed to better understand, prevent, and respond to complex threats in their environments. This capability was shaped through partnership with multiple customers across various verticals by investigating and helping mitigate real-world attacks. From deep investigation of machines that customers had a security concern about, to threat intelligence questions related to anticipated adversaries, experts on demand extends and supports security operations teams.

The other Microsoft Threat Experts capability, targeted attack notifications, delivers alerts that are tailored to organizations and provides as much information as can be quickly delivered to bring attention to critical threats in their network, including the timeline, scope of breach, and the methods of intrusion. Together, the two capabilities make Microsoft Threat Experts a comprehensive managed threat hunting solution that provides an additional layer of expertise and optics for security operations teams.

Experts on the case

By design, the Microsoft Threat Experts service has as many use cases as there are unique organizations with unique security scenarios and requirements. One particular case showed how an alert in Microsoft Defender ATP led to informed customer response, aided by a targeted attack notification that progressed to an experts on demand inquiry, resulting in the customer fully remediating the incident and improving their security posture.

In this case, Microsoft Defender ATP endpoint protection capabilities recognized a new malicious file in a single machine within an organization. The organization’s security operations center (SOC) promptly investigated the alert and developed the suspicion it may indicate a new campaign from an advanced adversary specifically targeting them.

Microsoft Threat Experts, who are constantly hunting on behalf of this customer, had independently spotted and investigated the malicious behaviors associated with the attack. With knowledge about the adversaries behind the attack and their motivation, Microsoft Threat Experts sent the organization a bespoke targeted attack notification, which provided additional information and context, including the fact that the file was related to an app that was targeted in a documented cyberattack.

To create a fully informed path to mitigation, experts pointed to information about the scope of compromise, relevant indicators of compromise, and a timeline of observed events, which showed that the file executed on the affected machine and proceeded to drop additional files. One of these files attempted to connect to a command-and-control server, which could have given the attackers direct access to the organization’s network and sensitive data. Microsoft Threat Experts recommended full investigation of the compromised machine, as well as the rest of the network for related indicators of attack.

Based on the targeted attack notification, the organization opened an experts on demand investigation, which allowed the SOC to have a line of communication and consultation with Microsoft Threat Experts. Microsoft Threat Experts were able to immediately confirm the attacker attribution the SOC had suspected. Using Microsoft Defender ATP’s rich optics and capabilities, coupled with intelligence on the threat actor, experts on demand validated that there were no signs of second-stage malware or further compromise within the organization. Since, over time, Microsoft Threat Experts had developed an understanding of this organization’s security posture, they were able to share that the initial malware infection was the result of a weak security control: allowing users to exercise unrestricted local administrator privilege.

Experts on demand in the current cybersecurity climate

On a daily basis, organizations have to fend off the onslaught of increasingly sophisticated attacks that present unique security challenges in security: supply chain attacks, highly targeted campaigns, hands-on-keyboard attacks. With Microsoft Threat Experts, customers can work with Microsoft to augment their security operations capabilities and increase confidence in investigating and responding to security incidents.

Now that experts on demand is generally available, Microsoft Defender ATP customers have an even richer way of tapping into Microsoft’s security experts and get access to skills, experience, and intelligence necessary to face adversaries.

Experts on demand provide insights into attacks, technical guidance on next steps, and advice on risk and protection. Experts can be engaged directly from within the Microsoft Defender Security Center, so they are part of the existing security operations experience:

We are happy to bring experts on demand within reach of all Microsoft Defender ATP customers. Start your 90-day free trial via the Microsoft Defender Security Center today.

Learn more about Microsoft Defender ATP’s managed threat hunting service here: Announcing Microsoft Threat Experts.

 

 

The post Experts on demand: Your direct line to Microsoft security insight, guidance, and expertise appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Microsoft and partners design new device security requirements to protect against targeted firmware attacks

October 21st, 2019 No comments

Recent developments in security research and real-world attacks demonstrate that as more protections are proactively built into the OS and in connected services, attackers are looking for other avenues of exploitation with firmware emerging as a top target. In the last three years alone, NIST’s National Vulnerability Database has shown nearly a five-fold increase in the number of firmware vulnerabilities discovered.

To combat threats specifically targeted at the firmware and operating system levels, we’re announcing a new initiative we’ve been working on with partners to design what we call Secured-core PCs. These devices, created in partnership with our PC manufacturing and silicon partners, meet a specific set of device requirements that apply the security best practices of isolation and minimal trust to the firmware layer, or the device core, that underpins the Windows operating system. These devices are designed specifically for industries like financial services, government and healthcare, and for workers that handle highly-sensitive IP, customer or personal data, including PII as these are higher value targets for nation-state attackers.

 

In late 2018, security researchers discovered that hacking group, Strontium has been using firmware vulnerabilities to target systems in the wild with malware delivered through a firmware attack. As a result, the malicious code was hard to detect and difficult to remove – it could persist even across common cleanup procedures like an OS re-install or a hard drive replacement.

Why attackers and researchers are devoting more effort toward firmware

Firmware is used to initialize the hardware and other software on the device and has a higher level of access and privilege than the hypervisor and operating system kernel thereby making it an attractive target for attackers. Attacks targeting firmware can undermine mechanisms like secure boot and other security functionality implemented by the hypervisor or operating system making it more difficult to identify when a system or user has been compromised. Compounding the problem is the fact that endpoint protection and detection solutions have limited visibility at the firmware layer given that they run underneath of the operating system, making evasion easier for attackers going after firmware.

What makes a Secured-core PC?

Secured-core PCs combine identity, virtualization, operating system, hardware and firmware protection to add another layer of security underneath the operating system. Unlike software-only security solutions, Secured-core PCs are designed to prevent these kinds of attacks rather than simply detecting them. Our investments in Windows Defender System Guard and Secured-core PC devices are designed to provide the rich ecosystem of Windows 10 devices with uniform assurances around the integrity of the launched operating system and verifiable measurements of the operating system launch to help mitigate against threats taking aim at the firmware layer. These requirements enable customers to boot securely, protect the device from firmware vulnerabilities, shield the operating system from attacks, prevent unauthorized access to devices and data, and ensure that identity and domain credentials are protected.

The built-in measurements can be used by SecOps and IT admins to remotely monitor the health of their systems using System Guard runtime attestation and implement a zero-trust network rooted in hardware. This advanced firmware security works in concert with other Windows features to ensure that Secured-core PCs provide comprehensive protections against modern threats.

 

Removing trust from the firmware

Starting with Windows 8, we introduced Secure Boot to mitigate the risk posed by malicious bootloaders and rootkits that relied on Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware to only allow properly signed bootloaders like the Windows boot manager to execute. This was a significant step forward to protect against these specific types of attacks. However, since firmware is already trusted to verify the bootloaders, Secure Boot on its own does not protect from threats that exploit vulnerabilities in the trusted firmware. That’s why we worked with our partners to ensure these new Secured-core capabilities are shipped in devices right out of the box.

Using new hardware capabilities from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, Windows 10 now implements System Guard Secure Launch as a key Secured-core PC device requirement to protect the boot process from firmware attacks. System Guard uses the Dynamic Root of Trust for Measurement (DRTM) capabilities that are built into the latest silicon from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm to enable the system to leverage firmware to start the hardware and then shortly after re-initialize the system into a trusted state by using the OS boot loader and processor capabilities to send the system down a well-known and verifiable code path. This mechanism helps limit the trust assigned to firmware and provides powerful mitigation against cutting-edge, targeted threats against firmware. This capability also helps to protect the integrity of the virtualization-based security (VBS) functionality implemented by the hypervisor from firmware compromise. VBS then relies on the hypervisor to isolate sensitive functionality from the rest of the OS which helps to protect the VBS functionality from malware that may have infected the normal OS even with elevated privileges. Protecting VBS is critical since it is used as a building block for important OS security capabilities like Windows Defender Credential Guard which protects against malware maliciously using OS credentials and Hypervisor-protected Code Integrity (HVCI) which ensures that a strict code integrity policy is enforced and that all kernel code is signed and verified.

 

Being able to measure that the device booted securely is another critical piece of this additional layer of protection from firmware compromise that gives admins added confidence that their endpoints are safe. That’s why we implemented Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM) as one of the device requirements for Secured-core PCs. By using the Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM) to measure the components that are used during the secure launch process, we help customers enable zero trust networks using System Guard runtime attestation. Conditional access policies can be implemented based on the reports provided by the System Guard attestation client running in the isolated VBS environment.

In addition to the Secure Launch functionality, Windows implements additional safeguards that operate when the OS is running to monitor and restrict the functionality of potentially dangerous firmware functionality accessible through System Management Mode (SMM).

Beyond the hardware protection of firmware featured in Secured-core PCs, Microsoft recommends a defense-in-depth approach including security review of code, automatic updates, and attack surface reduction. Microsoft has provided an open-source firmware project called Project-Mu that PC manufactures can use as a starting point for secure firmware.

How to get a Secured-core PC

Our ecosystem partnerships have enabled us to add this additional layer of security in devices that are designed for highly-targeted industries and end-users who handle mission-critical data in some of the most data-sensitive industries like government, financial services, and healthcare, right-out-of-the-box. These innovations build on the value of Windows 10 Pro that comes with built-in protections like firewall, secure boot, and file-level information-loss protection which are standard on every device.

More information on devices that are verified Secured-core PC including those from Dell, Dynabook, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Surface can be found on our web page.

 

David Weston (@dwizzzleMSFT)
Partner Director, OS Security

The post Microsoft and partners design new device security requirements to protect against targeted firmware attacks appeared first on Microsoft Security.

Windows 7 is now Common Criteria Certified!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Our friends over at the FutureFed blog reported that Windows 7 the has passed  the Common Criteria (CC) certification process and achieved Evaluation Assurance Level 4 with augmentation (EAL4+). Common Criteria certification is an international standard recognized by 26 member nations including the United States and is a procurement requirement for U.S. Defense and national security customers.

With this certification, we are excited that our federal customers as well as foreign governments can feel secure in deploying Windows 7, having successfully passed the rigorous security testing protocols set forth by the National Information Assurance Partnership.

Several governments have already successfully deployed Windows 7, including the Moscow North District Prefecture in Russia, the Vernon Hills Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, the City of Miami, Florida and the City of Stockholm, Sweden.

This is exciting news, but not surprising as Windows 7 is our most secure operating system to date. In addition to enhancing existing security features in Windows, we incorporated customer feedback throughout the development process of Windows 7 to deliver innovative new security features, including Direct Access, AppLocker and BitLocker To Go.

Congratulations, Windows 7!

Windows 7 is now Common Criteria Certified!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Our friends over at the FutureFed blog reported that Windows 7 the has passed  the Common Criteria (CC) certification process and achieved Evaluation Assurance Level 4 with augmentation (EAL4+). Common Criteria certification is an international standard recognized by 26 member nations including the United States and is a procurement requirement for U.S. Defense and national security customers.

With this certification, we are excited that our federal customers as well as foreign governments can feel secure in deploying Windows 7, having successfully passed the rigorous security testing protocols set forth by the National Information Assurance Partnership.

Several governments have already successfully deployed Windows 7, including the Moscow North District Prefecture in Russia, the Vernon Hills Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, the City of Miami, Florida and the City of Stockholm, Sweden.

This is exciting news, but not surprising as Windows 7 is our most secure operating system to date. In addition to enhancing existing security features in Windows, we incorporated customer feedback throughout the development process of Windows 7 to deliver innovative new security features, including Direct Access, AppLocker and BitLocker To Go.

Congratulations, Windows 7!

Windows 7 is now Common Criteria Certified!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Our friends over at the FutureFed blog reported that Windows 7 the has passed  the Common Criteria (CC) certification process and achieved Evaluation Assurance Level 4 with augmentation (EAL4+). Common Criteria certification is an international standard recognized by 26 member nations including the United States and is a procurement requirement for U.S. Defense and national security customers.

With this certification, we are excited that our federal customers as well as foreign governments can feel secure in deploying Windows 7, having successfully passed the rigorous security testing protocols set forth by the National Information Assurance Partnership.

Several governments have already successfully deployed Windows 7, including the Moscow North District Prefecture in Russia, the Vernon Hills Police Department in Chicago, Illinois, the City of Miami, Florida and the City of Stockholm, Sweden.

This is exciting news, but not surprising as Windows 7 is our most secure operating system to date. In addition to enhancing existing security features in Windows, we incorporated customer feedback throughout the development process of Windows 7 to deliver innovative new security features, including Direct Access, AppLocker and BitLocker To Go.

Congratulations, Windows 7!

Security and Internet Explorer

March 11th, 2011 Comments off

While the Internet is an amazing resource in terms of the information you can find and things you can do today, it’s important to also be smart about how you browse. A browser can be a great tool in helping you stay safe when you go online.

Most online attacks fall into one of the three situations:

1. Malware that relies on social engineering to spread

2. Attacks directed against your browser or your operating system

3. Attacks directed towards the websites you visit

Let me spend some time describing what I mean by each of these, and also how Internet Explorer can help protect you from each of these types of attacks.

Helping Protect You from Socially Engineered Attacks

A term that you may hear on occasion within the security realm is “socially engineered attacks.” What this means is an attacker uses clever techniques to get you to lower your guard and trick you into doing something that makes you vulnerable to an attack. The idea here is that they aren’t looking for weaknesses in code; rather, they’re trying to fool you into a trap.

The ways in which we see this play out are varied; it may be that you get spam – that is to say an email from a fake bank that actually takes you to a malicious site, or an email supposedly from a friend that encourages you to download a file which may contain malware. To help keep you safe from such types of attacks, Internet Explorer comes with the Smart Screen filter technology, which has been improved even more with Internet Explorer 9. SmartScreen makes it harder for someone to trick you into opening a malicious page, or con you with a phishing site. This technology checks to see if the site you’re visiting is suspected of hosting malicious code and subsequently prevents you from continuing on to that page. Internet Explorer 9 goes one step further by warning you only when you download applications that may be of higher risk.

Technologies like this can make a big difference in helping to keep you safe online. In December, NSS Labs reported that Internet Explorer offers the best protection against the spread of socially-engineered malware. As you can see in the below chart, Internet Explorer 8 (90%) and Internet Explorer 9 (99%) offer significantly more protection than other browsers.

image

Mitigating Attacks on Your Browser and PC

Internet Explorer also helps protect against deliberate attacks where bad code is hosted on a site that is designed to exploit weaknesses in the software on your PC. Among all the lines of code that make up software, there can be vulnerabilities. The Internet Explorer team designed its browser with security in mind, and in comparison to other browsers, Internet Explorer has fewer vulnerabilities. The chart below illustrates the number of publicly known vulnerabilities in 2010 divided by each browser, according to the National Vulnerability Database.

image

*Data source: National Vulnerability Database. Data is based upon the most recently shipped versions available during this time period. In the case of Chrome, versions 5, 6, 7, & 8 were all released during this time period.

At Microsoft, products are built with a secure-by-design approach, where security is designed into the product from the ground up. The result of this effort is a browser that includes specific features to help people stay secure and technologies that help insulate the browser against exploits. In addition to Microsoft’s security processes, which includes the Security Development Lifecycle, Software Security Incident Response Process (SSIRP), and monthly security bulletins, some ways in which you might see this at a product level include features such as Protected Mode, Data Execution Prevention, and many others, both in Internet Explorer 8, and the soon to be released Internet Explorer 9.

Protecting Against the Compromised Websites

This last scenario is when an attacker that has compromised a site that you visit in a way that interferes with how your browser relates to the site. This type of an attack is called a cross-site scripting attack. In this instance, an attacker gets an unsuspecting server to load special code on your browser that allows the attacker to do anything from monitoring your keystrokes to performing actions on your behalf on the site. Internet Explorer has built in a Cross-Site Script Filter that makes such attacks more difficult and helps protect you.

The upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9 contains even more features designed to help keep you safer such as ActiveX Filtering and Application Reputation. More information on how Microsoft technologies can keep you secure can be found here.

Security and Internet Explorer

March 11th, 2011 No comments

While the Internet is an amazing resource in terms of the information you can find and things you can do today, it’s important to also be smart about how you browse. A browser can be a great tool in helping you stay safe when you go online.

Most online attacks fall into one of the three situations:

1. Malware that relies on social engineering to spread

2. Attacks directed against your browser or your operating system

3. Attacks directed towards the websites you visit

Let me spend some time describing what I mean by each of these, and also how Internet Explorer can help protect you from each of these types of attacks.

Helping Protect You from Socially Engineered Attacks

A term that you may hear on occasion within the security realm is “socially engineered attacks.” What this means is an attacker uses clever techniques to get you to lower your guard and trick you into doing something that makes you vulnerable to an attack. The idea here is that they aren’t looking for weaknesses in code; rather, they’re trying to fool you into a trap.

The ways in which we see this play out are varied; it may be that you get spam – that is to say an email from a fake bank that actually takes you to a malicious site, or an email supposedly from a friend that encourages you to download a file which may contain malware. To help keep you safe from such types of attacks, Internet Explorer comes with the Smart Screen filter technology, which has been improved even more with Internet Explorer 9. SmartScreen makes it harder for someone to trick you into opening a malicious page, or con you with a phishing site. This technology checks to see if the site you’re visiting is suspected of hosting malicious code and subsequently prevents you from continuing on to that page. Internet Explorer 9 goes one step further by warning you only when you download applications that may be of higher risk.

Technologies like this can make a big difference in helping to keep you safe online. In December, NSS Labs reported that Internet Explorer offers the best protection against the spread of socially-engineered malware. As you can see in the below chart, Internet Explorer 8 (90%) and Internet Explorer 9 (99%) offer significantly more protection than other browsers.

image

Mitigating Attacks on Your Browser and PC

Internet Explorer also helps protect against deliberate attacks where bad code is hosted on a site that is designed to exploit weaknesses in the software on your PC. Among all the lines of code that make up software, there can be vulnerabilities. The Internet Explorer team designed its browser with security in mind, and in comparison to other browsers, Internet Explorer has fewer vulnerabilities. The chart below illustrates the number of publicly known vulnerabilities in 2010 divided by each browser, according to the National Vulnerability Database.

image

*Data source: National Vulnerability Database. Data is based upon the most recently shipped versions available during this time period. In the case of Chrome, versions 5, 6, 7, & 8 were all released during this time period.

At Microsoft, products are built with a secure-by-design approach, where security is designed into the product from the ground up. The result of this effort is a browser that includes specific features to help people stay secure and technologies that help insulate the browser against exploits. In addition to Microsoft’s security processes, which includes the Security Development Lifecycle, Software Security Incident Response Process (SSIRP), and monthly security bulletins, some ways in which you might see this at a product level include features such as Protected Mode, Data Execution Prevention, and many others, both in Internet Explorer 8, and the soon to be released Internet Explorer 9.

Protecting Against the Compromised Websites

This last scenario is when an attacker that has compromised a site that you visit in a way that interferes with how your browser relates to the site. This type of an attack is called a cross-site scripting attack. In this instance, an attacker gets an unsuspecting server to load special code on your browser that allows the attacker to do anything from monitoring your keystrokes to performing actions on your behalf on the site. Internet Explorer has built in a Cross-Site Script Filter that makes such attacks more difficult and helps protect you.

The upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9 contains even more features designed to help keep you safer such as ActiveX Filtering and Application Reputation. More information on how Microsoft technologies can keep you secure can be found here.

Security and Internet Explorer

March 11th, 2011 No comments

While the Internet is an amazing resource in terms of the information you can find and things you can do today, it’s important to also be smart about how you browse. A browser can be a great tool in helping you stay safe when you go online.

Most online attacks fall into one of the three situations:

1. Malware that relies on social engineering to spread

2. Attacks directed against your browser or your operating system

3. Attacks directed towards the websites you visit

Let me spend some time describing what I mean by each of these, and also how Internet Explorer can help protect you from each of these types of attacks.

Helping Protect You from Socially Engineered Attacks

A term that you may hear on occasion within the security realm is “socially engineered attacks.” What this means is an attacker uses clever techniques to get you to lower your guard and trick you into doing something that makes you vulnerable to an attack. The idea here is that they aren’t looking for weaknesses in code; rather, they’re trying to fool you into a trap.

The ways in which we see this play out are varied; it may be that you get spam – that is to say an email from a fake bank that actually takes you to a malicious site, or an email supposedly from a friend that encourages you to download a file which may contain malware. To help keep you safe from such types of attacks, Internet Explorer comes with the Smart Screen filter technology, which has been improved even more with Internet Explorer 9. SmartScreen makes it harder for someone to trick you into opening a malicious page, or con you with a phishing site. This technology checks to see if the site you’re visiting is suspected of hosting malicious code and subsequently prevents you from continuing on to that page. Internet Explorer 9 goes one step further by warning you only when you download applications that may be of higher risk.

Technologies like this can make a big difference in helping to keep you safe online. In December, NSS Labs reported that Internet Explorer offers the best protection against the spread of socially-engineered malware. As you can see in the below chart, Internet Explorer 8 (90%) and Internet Explorer 9 (99%) offer significantly more protection than other browsers.

image

Mitigating Attacks on Your Browser and PC

Internet Explorer also helps protect against deliberate attacks where bad code is hosted on a site that is designed to exploit weaknesses in the software on your PC. Among all the lines of code that make up software, there can be vulnerabilities. The Internet Explorer team designed its browser with security in mind, and in comparison to other browsers, Internet Explorer has fewer vulnerabilities. The chart below illustrates the number of publicly known vulnerabilities in 2010 divided by each browser, according to the National Vulnerability Database.

image

*Data source: National Vulnerability Database. Data is based upon the most recently shipped versions available during this time period. In the case of Chrome, versions 5, 6, 7, & 8 were all released during this time period.

At Microsoft, products are built with a secure-by-design approach, where security is designed into the product from the ground up. The result of this effort is a browser that includes specific features to help people stay secure and technologies that help insulate the browser against exploits. In addition to Microsoft’s security processes, which includes the Security Development Lifecycle, Software Security Incident Response Process (SSIRP), and monthly security bulletins, some ways in which you might see this at a product level include features such as Protected Mode, Data Execution Prevention, and many others, both in Internet Explorer 8, and the soon to be released Internet Explorer 9.

Protecting Against the Compromised Websites

This last scenario is when an attacker that has compromised a site that you visit in a way that interferes with how your browser relates to the site. This type of an attack is called a cross-site scripting attack. In this instance, an attacker gets an unsuspecting server to load special code on your browser that allows the attacker to do anything from monitoring your keystrokes to performing actions on your behalf on the site. Internet Explorer has built in a Cross-Site Script Filter that makes such attacks more difficult and helps protect you.

The upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9 contains even more features designed to help keep you safer such as ActiveX Filtering and Application Reputation. More information on how Microsoft technologies can keep you secure can be found here.

Fake Microsoft Security Essentials software on the loose. Don’t be fooled by it!

October 25th, 2010 Comments off

Last week, we saw the re-emergence of another new trojan that is disguising itself as Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware program Microsoft Security Essentials. This imposter is known in the technical world of antimalware combat as “Win32/FakePAV”. FakePAV is a rogue that displays messages that imitate Microsoft Security Essentials threat reports in order to entice the user into downloading and paying for a rogue security scanner. The rogue persistently terminates numerous processes such as Windows Registry Editor, Internet Explorer, Windows Restore and other utilities and applications.

This fake software is distributed by a tactic commonly described as a “drive-by download” and shows up as a hotfix.exe or as an mstsc.exe file. Additionally, after the fake Microsoft Security Essentials software reports it cannot clean the claimed malware infection, it offers to install additional antimalware rogues (with names such as AntiSpySafeguard, Major Defense Kit, Peak Protection, Pest Detector and Red Cross). Lastly, this fake program will try to scare you into purchasing a product.

Before we get to the detailed view of how this trojan works, we want the message to be very clear: This software is a fake. Do not be fooled by this scam. This malware can potentially cause consumers and small business owners harm. Microsoft Security Essentials can be downloaded and used at no cost by users running genuine Windows (Download here: http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/). So anything mimicking Microsoft Security Essentials but asking for any sort of payment is clearly up to no good.

If you have not already updated your security software please do so. Making sure your security software is up-to-date and has the latest definitions is the best way to prevent infections.

And now onto a detailed look at FakePAV. While different FakePAV distributions have different payloads, here is how the current one imitating Microsoft Security Essentials works:

1. It modifies the system so that it runs when Windows starts

2. When you go to execute something it’s watching for, it opens the alert window claiming the program is infected and blocks it from running.

3. You can expand it out for “additional details”

4. If you click “Clean computer” or “Apply actions”, it simulates an attempt to clean the claimed infection

5. You’ll then get an ‘unable to clean’ alert and be instructed to click ‘Scan Online’

6. Clicking this, a list of antimalware programs appears, including several fake removal tools, and you’d need to click Start Scan

7. Once the simulated scan completes, it will claim a solution was found and list products that can ‘clean’ the system (the listed products are fake removal tools).

8. Clicking ‘Free install’ on one of those downloads will download its installer and start installing

If you believe your machine has become infected, we encourage you to use Microsoft Security Essentials to check your PC for malware and to help remove them from your system. You can also find out how to get virus-related assistance at no charge from Microsoft here: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/support/default.mspx.

For more information on this FakePAV please visit our encyclopedia entry at http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/Threat/Encyclopedia/Entry.aspx?Name=Rogue%3aWin32%2fFakePAV. It contains a lot of information that may help answer questions about this rogue.

And remember: Microsoft does not charge for Microsoft Security Essentials. You can find the legitimate version of Microsoft Security Essentials at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials.

Fake Microsoft Security Essentials software on the loose. Don’t be fooled by it!

October 25th, 2010 No comments

Last week, we saw the re-emergence of another new trojan that is disguising itself as Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware program Microsoft Security Essentials. This imposter is known in the technical world of antimalware combat as “Win32/FakePAV”. FakePAV is a rogue that displays messages that imitate Microsoft Security Essentials threat reports in order to entice the user into downloading and paying for a rogue security scanner. The rogue persistently terminates numerous processes such as Windows Registry Editor, Internet Explorer, Windows Restore and other utilities and applications.

This fake software is distributed by a tactic commonly described as a “drive-by download” and shows up as a hotfix.exe or as an mstsc.exe file. Additionally, after the fake Microsoft Security Essentials software reports it cannot clean the claimed malware infection, it offers to install additional antimalware rogues (with names such as AntiSpySafeguard, Major Defense Kit, Peak Protection, Pest Detector and Red Cross). Lastly, this fake program will try to scare you into purchasing a product.

Before we get to the detailed view of how this trojan works, we want the message to be very clear: This software is a fake. Do not be fooled by this scam. This malware can potentially cause consumers and small business owners harm. Microsoft Security Essentials can be downloaded and used at no cost by users running genuine Windows (Download here: http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/). So anything mimicking Microsoft Security Essentials but asking for any sort of payment is clearly up to no good.

If you have not already updated your security software please do so. Making sure your security software is up-to-date and has the latest definitions is the best way to prevent infections.

And now onto a detailed look at FakePAV. While different FakePAV distributions have different payloads, here is how the current one imitating Microsoft Security Essentials works:

1. It modifies the system so that it runs when Windows starts

2. When you go to execute something it’s watching for, it opens the alert window claiming the program is infected and blocks it from running.

3. You can expand it out for “additional details”

4. If you click “Clean computer” or “Apply actions”, it simulates an attempt to clean the claimed infection

5. You’ll then get an ‘unable to clean’ alert and be instructed to click ‘Scan Online’

6. Clicking this, a list of antimalware programs appears, including several fake removal tools, and you’d need to click Start Scan

7. Once the simulated scan completes, it will claim a solution was found and list products that can ‘clean’ the system (the listed products are fake removal tools).

8. Clicking ‘Free install’ on one of those downloads will download its installer and start installing

If you believe your machine has become infected, we encourage you to use Microsoft Security Essentials to check your PC for malware and to help remove them from your system. You can also find out how to get virus-related assistance at no charge from Microsoft here: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/support/default.mspx.

For more information on this FakePAV please visit our encyclopedia entry at http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/Threat/Encyclopedia/Entry.aspx?Name=Rogue%3aWin32%2fFakePAV. It contains a lot of information that may help answer questions about this rogue.

And remember: Microsoft does not charge for Microsoft Security Essentials. You can find the legitimate version of Microsoft Security Essentials at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials.

Fake Microsoft Security Essentials software on the loose. Don’t be fooled by it!

October 25th, 2010 No comments

Last week, we saw the re-emergence of another new trojan that is disguising itself as Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware program Microsoft Security Essentials. This imposter is known in the technical world of antimalware combat as “Win32/FakePAV”. FakePAV is a rogue that displays messages that imitate Microsoft Security Essentials threat reports in order to entice the user into downloading and paying for a rogue security scanner. The rogue persistently terminates numerous processes such as Windows Registry Editor, Internet Explorer, Windows Restore and other utilities and applications.

This fake software is distributed by a tactic commonly described as a “drive-by download” and shows up as a hotfix.exe or as an mstsc.exe file. Additionally, after the fake Microsoft Security Essentials software reports it cannot clean the claimed malware infection, it offers to install additional antimalware rogues (with names such as AntiSpySafeguard, Major Defense Kit, Peak Protection, Pest Detector and Red Cross). Lastly, this fake program will try to scare you into purchasing a product.

Before we get to the detailed view of how this trojan works, we want the message to be very clear: This software is a fake. Do not be fooled by this scam. This malware can potentially cause consumers and small business owners harm. Microsoft Security Essentials can be downloaded and used at no cost by users running genuine Windows (Download here: http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/). So anything mimicking Microsoft Security Essentials but asking for any sort of payment is clearly up to no good.

If you have not already updated your security software please do so. Making sure your security software is up-to-date and has the latest definitions is the best way to prevent infections.

And now onto a detailed look at FakePAV. While different FakePAV distributions have different payloads, here is how the current one imitating Microsoft Security Essentials works:

1. It modifies the system so that it runs when Windows starts

2. When you go to execute something it’s watching for, it opens the alert window claiming the program is infected and blocks it from running.

3. You can expand it out for “additional details”

4. If you click “Clean computer” or “Apply actions”, it simulates an attempt to clean the claimed infection

5. You’ll then get an ‘unable to clean’ alert and be instructed to click ‘Scan Online’

6. Clicking this, a list of antimalware programs appears, including several fake removal tools, and you’d need to click Start Scan

7. Once the simulated scan completes, it will claim a solution was found and list products that can ‘clean’ the system (the listed products are fake removal tools).

8. Clicking ‘Free install’ on one of those downloads will download its installer and start installing

If you believe your machine has become infected, we encourage you to use Microsoft Security Essentials to check your PC for malware and to help remove them from your system. You can also find out how to get virus-related assistance at no charge from Microsoft here: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/support/default.mspx.

For more information on this FakePAV please visit our encyclopedia entry at http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/Threat/Encyclopedia/Entry.aspx?Name=Rogue%3aWin32%2fFakePAV. It contains a lot of information that may help answer questions about this rogue.

And remember: Microsoft does not charge for Microsoft Security Essentials. You can find the legitimate version of Microsoft Security Essentials at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials.

Microsoft Security Essentials available to Small Businesses on October 7

October 6th, 2010 No comments

We announced back in September that Microsoft Security Essentials would be changing its licensing terms and would soon become available to small business on up to 10 PCs. We are happy to announce that beginning tomorrow, October 7, the change will go into effect and small business owners will be able to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. This new availability will allow small businesses that operate outside of the home to take advantage of Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware service that will help them save time, save money and remain productive while protecting them from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats. If you operate a small business with more than 10 PCs, we do recommend that you consider using the Forefront line products to address your security needs.

In just one year on the market, more than 30 million customers are now enjoying the quiet protection Microsoft Security Essentials provides, and Microsoft is excited to now offer Microsoft Security Essentials to the small business community.

For more information about this new availability, check out the Microsoft SMB Community blog and the feature story on Microsoft.com.

Microsoft Security Essentials available to Small Businesses on October 7

October 6th, 2010 Comments off

We announced back in September that Microsoft Security Essentials would be changing its licensing terms and would soon become available to small business on up to 10 PCs. We are happy to announce that beginning tomorrow, October 7, the change will go into effect and small business owners will be able to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. This new availability will allow small businesses that operate outside of the home to take advantage of Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware service that will help them save time, save money and remain productive while protecting them from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats. If you operate a small business with more than 10 PCs, we do recommend that you consider using the Forefront line products to address your security needs.

In just one year on the market, more than 30 million customers are now enjoying the quiet protection Microsoft Security Essentials provides, and Microsoft is excited to now offer Microsoft Security Essentials to the small business community.

For more information about this new availability, check out the Microsoft SMB Community blog and the feature story on Microsoft.com.

Microsoft Security Essentials available to Small Businesses on October 7

October 6th, 2010 No comments

We announced back in September that Microsoft Security Essentials would be changing its licensing terms and would soon become available to small business on up to 10 PCs. We are happy to announce that beginning tomorrow, October 7, the change will go into effect and small business owners will be able to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. This new availability will allow small businesses that operate outside of the home to take advantage of Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware service that will help them save time, save money and remain productive while protecting them from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats. If you operate a small business with more than 10 PCs, we do recommend that you consider using the Forefront line products to address your security needs.

In just one year on the market, more than 30 million customers are now enjoying the quiet protection Microsoft Security Essentials provides, and Microsoft is excited to now offer Microsoft Security Essentials to the small business community.

For more information about this new availability, check out the Microsoft SMB Community blog and the feature story on Microsoft.com.

Microsoft Security Essentials Celebrates First Birthday with 30 Million Customers!

September 29th, 2010 No comments

It has been one year since Microsoft Security Essentials was made generally available to the public and to celebrate, we are pleased to share that there are now over 30 million customers in 74 different countries around the world enjoying the trusted security and quiet protection that Microsoft Security Essentials provides.

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In addition, we are also pleased to share that Microsoft Security Essentials will now come pre-installed on the HP ENVY 14 series and HP ENVY 14 Beats™ edition series PCs starting today. But we’ll talk more about that in a minute.

First, let’s talk about the impact Microsoft Security Essentials is having on the Windows ecosystem.

Making an Impact with Microsoft Security Essentials

When we announced Microsoft Security Essentials last year, we said, “Making Microsoft Security Essentials broadly available as a free consumer download for genuine Windows-based PCs is part of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to provide a more trustworthy computing experience for all customers. By making Microsoft Security Essentials easy to get and easy to use, Microsoft hopes to encourage broader adoption of antivirus protection across the consumer audience, which in turn will help increase security across the entire Windows ecosystem.”

And today, helping increase security across the Windows ecosystem is exactly what we are doing.

According to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC), in addition to providing a no-cost security solution to tens of millions of customers that may not have been actively protected before, Microsoft Security Essentials detected nearly 400 million threats over the past year, with customers choosing to remove more than 366 million of those threats. For more information about the specific threat breakdown, please visit the MMPC Blog.

Other highlights from this past year include:

· Originally introduced in 8 languages and 19 countries around the world, Microsoft Security Essentials is currently available and supported in 25 languages and 74 countries globally.

· Microsoft Security Essentials is certified by two of the industry’s leading independent certification authorities: International Computer Security Association Labs (ICSA) and West Coast LabsIt also received the most recent VB100 Award and as well as certification from AV-Test.

· Beginning in October Microsoft Security Essentials will be made available to small businesses on up to 10 PCs for free.

· Microsoft Security Essentials was made available for online partner distribution, as a pre-install on OEM PCs and for distribution by publications as covermount software.

· Microsoft Security Essentials received the PC Advisor Awards 2010 – Best Free Software award and is rated by Consumer Reports as a “Best Buy”.

As you can see, it’s been a pretty exciting year for Microsoft Security Essentials! And the fun doesn’t stop here…

Microsoft Security Essentials Coming Pre-installed on HP Envy Notebooks

Microsoft Security Essentials is currently available to consumers, and soon to small businesses on up to 10 PCs, as a download directly from Microsoft. But today we are thrilled to let you know that HP will be pre-installing Microsoft Security Essentials on the HP ENVY 14 series and the HP ENVY 14 Beats™ edition series PCs beginning today, so be sure to go check these out.

These PCs are stylish and feature powerful Intel® Core™ processors designed to fit the needs of a variety of consumers. In fact, Ben Rudolph (aka “Ben the PC Guy”) has taken the HP ENVY 14 Beats™ edition series for a test drive.  For more details on that please visit the Windows Experience Blog.

To learn more about Microsoft Security Essentials, please visit the Microsoft Security Essentials Web site.

So, Happy Birthday Microsoft Security Essentials! And thank you to our valued customers and partners for a very exciting year.

Cheers!

Eric and the entire Microsoft Security Essentials product team