Blocking entry: Browsers offer prime attack vector
Blocking entry: Browsers offer prime attack vector

Loaded on nearly every desktop in the enterprise, browsers are a prime vector for attack, but remedies are on hand, reports Alan Earls.

Lee Urbina, chief financial officer for US Infrastructure Holdings, a Texas-based energy company, had a problem. The core of the company's business is finding and locking in key assets at a favorable price. How that is done and at what cost is of great interest to competitors. So, among other concerns, Urbina began to think of the browser software deployed across the company as yet another inviting window through which unauthorized people could gain access to key data.

“The information our company handles is very confidential, and we know people are always trying to get into our servers,” he says. Because of his concerns, Urbina recently deployed Protect On Q (POQ), a web-based product from Austin, Texas-based Quarri, that “locks down browsers” to not only ward off malware, but to prevent unauthorized use and replication of sensitive data. Urbina says POQ has not solved all his organization's security issues, but has clearly helped. “Our IT department was spending all its time dealing with these things before, but now that POQ is in place, the workload is much lower,” he says.

Although browsers are but one element in maintaining IT security, their ubiquity makes them important, both as possible unwitting accomplices in a cyber attack and, conversely, as potential allies in efforts to boost security.

Browser security is, in fact, an important element in keeping malware attacks at bay, says Ryan Naraine, security evangelist at Kaspersky Lab. “Most modern browsers include features to block or limit phishing and other web-based attacks, but security vulnerabilities in browsers and other desktop applications also can be exploited to infect computers with malware,” he says. Fortunately, browser makers are constantly adding new security features to keep hackers at bay, he says. For instance, Google Chrome contains a “sandbox” to limit the damage from successful hacker attacks, while Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox contain many new anti-exploit mechanisms. But, as with all aspects of the fight against cyber crime, it continues to be a cat-and-mouse game.