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12.9. Conclusion and Future Work

Memory scanning and disinfection are very challenging tasks under NT-based systems. The multitasking, multithreaded environment is much more complex than DOS, so most Windows viruses are also very complex. As the number of Win32 viruses grows, the antivirus world will face more and more difficult problems. It is extremely important to study the upcoming Win32 and Win64 viruses in detail to be equipped to deal with them correctly. Scanning of the 64-bit address space on IA64, AMD64 and EM64T systems is feasible. Disinfection of the system is analogous to the challenges in Core Wars.

Among other security features, Microsoft NGSCB (Next Generation Secure Computing Base) systems19 will support sealed memorycurtaining areas of physical memory (though it remains a question when exactly Microsoft will release it). Because of this uncertainty, detail discussion of NGSCB is beyond the scope of this work. In NGSCB, the hardware is modified to allow code (so-called Nexus Agents) to run in a protected range of memory. The idea is to make it possible to hide information (secrets) from other running components on the system.

It is difficult to predict whether or not antivirus software will be able to scan the in-memory content of Nexus Agents (NCAs) because this could violate the purpose of the curtained memory. If, however, antivirus software cannot scan curtained memory, malicious code will easily enjoy the protection. Thus, if a CodeRed-like threat could exploit an NCA, it could not be detected in memory. This risk is further minimized by the NX (nonexecutable) pages featured on modern CPUs, but it might not be completely eliminated. In addition, NCAs cannot use additional DLLs, and the NCA runtime might have very limited functionalityperhaps not enough to allow an attacker to implement a computer worm.

The outcome of NGSCB remains to be seen. (Consider Figure 12.9 for illustration.)

Figure 12.9. A high-level view of NGSCB based on preliminary information from Microsoft.


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