Learn what is an exploit, why it is important to stop them, and how Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit can protect your Windows device.
What is an exploit?
“An exploit is a piece of software, a chunk of data, or sequence of commands that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability in order to cause unintended or unanticipated behavior to occur on computer software, hardware, or something electronic (usually computerized).”
There are typically three stages involved in a typical vulnerability exploit attack:
- The exploit triggers a vulnerability through which the attacker is able to run shellcode to bypass the Operating System built-in protections such as Data Execution Prevention (DEP) and Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR).
- The exploit shellcode then runs some special instructions called payload.
- The payload in turn executes a malicious action. Examples of malicious actions can be "download this EXE from the Internet and execute it" or other more advanced types of actions such as opening a reverse shell to the attacker without any EXE files involved. There have been some very stealth malicious actions in the past such as in the example of the FBI exploit of the Tor Browser Bundle in 2013 where the payload simply executed a call-back packet to the FBI's servers which included the exploited PC's Mac address, the Windows hostname and some other basic personally identifiable information.
Traditional antivirus and endpoint security solutions deal mostly with the payload's malicious action when there is an EXE involved. But the protection from exploits offered by traditional solutions starts taking a dive when the payload is something more advanced and/or in earlier stages of the exploit attack.
Why are traditional security solutions not effective against exploit attacks?
Because of the complexity and polymorphism of these attacks there are very few solutions available in the market to tackle these type of problems. Most existing solutions fall short because they were either designed to be reactive, rely on advanced knowledge of the behavior, or are simply too complex for end users to use:
- Blacklisting security applications such as antivirus signatures, web filtering, intrusion detection, and other such technologies require previous knowledge of the malicious code or attack and are not effective enough to protect against newer attacks launched by cyber criminals.
- Generic techniques like static emulation heuristics and run-time behavioral analysis are built upon previous knowledge of malware family traits or features which cyber criminals have become experts in evading.
- Newer techniques on the market such as advanced HIPS, allow-listing or anti-exe and sandboxing, while more effective, are complex to set up by non-technical users, require a very high degree of maintenance or rely too much on the end user to make the correct decision when presented with detection options. In short, they are not install-and-forget.
Which vulnerability exploits does MBAE protect against?
Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit provides advanced security that combats the problem of exploit attacks against software vulnerabilities by effectively "shielding" popular applications and browsers.
When Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit detects a shielded application being exploited it automatically stops the malicious code from executing. Once the malicious code is stopped, it will automatically close the attacked application. We do this for stability as an attacked application might not function properly after experiencing a vulnerability exploit attempt.
Visit the Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.