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Symantec Urges Use of Full-Application Inspection Firewalls to Protect Against Growing Number of Vulnerabilities

Symantec’s Full-Application Inspection Firewalls Default Configuration Protects Unpatched Sendmail Servers

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- March 7, 2003 - Given the rise in newly discovered network vulnerabilities, including the recent Sendmail Header Process Vulnerability, Symantec strongly recommends that organizations use their Internet-facing firewalls in full-application inspection mode.

"Network-layer security mechanisms dominate current deployments, but are proving inadequate in the face of more frequent application-layer attacks," said Mark Bouchard, META Group. "Vendors and users alike need to increase their focus on application-layer security controls in order to proactively protect networks from an increasing number of vulnerabilities."

The total number of moderate and high severity vulnerabilities documented in 2002 was 84.7% higher than the total documented in 2001, according to the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, released last month. On average Symantec analysts documented seven new vulnerabilities each day over the past year.

"The increasing rate at which vulnerabilities are being discovered, coupled with the growing sophistication of malicious code that exploits these vulnerabilities, leaves organizations more open to attack than ever before," said Greg Gotta, vice president of product delivery at Symantec. "Stateful inspection firewalls examine the source of the information packet, but don’t look at its contents in depth. By using externally facing firewalls in full-application inspection mode, organizations can examine the contents of the information packets for anomalous activity and further prevent attacks."

Symantec's full-application inspection firewalls employ advanced security features up to and including the application layer. In the case of an attempt to exploit an application in an anomalous manner, Symantec Enterprise Firewall, Symantec VelociRaptor, and Symantec Gateway Security protection solutions will detect this attempt and block it by default.

On March 3, 2003, a remotely exploitable vulnerability was discovered in Sendmail, a widely deployed email server. The vulnerability is due to a buffer overflow condition in the SMTP header-parsing component. Remote attackers may exploit this vulnerability by connecting to target SMTP servers and transmitting to them malformed SMTP data. Since these attacks violate parameters defined in the RFCs, no configuration changes to the default settings in Symantec’s full-application inspection firewalls are required to protect against this Sendmail exploit.

Full-application inspection technology utilizes application layer proxies to offer the highest level of security for an enterprise firewall. Instead of traffic being scanned after only a cursory inspection at the IP or Session layer, the entire contents of the packet can be scanned through all of the layers of the TCP/IP stack. This allows for a much greater range of security features, as unique protocols are understood and examined. Stateful or network-layer inspection firewalls do not examine traffic at all layers of the TCP/IP stack, instead making a determination about the individual information packets based on headers rather than contents.

About Symantec
Symantec is the world leader in providing solutions to help individuals and enterprises assure the security, availability, and integrity of their information. Headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., Symantec has operations in more than 40 countries. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

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