Rutkowska: Anti-Virus Software Is Ineffective

By Ryan Naraine Print this article Print

Q&A: Stealth malware researcher Joanna Rutkowska discusses her interest in computer security, the threat from rootkits and why the world is not ready for virtual machine technology.

Earlier this year, stealth malware researcher Joanna Rutkowska created a stir at the Black Hat Briefings when she demonstrated a way to infect Windows Vista with a rootkit and introduced Blue Pill, a new concept that uses AMD's SVM/Pacifica virtualization technology to create "100 percent undetectable malware."

In this interview with eWEEK senior editor Ryan Naraine, Rutkowska talks about her interest in computer security, the reality of stealth malware threats, the risks associated with hardware virtualization and why the anti-virus industry comes up short.

For the benefit of readers who may not have heard about you, can you introduce yourself?

I'm a security researcher focusing on stealth technology and system compromise detection. This includes topics like kernel rootkits, stealth malware and covert network communications. I currently work for COSEINC, a Singapore-based IT security company. I live in Warsaw, Poland.

At what age did you get your first computer? Can you describe it?

I think I was 11 when the first computer appeared at my home. It was the PC AT-286, 2MB of RAM and 40MB of hard disk, and it ran with blazing speed of about 16 MHz, if I remember correctly. Actually, that was a high-end machine in those days (beginning of 1990s). However, because of the poor graphics capabilities (Hercules card), I couldn't run most of the games on that computer, so, very quickly, I started my adventures with programming, first with BASIC.

What prompted your interest in computer security?

I have always been interested in how things work. So, when I started programming, I naturally became interested in how the operating system worked. I started learning x86 assembler (on MS-DOS back in those days) and got involved in virus research. Then, for a few years, I broke off from security, focusing on stuff like math and Artificial Intelligence. Then I became interested in networking, Linux and system programming and that eventually brought me back into security, this time focusing on exploit development for Linux x86 and then Win32.

After some time, I gravitated toward the what-to-do-after-successful-exploitation field (kernel backdoors, rootkits, covert channels, etc.) and how to defend against it. But I must say that I have always considered exploit-writing as a very sophisticated art, and I have always had lots of respect for people who could create reliable, "offset-independent" exploits. They're very aesthetically pleasing.

On your primary machine, what OS is running? What kinds of security software are you using?

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Rutkowska: Anti-Virus Software Is Ineffective.

This article was originally published on 2006-10-26
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