[ISN] Network ICE CTO responds to further BlackICE criticisms

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jun 06 2001 - 20:09:57 PDT

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    By Kieren McCarthy
    Posted: 06/06/2001 at 15:08 GMT
    The CTO of Network ICE, Robert Graham, has been in touch to support
    his BlackICE firewall product following recent criticisms by security
    consultant Steve Gibson that it's not up to the job.
    Graham initially responded (in a personal capacity) that Mr Gibson
    misunderstood BlackICE as simply a firewall - and that it's
    functionality is far greater than this. Gibson had said BlackICE
    failed to find a Trojan on his PC while a free security product had
    found it without trouble.
    After we posted Graham's comments, we were inundated by readers asking
    why if BlackICE is not a firewall is it sold as a "personal firewall"
    on Network ICE's own Web site.
    This is Robert Graham individual response to that, to why people
    should continue buying BlackICE and why corporates find it far more
    useful than free security products available on the Net.
    "It is a personal firewall, just a different kind. We do this
    intrusion detection bit where we fully analyse the content that goes
    in and out of the machine. This is something nobody else does.
    Zone[Alarm - a free security product] is 'personal firewall + outbound
    blocking'; we are 'personal firewall + intrusion detection'.
    "We believe that our solution is superior. Other firewalls give you
    limited information about an application attempting to contact a
    certain port number at a certain IP address, but give the end user no
    visibility why. They don't give any indication whether it is a Trojan
    or a legitimate attempt to access the Net. In contrast, we identify
    that it is Trojan traffic and automatically block. We are the only
    personal firewall that is able to identify Trojans - the rest assume
    the user can.
    "The problem is that users are forced to tell [other security
    products] about every Web site they go to. They get into the habit of
    saying 'yes' to everything. This is what happened with the Melissa
    virus. People get trained like monkeys to agree with dialog boxes
    without paying attention to them.
    "It is our automation and added intelligence that has led to BlackICE
    being the most popular personal firewall in corporate environments.
    Corporation managers go through extensive analysis of these things and
    understand the difference in technology. They trust our ability to
    identify hacker activity by watching the raw traffic more than their
    end-users ability to identify what the port/IP addresses mean."
    With regard to Steve Gibson's analysis of locating Trojans, Graham had
    this to say: "If you focus down on just 'Trojans', the issue [of
    whether free security software is just as effective] is debatable.
    It's a matter of whether you want the hands-on, information-free
    approach, or the automated, information-gathering approach.
    "However, when you go outside of just Trojans, it is quite clear that
    our approach is the best (at least, that's what our customers tell
    us). Most consumers buy personal firewalls because they believe they
    can identify hackers and stop the identified activities. They are
    quite surprised to learn that their personal firewall cannot
    differentiate hackers from normal activity.
    "Corporations have an even worse problem. What do you think happens
    when the IT department forces an application onto a user's desktop
    that gets in their way and forces them to start answer a bunch of
    questions they aren't prepared to deal with?"
    In support of BlackICE came one reader: "I have used BlackICE for a
    couple of years now, and it routinely has protected from all sorts of
    attacks, a good percentage which are related to Trojans. I manage
    several servers, and use it routinely on them."
    Others were less impressed: "This is just a lame response by Network
    ICE to cover up its poor coding. Of course folks are going to threaten
    if someone exposes them."
    One was not impressed with Network ICE's explanation as to why it
    didn't find the Trojan on Mr Gibson's machine: "It is irrelevant if
    this program has accessed the Net before or not. Once you install
    ZoneAlarm all programs (and I mean all) produce the alert. Therefore
    the Sub7 virus and any other Trojan, spyware, virus are stopped dead
    in their tracks (even if there already on your PC) unless of course
    you explicitly give them permission to access the Net. This is the way
    all proper firewall's work - everything is locked down until you open
    "The fact that BlackICE can't do this is testament to the uselessness
    of this product and the absolute crap they have come up with in their
    official response. On a side note, Gibson isn't the only one to have
    slated BlackICE, several magazines have noted a particular lack of
    BlackICE doing anything useful when compared to other Personal
    So there you have it: corporate lifesaver or over-priced sieve? You
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