Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, July 07, 2012

WinPatrol v25 Learns Lessons from Stuxnet

In recent months we’ve all noticed a change in how malware is introduced on someone’s computer. While the most common entry point remains users making a bad choice, the use of program vulnerabilities is used by more sophisticated malware. The number of Microsoft vulnerabilities being exposed is actually decreasing yet Microsoft was forced to send a number of out-of-cycle Windows security updates last month. Non-Microsoft applications however accounted for 71.2% of all publicly known vulnerabilities in the 2nd quarter of 2011.

There’s no Anti-Virus software available that can totally protect you from the variety of vulnerabilities that continue to be exposed by hackers. Even WinPatrol can’t stop all these holes but does everything possible to alert you and help you cleanup unwanted programs. Some of the newest malware sits quietly in the background waiting for a target. One of our goals has always been to make sure you know what’s happening on your system. WinPatrol v25 continues to improve its monitoring of system location required by sinister applications.

Based on the research done on state sponsored malware like Stuxnet and Flame I’ve added two new features which have become popular methods used to hide and disable security programs. These new features are designed to prevent programs from hiding on your system waiting for a target before releasing their full payload.

* Uninstall Detection ( NEW! )
The new WinPatrol v25 will track programs that have been installed on your system and will monitor the location Windows uses to store Uninstall information. This location includes the path to the Uninstall command which is often used by malware to remove a program silently. WinPatrol will let you know the names of any programs which are removed. This feature is available to PLUS only users and is optional. Legitimate alerts may occur during software updates or when you choose to remove software.

* Start Program Removed Detection ( NEW! )
All WinPatrol users can benefit from the often requested option of Start program removal. WinPatrol PLUS is not required to benefit from this feature. WinPatrol was the first program to let users know if a new auto startup programs were installed. Now WinPatrol will also let you know if another program has removed one of your Startup programs. One of the common behaviors of malware is to reduce the possibility of being detected by Anti-Virus or security software. It’s common for new malware to remove programs from your auto Startup list so it won't be detected. Since WinPatrol is not as well known as other commercial products it's rarely a target for removal.

Recent Exploits

* Delayed Startup Programs
One of our more popular features is the ability to delay the launch of a Startup programs. This can really speed up your boot time. Our recent sale generated a lot of new WinPatrol users who helped isolate a few bugs in Delayed Start especially on the 64 bit versions of Windows. These bugs have been fixed so programs aren’t lost and parameters are properly returned when moving a Delayed program back to its original status.

* Windows XP Kill Task
This bug only affected XP users and even reverting to our v18 code didn’t resolve a flaw preventing WinPatrol from killing tasks. It turns out Microsoft changed the value of one of the parameter masks used in a function called OpenProcess. The Kill Task function broke on XP after we updated to newer Microsoft tools in our efforts to better support Windows 7. Sorry to the XP folks that it took this long to find. I can't thank Larry from Microsoft enough for his assistance. This is an important feature because unlike Task Manager, WinPatrol allows you to select multiple programs to kill with one click.

* Company Name, Details and Correct Path
One of the first steps in detecting a suspicious programs is the lack of a company name in its resource. On Windows 64 bit machines not all of the details of programs were available due to a bug I found and reported to Microsoft. It turns out a common Windows function called ExpandEnvironmentStrings won’t always providing the correct path when represented by the environment variable %programfiles%. If you’re using Windows 64 bit you probably noticed there is a "C:\Program Files" path for 64 bit programs and older programs are stored in "C:\Program Files (x86)". A correct path to your program is required to obtain details like a company name. We’ve worked around this bug so we can find the correct path which is required for company name and many other features. .

* Misc Fixes
Anyone who noticed Scotty's ability to run on startup was sometimes missing will be pleased. There was in fact a bug that removed WinPatrol as a Startup program. It wasn't caused by other programs, just programmer stupidity.

* Remaining Bug – Scotty Barks
There's a weird bug that some folks have experienced where Scotty just randomly barks but doesn’t display a message. It's been around for years and receive reports 2-3 times a month. Usually reinstalling WinPatrol fixes the problem. If you experience this bug you can help us narrow down the reason for this barking by using a little known feature in WinPatrol.
In the Windows Control Panel you'll find an Sound Applet that allows you to customize sounds in programs which take advantage of this option. Near the end of the list of applications you'll find WinPatrol and you can assign different sound files to the different kind of WinPatrol alerts. Instead of our barking sound you can assign any sound you have available on your system. This feature was created for our legally blind supporters. By assigning a different sound file to each alert type you may help us narrow down the type of alert which is occurring when Scotty barks but doesn't display a message.

Why You Need WinPatrol
If you’ve wondered why you need WinPatrol just read what Microsoft has discovered in their malware research. “In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Conficker was detected on 1.7 million systems worldwide
This infection is still increasing even though it’s well known to all popular security programs and simple Windows security updates will prevent it from spreading.

You need extra help and WinPatrol is still designed to monitor locations ignored by traditional security software. Contrary to what they might read you from a support script, WinPatrol works and plays well with others. You can run WinPatrol along side your favorite Anti-Malware package and you'll never detect any difference in performance.

Microsoft Security Intelligence Report

Process Security and Access Rights

Computer World June 7th, 2012
Flame authors order infected computers to remove all traces of the malware

Update: As mentioned in the comments some folks are experiencing are repeating alerts since this weeks Windows Update.  This problem has been fixed and verified. On Friday July 13th a new release 25.0.2012.5 is available on our download page.  It fixes the repeating Uninstall alerts and a bug on our Automatically run checkbox.

Read more and download from the following upgrade page.

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Anonymous eikelein said...

All nice and cool but what's up with a broken download link?

10:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry to hear you've experienced a problem. I just checked and it should be sending you to our download page...


10:26 PM  
Blogger View from the Solent said...

Something trivial I've noticed on my win7-64 m/c. That part of the registry which is displayed by the 'Programs and Features' option under Settings (for uninstalling programs) still displays the old version(s) of WinPatrol when a new version is installed.

Mike G

12:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just an FYI that I'm getting never ending alerts from WinPatrol about the windows update I just got that apparently updates Microsoft Office.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

For now our recommendation is to the check the box and disable the Uninstall monitoring.

I expect to release a new version tomorrow that fixes this bug.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Straspey said...

I've been experiencing the same issue as View from the Solent.

I have a license for WinPatrol Plus and starting a few months ago, I have to completely uninstall my current version before installing the update, or else I see both versions - and not just in Control Panel, but Revo Uninstaller Pro shows them both as well.

I also had the endless alerts after I ran Windows Updates yesterday and had to uncheck the box.

10:20 PM  

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