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Network ICE CTO responds to further BlackICE criticisms
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2001 22:09:57 -0500 (CDT)


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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