over the weekend a discussion broke out on twitter (as discussions are want to do) about a somewhat overly optimistic article concerning the new anti-malware apple of the security community's eye: bromium.
the primary tactic that bromium uses (or at least the primary one that people focus on) is isolation/sandboxing. bromium's vsentry product uses virtualization on a per-process basis to isolate every process from the system and from each other. that level of granularity for isolation is a lot higher than most sandboxing efforts can give you. while there are certainly benefits to that granularity, there are also drawbacks.
perfect isolation is actually not desirable, we want and even need to be able to use the results of one process inside another one. the more sandboxes you have, he harder this is to manage. the folks at bromium have opted to address this issue using rule-based systems to decide what something in a sandbox can access as well as what to do with any changes that are left when the sandboxed process is finished. rules which, in all likelihood, the administrator can modify to suit their needs.
now, while the article in question is reasonably good at explaining what bromium's vsentry does, the author (jason perlow) takes the arguably naive view that this sandboxing technique can stop all possible malware (as evidenced by the article's headline: "Bromium: A virtualization technology to kill all malware, forever"). the reality, however, is that there are limits to what sandboxing can do, and as clever as the folks at bromium are, they aren't clever enough to deliver on the promise that headline makes.
that's a problem, because people are going to read that headline, see nothing in the article to actually contradict it, and believe that it's actually true. have we seen claims like that before? sure we have - saying it can kill all malware forever is not intrinsically different from claiming 100% protection. it's classic snake oil, only in this case it's not the vendor that's spreading it (as far as we know - we don't know exactly what the folks at bromium may have said to mr. perlow, only that they say the headline is his words, not theirs).
i suppose that should mean there's no problem, right? the vendor's hands are clean, after all. the snake oil is being spread by a third party. the vendor isn't doing anything about it in this case or previous cases that have arisen because, let's face it, they benefit from it. it's good for bromium's business if people think vsentry is better than it actually is, at least in the short term. in the long term, the kinds of mismatched expectations that creates are the same kind that the AV industry struggles with daily.
it is bromium's responsibility to control how their products are perceived, and by failing to take action they are giving tacit approval to the snake oil being spread on their behalf. their hands are not actually clean, they are dirty through negligence. however, i didn't really expect any better of them (though i did give them an opportunity to surprise me) and you probably shouldn't either. tread carefully - caveat emptor.