A closer look at fileless malware

To avoid detection by anti-malware programs, cybercriminals are increasingly abusing legitimate software tools and programs installed on computers to initiate attacks. They use fileless malware to infiltrate trusted applications and issue executables that blend in with normal network traffic, IT processes, and system administration tasks while leaving fewer footprints. Ultimately, your business could be at risk. Find out why.

What is fileless malware?

Fileless malware is malicious software that doesn’t rely on executable files to infect your infrastructure. Rather, it hides in your computer’s random access memory (RAM) and uses trusted, legitimate processes such as Microsoft Office macros, PowerShell, and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

Fileless malware isn’t as visible as traditional malware. They use a variety of techniques to stay persistent, and can adversely affect the integrity of a business’s processes and the infrastructures that run them. Because there are no files to trace, fileless malware escapes detection from most anti-malware programs, especially those that use the databases of precedent threats. Most automated sensors cannot recognize illicit scripts, and cybersecurity analysts who are trained to identify them usually have a hard time establishing where to look.

Fileless malware by the numbers

In November 2016, attacks using fileless malware saw a 13% uptick, according to a report by Trend Micro. Also, in the third quarter of 2016, attacks were 33% higher than in the first quarter. During the first quarter of 2017, more PowerShell-related attacks were reported on over 12,000 unique machines.

Kaspersky Lab uncovered over 140 infections across 40 different countries. Almost every instance of the fileless malware was found in financial institutions and worked toward obtaining login credentials. In the worst cases, infections had already gleaned enough information to allow cyberattackers to withdraw undisclosed sums of cash from ATMs.

In 2018, Trend Micro also detected a rising trend of fileless threats throughout the first half of the year.

Is your business at risk?

It is unlikely that your business has been targeted in the earliest stages of this strain of malware, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Businesses should practice defense in depth, where multilayered safeguards are implemented to reduce exposure and mitigate damage. But apart from cultivating a security-aware workforce, what actionable countermeasures can organizations carry out?

While your business might not be in immediate danger, you should employ solutions that analyze behavioral trends. It is also wise to invest in a managed services provider that offers 24/7 network monitoring, proper patches, and software updates. Call us today to get started.

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