File-Less Cyber-Attack; the Ultimate Silent Threat Dominate the Cyber-Strikes

According to a recent report by Barkly and Ponemon Institute, “2017 State of Endpoint Security Risk,” this particular technique is getting popularity with the passage of time. However, the survey results reveal that the file-less cyber attack would dominate with 35 % of all the attacks in the coming year.

Looking at the security enhancements by the firms in their defending techniques, the malevolent individuals were left with the lesser opportunities to invade online privacy. Therefore, they have found a new way to access sensitive data, a file-less cyber attack.

The Barkly and Ponemon Institute has given a report after conducting a survey on 665 IT security professionals in the enterprise. They were presented with a fact that the traditional attack inhibitors such as antivirus and file-scanning software are now insufficient for more advanced methods of invading PCs and computer networks.

“We are in the midst of a significant shift in endpoint security,” the institute report reads.

“The majority of organizations are replacing or augmenting these solutions with new security tools designed to stop file-less attacks, though many remain skeptical such attacks can be stopped at all.”

The report contains the stances of organizations among which 70% claimed that their businesses are more prone to security risks as compared to the risk a year ago. Also, they were concerned that the file-less cyber attack has enhanced the risk exposure by making the traditional security measures ineffective and has initiated gaps between next-generation alternatives.

The survey report reveals that the current preventions aren’t enough to stop the file-less cyber attacks. According to the findings, 77% of the successful attacks utilized file-less cyber attacks. This new method has been predicted to take over the file-based attacks with a power of 10x.

What is a File-less Cyber-Attack?

The file-less cyber-attack would probably be an unfamiliar term for many individuals; however, it could be an extreme hassle for the businesses and other online entities out there.

This silent attacking technique is capable of bypassing antivirus software and corporate firewalls without leaving a trace and that’s why categorized as “living off the land” technique. It is assumed to be an extensively destructive attacking breed as it invades the corporate systems without having a malware inside its programming.

But how are these attacks file-less and are they absolutely file-less?

As mentioned by Symantec in their Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), all these threats are not file-less. This is because the window registry is also kept on disk and some threats may initiate temporary files.

They are considered as a non-malware or malware-free attack in certain cases. For instance, when only dual-use tools are used and no malware binary is dropped. For sure this couldn’t be a typical file-less attack as a file is involved in the form of one or more benign system tool.

The point is that these type of attacks may not leave a custom-built malware binary but can drop greyware tools or script. Such attacks could also be considered as asymptomatic due to their ability to conceal usual symptoms which are expected from an infection like a malicious file on disk.

Therefore, this access could provide a hacker with uncomplicated chances to enter a source code that could destruct, acquire or demolish sensitive data without leaving evidence.

File-less cyber attacks are developed with different goals. The attackers, through this silent technique, are investing in intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII) or anything connected to artificial intelligence.

The businesses and entities that are aware of the present antivirus vendors and their attacking techniques might not be shocked by the modern approach to file-less cyber attack. It provides an extreme ease and potential to the attacker who can carry on the attack using programs already on your machine instead of conventional executable files. This means that these attacks could extract a similar result by entering malicious code into an apparent benign file such as PDF or Word.

Plan Against the Upcoming Cyber Attack Domination

Most organizations are now up with the traditional preventions which are designed according to the prevailing threats. However, this silent threat needs extra attention and parameters to protect firms from immense destruction. Therefore, organizations must have a pre-planned strategy to optimize malware invasions and rising file-less attacks.

The developmental progress of these attacking techniques at the same pace with security patches is a troublesome matter. Additionally, the invention of file-less cyber attack could be difficult to figure out without any footprint; therefore, a preventive set would also be difficult to construct.

However, The Barkly and Ponemon report points out towards certain pointers to enhance security protection against file-less cyber attack;

  • Consider preventions beyond the traditional antivirus software such as the usage of application whitelisting where applicable and monitoring the usage of dual-use tools inside your network.
  • Maintain a separate investment against the file-less techniques.
  • Reduce endpoint management complexity.
  • Prevention should be the first priority before detection and response. For instance, having strong passwords for all your accounts, not leaving sessions logged in, keeping advanced security features such as 2FA, having updated security software and being cautious while receiving suspicious emails.

These are some of the basic security measures which we are further elaborating for better understanding. But, a point to remember is that these attacks being comparatively new doesn’t have entirely different solutions from file-based attacks.

•    Invest In Basic Security Tools

An organization should confirm that their primary security protections are being followed properly. Things such as high-quality end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and updated software presence are necessary whether you are prone to a regular cyber-attack or to a developed one.

As reported by the Europe Breaking News, only 10 out of 61 antivirus software were able to stop Petya ransomware effectively. Therefore, an intelligent selection of updated software should be made.

•    Restrict Data Access

A common cause of vulnerability exploitation is that the firms don’t have proper managing systems for their data access. For instance, employees are capable of accessing more data than is necessary. Therefore, a proper managing system could evade such hassles to a greater level.

Controlled and administrative access is an essentiality for business success. However, a centralized system could help monitor the logins and other accesses.

•    Updated Knowledge of Privacy Threats

The most destructive approach of an organization is a lack of concern and knowledge towards the development and progressing cyber attacks.

Whenever there is massive cyber destruction, the huge portion of firms which are affected, doesn’t have a proper security plan and prior knowledge. Similarly, cases such as file-less cyber attacks would be less damaging if reported immediately.

Final Words

When the respondents were asked about their opinion about the biggest security concern with the present endpoint security solutions, the most cited concern was the lack of adequate protection.

However, adopting a multilayered approach to privacy could minimize the threats of infection. The best is to upgrade, prevent, contain and respond.

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