What are Fileless?
The Rise of Fileless Cyber Threats: How Malware Goes Incognito and Challenges Cybersecurity
Fileless is a term used predominantly in the context of cybersecurity and it is pertaining to the malicious software
, or malware, that exists in a computer's memory, rather than saved on hard drives like most traditional forms of malware.
Usually, traditional antivirus or antimalware software
detect and remove threats based on signature-based detection
and file-based detection. They monitor for specific segments of code or patterns that are known to be associated with certain kinds of malware. Fileless
malware bypasses these traditional forms of detection because it does not exist in any files in the first place. File-based malware controls the way a computer operates, generally, they infect or interact with files on a computer's hard drive to achieve this. But in contrast, fileless malware
controls the way a computer operates by running commands in the computer's memory.
For instance, fileless malware can lurk
in the random access memory (RAM) of computers, or infiltrate through otherwise legitimate programs already installed, like PowerShell, a Windows process automation tool, or Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), which allows scripting languages like VBScript to manage Microsoft Windows personal computers and servers. This makes it incredibly difficult to detect and remove.
The fileless attacks’ sequences are usually launched through a process known as “living off the land”, referring to the technique of leveraging on existing, legitimate tools present in the system to propagate the attack. This means that fileless malware can piggyback off tools that are already trusted by network defenses, making the attack extremely hard to spot and halt.
From a broader perspective, fileless malware exemplifies an important evolution in hacking techniques and methods. Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to infiltrate systems and bypass existing security measures
- cyber criminality is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some of their methods, like those involved in fileless malware attacks
, utilize strategies and tools that many security admins may not even be aware of.
Fileless-based threats are rising rapidly in prevalence, making it one of the most pertinent threats in the current cybersecurity landscape. According to The Ponemon Institute’s 2018 “State of Endpoint Security
Risk” report, fileless attacks were estimated to be ten times more likely to succeed than file-based attacks.
Counter-acting fileless malware can be a challenge due to its unusual and inscrutable nature. practicing good digital hygiene can significantly decrease the risk of infection; this includes keeping software updated, avoiding suspicious emails and downloads, and regularly monitoring system logs for any unusual activities.
On the other hand, cybersecurity defense measures must evolve to keep up with these sophisticated threats. Companies are now starting to look for solutions that do not just scan for files, but also for behavioral analytics
and anomalies. More complicated yet effective strategies include having stricter controls over scripting languages in company computers, updating incident response procedures to include fileless malware, as well as using machine learning and artificial intelligence
tools to identify and anticipate threats before they can rally an attack, or minimizing their impact when they do.
Fileless malware represents yet another threat in the ever-changing cybersecurity frontier. While formidable in many respects, with a well-rounded understanding of what it is and how it operates, consumers and companies alike can better protect themselves and make smart decisions to counteract the threat posed by this ingenious type of malware.
What is fileless malware?Fileless malware is a type of cyber threat that doesn't rely on files to infect a computer. Instead, it uses legitimate system processes to execute malicious code in the memory or RAM of the infected device. This makes it harder for traditional antivirus software to detect and mitigate such threats.
How does fileless malware work?Fileless malware typically exploits vulnerabilities in programs or systems to inject a code into the memory. This code then takes advantage of trusted system processes to execute malicious actions. Since the malware resides in the memory and doesn't leave any files on the hard drive, it can evade detection by many antivirus programs.
How can you protect your systems from fileless malware?To protect your systems from fileless malware, you need to use advanced threat prevention technologies that can detect and stop such threats in real-time. This may include using next-generation antivirus software that can analyze the behavior of system processes and identify any malicious activities. Additionally, you should regularly update your software and system patches to prevent known vulnerabilities that can be exploited by fileless malware. Lastly, educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices to avoid social engineering attacks that often lead to fileless malware infections.
What are the signs of a fileless malware infection?Fileless malware infections can be difficult to detect; however, some signs that may indicate a possible malware infection include: unusual network activity, unusual system behavior, unusual privilege escalation actions, and unusual outgoing connections to IP addresses or domains. Since these behaviors can also be caused by legitimate activities, it's crucial to have advanced security tools in place that can detect and analyze these activities and respond to them in real-time.