What Are Fileless Malware Attacks?

skull and code representing fileless malware

In the surging world of malware attacks, there is a continuous growth of creative and sophisticated ways hackers are finding to steal sensitive information and wreak havoc on networks, servers and devices. As if viruses weren’t scary enough, let’s not forget about fileless malware attacks.

While this malware is not new, it is beneficial to know that there are many sneaky ways hackers are infiltrating our sensitive data. Traditional malware requires coding to latch onto a file, which usually spreads to many files on a target system. However, fileless malware loads directly into the memory (RAM) and is not stored or installed on a machine, making it extremely difficult to detect. It has been found that an astounding 50 percent of all malware attacks are fileless!

How Fileless Malware Works

Fileless malware is tricky to spot, as it does not need to be attached to a file nor installed on a machine. Therefore, it never reaches the hard drive. The most common ways this malware enters our operating systems are via phishing emails, malicious downloads or clicking on unknown links from legitimate-looking websites. 

With only one click, pre-installed systems – such as Adobe Flash, Javascript and Powershell (a task automation and configuration management system from Windows) – allow for the malicious code to write itself into the system’s RAM.

Once an attacker has access to your system, they use a variety of existing applications, tools and techniques to move within the system and continue to search for sensitive data beyond the initial entry point. This can continue until such a point that the infiltrated computer is shut down.

According to Varonis, an automated data protection company: “When hackers use fileless malware to exploit on-site software, it means that they won’t leave much of a forensic trail. The new breed of attackers is going around firewalls (or using public ports), avoiding detection by enterprise-grade intrusion systems and evading virus scanners.”

Defending Against Fileless Attacks

There is no one solution to defending against the numerous threats of fileless malware and other malicious activity. A multi-pronged approach to cybersecurity and compliance is necessary for organizations to safeguard their data. Implement these best practices to prevent malicious fileless attacks:

  • Keep software up to date, especially Microsoft applications
  • Monitor activities in Powershell or other scripting engines
  • Enforce password policies
  • Implement two-factor authentication whenever possible
  • Avoid opening phishing emails or files from untrusted sources
  • Secure all possible entry points
  • Conduct regular employee awareness training

How Awareness Training Can Help

Despite all the warnings, many employees are still in the dark about how company data and their own personal data can be compromised. And since employees often handle sensitive company and customer data, the risk to the organization is high. Data protection and data privacy training, along with anti-phishing training, are more important than ever.

Global Learning Systems helps organizations design and implement data protection training and phishing simulations to educate employees, ensure compliance with industry standards and instill trust among customers. Contact us to find out how GLS can help your organization prevent fileless malware attacks and other cybersecurity threats. 

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