What is "Fileless" Malware & How Can We Stop It?
system monitoring and cybersecurity best practices. But what happens if there is no file? How does a malicious attack get caught? That’s the thought behind fileless attacks which don’t use a file at all and thus can get past several types of file-based protections. During the first half of 2019, fileless malware attacks grew 256%. The reason fileless malware is on the rise is because it's effective at bypassing standard safeguards. It exploits legitimate system programs that can impact a device in a number of ways, such as interacting with different programs. If you don’t include protections against these fileless attacks in your cybersecurity strategy, then you leave yourself at risk of a data breach, ransomware infection, and more.
Fileless Malware Explained Fileless malware uses commands, rather than malware-laden files, to take advantage of legitimate system programs, such as Windows PowerShell. It’s difficult to detect or remove because it doesn’t leave a footprint like other types of malware does. This makes it particularly dangerous, and the use of fileless attacks are 10X more likely to breach a system than file-based attacks. How do fileless attacks leave no footprint? They operate in the memory of a system, rather than on the hard drive. When accessing a powerful task automation tool like Windows PowerShell, fileless malware can abuse the features to gain access to multiple areas of the Windows operating system and execute system and application functions. This allows the attack to do things like:
Open the door for a hacker to access a system resource
Plant a file-based malware into a specific area of Windows
Execute malicious commands that destroy or steal data
Spread dangerous code throughout a computer network One famous fileless attack was the Equifax data breach in 2017 that exposed the personal data of millions of users. Using a fileless attack, the hackers exploited an unpatched vulnerability to execute nefarious commands in the system.