Last year saw a massive increase in the number of recorded enterprise malware attacks, with hackers also targeting public sector organizations and government agencies with increased frequency. According to the new Dell Security Annual Threat Report, malware attacks virtually doubled in 2015, and reached a staggering 8.19 billion worldwide infections.
The new report makes for worrying reading. The current threat level is greater than ever before and the volume of enterprise malware attacks now taking place has reached unprecedented levels. Organizations that fail to implement robust controls to protect their systems from malware downloads are likely to be attacked.
Dell Reports a 73% Increase in Malware Infections in 2015
To compile the report, Dell gathered data from its Dell SonicWALL Global Response Intelligence Defense network. In 2014, Dell SonicWALL received approximately 37 million unique malware samples. In 2015, that figure increased to 64 million: An increase of 73%. Dell noted increases in malware, ransomware, viruses, Trojans, worms, and botnets in 2015.
Not only is the volume of malware increasing, the vectors used to infect devices and networks are now much broader. Cybercriminals are also getting much better at concealing infections and covering their tracks. When malware is eventually discovered on systems, it has usually been present and active for some time.
Hackers are now using anti-forensic techniques to evade detection, steganography, URL pattern changes, and are modifying their landing page entrapment techniques. Command and Control center communications are also being encrypted making it harder to identify communications from infected devices and systems. Oftentimes, it is communications between malware and C&C servers that allow anti-malware and intrusion prevention systems to identify malware infections.
Spam email is still being used to deliver malicious software although drive-by attacks have increased. IoT devices are also being used to install malware due to the relatively poor security of the devices.
Enterprises now have a much broader attack surface to defend, yet security budgets are often stretched making it difficult for IT security teams to install adequate defenses to repel attacks using such a diverse range of attack vectors. It may not be possible to implement robust defenses to repel all attacks, although by concentrating on the most commonly exploited weaknesses the majority of enterprise malware attacks can easily be prevented.
How to Defend Against Enterprise Malware Attacks
The majority of successful enterprise malware attacks could have been prevented had basic security measures been implemented and had industry security best practices been adopted. Hackers may be using ever more sophisticated methods to infiltrate systems and steal data, but in the majority of cases they do not use zero-day vulnerabilities to attack: Well-known security weaknesses are exploited.
All too often enterprise malware attacks are discovered to have occurred as a result of unpatched or outdated software. Oftentimes, patches and software updates have been available for months prior to attacks taking place. One of the best defenses against cyberattacks is to adopt good patch management practices and ensure that software updates are applied within days of release.
Email spam is still used to deliver a wide range of malware and malicious software, yet spam email is easy to block with a robust spam filtering solution such as SpamTitan. Along with staff training on phishing email identification and basic security best practices, malware infections via email can be easily prevented.
It is also strongly advisable to implement an enterprise web filtering solution. Allowing employees full access to the Internet can leave a business susceptible to drive-by malware downloads. A web filtering solution such as WebTitan Gateway – or WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi networks – can prevent malicious file downloads, malvertising, and limit the risk of drive-by enterprise malware attacks.
Using a firewall capable of inspecting every packet and validating all entitlements for access is also advisable. Since hackers are also using SSL/TLS encryption to mask C&C communications, it is a wise precaution to use a firewall that incorporates SSL-DPI inspection functionality.