In 2019, a new breed of fileless malware will emerge, with wormlike properties that allow it to self-propagate through vulnerable systems and avoid detection.
It has been over 15 years since the Code Red computer worm spread through hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Microsoft IIS web servers in an early example of a fileless worm. Since then, both worms and fileless malware have impacted networks worldwide individually, but rarely as a combined attack.
Fileless malware, which runs entirely in memory without ever dropping a file onto the infected system, continues to grow in popularity. Sophisticated attackers prefer this method because without a malicious file to scan, traditional endpoint antivirus controls have a hard time detecting and blocking fileless threats. This results in higher infection rates. Pair this with systems running unpatched and vulnerable software that’s ripe for worm exploitation, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Last year, a hacker group known as the Shadow Brokers caused significant damage by releasing several zero day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows. It only took a month for attackers to add these vulnerabilities to ransomware, leading to two of the most damaging cyber attacks to date in WannaCry and NotPetya. This isn’t the first time that new zero day vulnerabilities in Windows fueled the proliferation of a worm, and it won’t be the last. Next year, “vaporworms” will emerge; fileless malware that self-propagates by exploiting vulnerabilities.
Luckily, UTM services like WatchGaurd’s Intrusion Prevention Solution (IPS) can detect and block attempted vulnerability exploits, halting infections before they begin. Additionally, in the event of a zero-day or undetected exploit, WatchGuard’s Threat Detection and Response service is in a position to detect this kind of suspicious behavior and halt execution.
Can’t wait to see what other emerging threats and security trends might surface next year? Watch a special video edition of The 433 – Security Simplified podcast or read the full list of WatchGuard’s 2019 Security Predictions.