Recent news headlines have shown how vulnerable even large companies with many resources at their disposal are to ransomware. While these attacks may feel inevitable, there are measures that businesses can take to protect themselves. One vendor says application security may be the key to stopping ransomware.
Preventing Ransomware with Application Security
- How ransomware accesses a network
- How application security prevents ransomware
- Application protection vs. endpoint or network security
- Using deterministic protection platforms for application security
- Improve compliance by protecting your applications
How Ransomware Accesses a Network
Generally, ransomware gets into a network courtesy of phishing emails. An attacker sends a legitimate-looking email to their victim in an attempt to get them to click on a link or open an attachment. Once they do, the computer automatically downloads the malware. From there, the malware has to make its way onto the actual network, which can be difficult depending on the protections the company has in place.
It often hides in legitimate applications or files that it has altered to look harmless. Ransomware may also use known vulnerabilities in software or plugins to access a network.
How Application Security Prevents Ransomware
Application security (AppSec) focuses on patching bugs and vulnerabilities in software that bad actors often use to inject ransomware or malicious code into a network. AppSec teams work with cloud, desktop, mobile, and web applications. By removing these vulnerabilities from the equation, attackers don’t have an easy way into the network, meaning they’ll likely move on to easier targets.
In addition to patching vulnerabilities from third-party software, AppSec teams might also work with their DevOps teams to add multifactor authentication (MFA) or similar identity authentication features into applications they build in-house. By adding layers to app logins, attackers can’t steal or hack passwords to gain the access they need.
Also read: Hackers Leak 87,000 Fortinet VPN Passwords
Application Protection vs. Endpoint or Network Security
Furthermore, application protection determines whether the software is loading legitimate processes to identify malware before it can execute harmful scripts. This makes the application the detection standard, according to Mark Pelkoski, Vice President of Sales Engineering for Virsec, removing some of the variables from the detection process because a healthy application should start the same way every time.
Endpoint and network protection platforms don’t have the same luxury. These platforms typically catch ransomware later than application security tools, especially when it comes to endpoint security, and much of the matching is based on signatures and known threats, which could exclude zero-day threats.
Pelkoski explains, “Network security has the fundamental problem of having to deal with decrypting and parsing the network traffic to apply signatures or rules to guess what is happening to the victim, then executing some mitigation action to counteract the action. To complicate the problem, this must happen in real-time as the traffic is held long enough to decide what to do before it impacts application performance.”
Because it can catch the first sign of an attack, application security can immediately stop the scripts and prevent the ransomware from activating.
Using Deterministic Protection Platforms for Application Security
Deterministic protection platforms (DPPs) are a great option for application security because they provide fewer false positives than other security tools and can quickly catch changes in expected behavior. They work by examining the intention of an application’s code, allowing them to identify malicious intent and force the program to stop running.
If a DPP identifies a change in intent while the application is running, it immediately shuts down the software and provides detailed information to help the security track the attacker and patch any vulnerabilities it uncovered. It can even give the line number of the code where the vulnerability originated. Because the DPP provides information on the code of the software, false positives are limited.
Features to Look For
DPPs should offer prioritization to allow security teams to deal with the most pressing threats first. They should also provide full visibility into the attacks, including where they originated within the software. “Ideally, the platform should monitor the operating system, file system, memory, and application inputs. Monitoring and enforcing command-line execution parameters is also highly desirable,” Pelkoski says.
He adds, “However, monitoring at these levels is not enough. The solution must also monitor at runtime, not rely on a cloud service for a decision, and, more importantly, react in real-time to the threat. It is only then can the attacker be denied any kind of dwell time, instantly killing any attempt to establish persistence or a command-and-control channel process.”
When looking for deterministic protection platforms to manage your application security, consider these systems:
- K2 Cyber Security
- Micro Focus Fortify
For a full list, check out our Top Application Security Vendors for 2021.
Improve Compliance by Protecting Your Applications
Application security offers more than just preventing ransomware; it also helps organizations in highly regulated industries improve their compliance. Many application security tools don’t require access to the internet in order to identify breaches, preventing an additional vulnerability that endpoint or network security tools may add.
Because application security can automatically respond at the first sign of an attack, organizations can keep bad actors out of their networks and prevent ransomware. This level of protection is critical for government entities, healthcare organizations, and financial institutions, among others.