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Combating Ransomware with Safety Service Edge

Ever because the WannaCry assault in 2017, ransomware has remained some of the vital cyber threats worldwide. Ransomware is a kind of malicious software program that encrypts information on a sufferer’s system, rendering it inaccessible. The attacker then calls for a ransom, normally within the type of cryptocurrency, to revive the info.

Cisco Talos, one of many largest non-public risk intelligence groups in world, tracks ransomware traits throughout all their incident response engagements. Ransomware and pre-ransomware have been concerned in 20% of Talos engagements in Q1 2023. Pre-ransomware is an assault the place ransomware is current however by no means executes and encrypts information.

There are lots of alternative ways to fight ransomware, however Safety Service Edge (SSE) options have a selected benefit as a result of they will disrupt ransomware actions throughout quite a few factors within the kill chain. SSE is a single, cloud-delivered resolution centered on offering customers safe entry to the Web, cloud companies, and personal apps. And it might probably present these advantages to customers no matter whether or not they’re positioned remotely, at a department workplace, or company headquarters.

SSE disrupts ransomware throughout a number of layers

SSE might help fight ransomware with a spread of safety features equivalent to

DNS safety enforces insurance policies on area title resolutions, stopping customers from accessing domains related to malicious actions. This blocks malicious web sites that trick customers into downloading ransomware. It additionally blocks entry on the DNS stage to command-and-control (C2) servers, that are utilized by the risk actor to speak with their malware. This interruption of the C2 channel hampers the attacker’s means to manage the contaminated system and might stop the encryption course of from being initiated.

DNS safety can even block DNS tunneling, a way during which the ransomware surreptitiously makes use of the DNS protocol to speak with its C2 servers or exfiltrate information. There are just a few methods to do that, and detecting the method usually requires defenders to dig by way of logs and search for anomalous queries or different indicators. It’s engaging for attackers as a result of it’s comparatively easy to do and received’t be detected by many safety instruments.

Along with DNS, SWG protects customers from ransomware by inspecting net visitors in real-time. This consists of SSL decryption, which ensures that ransomware communications can’t cover in encrypted visitors.

Cloud-delivered firewalls examine visitors on the IP layer, enabling organizations to dam visitors to identified malicious IP addresses over non-web ports. For instance, many ransomware risk actors make the most of distant desktop protocol on port 3389 or safe shell protocol on port 22. Famously, the WannaCry variant of ransomware utilized the server message block protocol on port 445. Cloud-delivered firewalls permit defenders to observe and management visitors on these ports and protocols, and block communication over these ports to malicious IP addresses.

In Q1 2023, Talos additionally noticed for the primary time engagements involving Daxian ransomware, a more recent ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) household. This attacker usually compromises VPNs to achieve preliminary entry to a community after which makes use of that VPN entry to unfold ransomware all through the community, in line with the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company (CISA). In a single occasion, the attacker exploited a vulnerability within the VPN. In  one other one, they have been in a position to brute drive weak VPN credentials to achieve entry.

This risk actor highlights the shortcomings of VPN. As soon as an attacker can compromise a company VPN, they will achieve wide-ranging entry to something on the community, permitting them to extensively unfold ransomware. The best way to stop one of these assault is to undertake a zero-trust structure, the place customers are given entry solely to the assets that they want as a substitute of all the pieces on the community.

SSE makes use of ZTNA to create a zero-trust method to personal app entry. ZTNA offers safe distant entry to personal apps based mostly on application-specific entry management insurance policies. If an attacker is ready to compromise this mechanism, they solely get entry to that utility – not the complete community. This prevents the attacker from spreading ransomware in all places all through the community.


Ransomware assaults can have lengthy, sophisticated kill chains that embody quite a few strategies to achieve preliminary entry, obtain persistence, unfold the malware, and eventually execute the encryption. SSE successfully disrupts this kill chain at a number of factors. It blocks customers from accessing malicious web sites that will infect their machine with malware, prevents the ransomware from speaking with its C2 servers throughout a number of layers, and limits ransomware unfold by imposing zero belief community entry for personal functions.

Learn extra about how Cisco can defend you towards ransomware, or be taught extra about Safety Service Edge (SSE).

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