Ransomware on Servers: Protection with Deep Security

A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
Ransomware on Servers:
Detection and Prevention using Trend Micro Deep Security
>> This paper is aimed at information security professionals looking to combat ransomware on their
enterprise servers. It provides guidance on how to adopt and implement safeguards to enterprise servers
across physical, virtual, and cloud environments leveraging Trend Micro™ Deep Security™.
A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
The information provided herein is for general information and educational purposes only. It is not intended and should
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Ransomware: Detection and Prevention using Trend Micro Deep Security
A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................... 1
PART I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF RANSOMWARE .......................................................................... 2
Types of Ransomware ....................................................................................................................2
The Evolution of Ransomware ........................................................................................................3
PART II – HOW CRYPTO RANSOMWARE WORKS .................................................................... 4
Customized Vs. Standard Encryption Cryptosystems .......................................................................4
Symmetric Vs. Asymmetric Encryption ............................................................................................5
Key Management ...........................................................................................................................5
Key Generation & Delivery .............................................................................................................5
PART III – DEFENCE-IN-DEPTH STRATEGY ............................................................................... 8
General Best Security Practices .......................................................................................................8
Deploy Layered Security Controls Using Deep Security .................................................................. 11
Network Security Controls ............................................................................................................ 12
Deep Security: Firewall Recommendations >> ................................................................................... 12
Deep Security: Web Reputation Service Recommendations >> ......................................................... 13
Deep Security: Intrusion Prevention System Recommendations >> .................................................. 14
Malware Prevention & System Security Controls........................................................................... 15
Deep Security: Anti-Malware Recommendations >> .......................................................................... 16
Deep Security: Application Control Recommendations >>................................................................. 17
Deep Security: Integrity Monitoring Recommendations >> ............................................................... 18
CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................... 19
Trend Micro White Paper
Ransomware: Detection and Prevention using Trend Micro Deep Security
A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
Intended Audience
This paper is aimed at information security professionals looking to combat Ransomware on servers. It will provide
guidance on how to adopt and implement safeguards to servers leveraging Trend Micro™ Deep Security™. It is
expected that the reader is comfortable with common computing, security, and networking terminologies and
About This Paper
This paper will assist in designing a “defense-in-depth” strategy to combat ransomware using Deep Security. We
will first discuss the generic and the most effective IT strategies over the years against threats and then provide
specific configuration guidance on how to leverage Deep Security modules, such as Intrusion Prevention System
(IPS), firewall, application control, integrity monitoring and anti-malware, to help create a “defense-in-depth”
strategy against ransomware.
This paper is not intended or claimed to provide a “magic” solution to combat ransomware nor should it be
believed that there is a single technology which will prevent all of the bad scenarios or the continued proliferation
of ransomware.
An information security professional’s job is to make it harder and increasingly frustrating for adversaries by
adopting a “defense-in-depth” or “layered security model”. This model recommends “Detective”, “Preventive”,
and “Forensic” defensive layers and we will see where Deep Security can fit into this model.
Help and Support
This paper is not meant to be a substitute for product documentation.
For detailed information regarding installation, configuration, administration and usage of the Deep Security
product, please refer to https://help.deepsecurity.trendmicro.com/.
Page 1 | Trend Micro White Paper
Ransomware: Detection and Prevention using Trend Micro Deep Security
A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
Ransomware has become a prominent type of malware, belonging to the
class of malware known as “scareware” which takes advantage of people’s
fear. Its underlining concept is simple: you have something that is valuable
to you, so let’s hold it hostage and hope the fear of losing it forever will
make you pay the ransom to get it back.
It’s hard to discuss Information Security without bringing up ransomware as
enterprises, Small-Medium Businesses (SMB), and individuals alike are
facing continuous battles against it. Though its first occurrence was nearly
28 years ago, it really came to light in 2006 with the release of “Archiveus
Trojan” which was the first ever ransomware to use RSA encryption. In
2013, we saw that “CryptoLocker” was able to successfully extort money
from victims on a massive scale and the same year when ransomware into a
lucrative business model. Since then, ransomware has been creating havoc
and attackers have created more improved ransomware variants like
CryptoWall, Locky, TeslaCrypt, WannaCry, and Petya to name the few.
Types of Ransomware
There are two primary types of ransomware:
Locker ransomware, which is also known as Computer lockers, is designed to deny access to a user’s
computer or device. This type of ransomware simply tries to lock the victim’s desktop, without touching
the data and files in the file system and request ransom. The main goal of this type of ransomware is to
leave the victim’s computer with limited capability and functionality so that they can’t gain access to their
data. The locking procedure involves creating a new desktop for the victim and then making it persistent,
and the new presented desktop eliminates unnecessary processes and disables certain keyboard shortcuts
and special keys, such as the Esc and Windows keys.
Ransomware that falls under this category that we see often uses fear techniques to pressure the victims
into paying the ransom. It tricks the user with copyright infringements or by claiming to represent a law
enforcement authority to issue fines on criminal activities. These types of ransomware are less effective to
enterprises, SMBs, and tech-savvy individuals since it lacks the technical complexity required to perform a
successful attack to hold victim’s resources hostage. They can be removed cleanly and the victim’s
computer can be restored close to its original state.
Crypto ransomware, as the name suggests make use of cryptography, the very same technique that
information security professionals use to protect data from unauthorized access. This type of ransomware
targets users’ data/files and encrypts them using symmetric and asymmetric encryption. Ransomware of
this kind targets various types of files from documents, images (photos), and database files. For example,
WannaCry targeted 176 file types to ensure it encrypted files that were valuable to variety of its victims,
as opposed to a specific kind of victim. This type of ransomware can travel across a user’s network and
encrypt any files located on both mapped and unmapped network drives.
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Crypto ransomware don’t use techniques to trick victims into paying a ransom, instead they are upfront
with their demands. They send an extortion message to a victim that provides instructions on how to pay
the ransom. The message also contains information about how much time the victim has to pay ransom
and the consequences for not paying before the set deadline. Crypto ransomware threats are much more
effective and technically capable of keeping a victim’s resources hostage than locker ransomware is since
it adopts stronger operational and encryption procedures. We will discuss more on how the crypto
ransomware works in the next section of this paper.
Locks access to the
computer or device
Allows access to the
computer or device
Doesn't ecnrypt files,
leaves underling system
and files untouched
Encrypt files and data
stored on computer
locally or on connected
drives, etc.
The Evolution of Ransomware
The advancements in technology, ease of use, and our reliance on devices has made our lives increasingly digital.
We are storing more and more personal data on our computers, laptops, and other hand-held devices. Our
adoption of technology has also provided new avenues for our adversaries. The AIDS Trojan, known as the PC
Cyborg that Joseph L. Popp created and sent to attendees of the World Health Organization’s International AIDS
conference in 1989, faced a number of challenges before it was successful. It had problems with the delivery
mechanism, the unavailability of a stronger encryption solution at the time, and difficulty gaining untraceable
financial benefits out of it. However, the AIDS Trojan set the scene for today’s successful ransomware threats.
The figure below shows how ransomware has evolved over time, has become more sophisticated, and has adapted
to our digital lives. The era where it was just causing annoyance to its victims is gone—it has now entered into an
era where it is providing a business model that offers significant financial gains. The use of advanced encryption
technologies and the availability of untraceable crypto-currency (Bitcoins) to receive ransom and anonymity
network (TOR) to communicate with victims are arguably the main factors in the rise of ransomware. The
adversaries now target victims’ computing environments, including personal computers, mobile devices, and
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servers, regardless if a home user, an enterprise, or even a public agency owns them. As long as attackers can take
a user’s data hostage and they can receive ransom, there is a target.
Infection Vectors
Email Spam with
Malicius File or
Drive-bydownloads and
Exploit Kits
Free Software
Symmetric and
Payment Methods
Ransom to a post
office box
SMS/Call to a
premium rate
mobile number
iTunes gift cards
We classified various ransomware into two main types; the locker ransomware and the crypto ransomware. The
most effective and current ransomware is crypto ransomware. It is important to understand how this ransomware
works. Despite the continuous improvement to their encryption, deletion, and communication methods, it is
possible to design a layered defense strategy that can stop a large number of ransomware attacks.
Crypto ransomware operations and technical details vary, and to understand the general operations and high-level
technical details of them, it is important to cover the details around which cryptography techniques adversaries
use to encrypt files.
Customized Vs. Standard Encryption Cryptosystems
Encryption is the key element of crypto ransomware. We see both customized and standard encryption
cryptosystems being used by crypto ransomware. The use of one cryptosystem over the other doesn’t necessarily
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mean that the ransomware is more advanced, complex, or sophisticated. In fact, the adversary’s choice to use
cryptosystem in their ransomware could simply be a matter of their technical depth, to evade common malware
detection techniques, or because they are targeting specific devices/platforms for their ransomware. For example,
the CryptoLocker and CryptoWall both used standard Windows functions of Microsoft's CryptoAPI to perform file
Symmetric Vs. Asymmetric Encryption
Modern crypto ransomware use both symmetric and asymmetric encryption. The main reasons for dual encryption
are performance and convenience. With symmetric encryption, the adversaries are able to encrypt victims’ files in
a reasonable time thus achieving high performance which is essential in staying under the radar. With the use of
asymmetric encryption, adversaries can protect the symmetric encryption key, thus leaving the victims no chance
to get their hands on the encryption key without requesting the private key from the adversary.
More advanced and successful ransomware use both symmetric and asymmetric encryption. It uses unique public
and private key-pairs for each of victim to ensure that the delivery of a private key, once the ransom is paid, to
decrypt files on a victim’s computer cannot be used to decrypt files on every other computer infected using the
same public key.
Key Management
Key management (symmetric key, asymmetric key pair generation, keys delivery and keys protection) is very
important in the successful execution of crypto ransomware. The adversaries’ goal is to make money and reduce
any possibility of recovering the encrypted files without getting the ransom paid. For adversaries, it’s equally
important to reliably recover and decrypt the encrypted files once the ransom is paid for the attack to be
considered successful. For this reason, the ransomware business model must show credibility. If a particular type
of ransomware can’t decrypt the files despite the ransom being paid, it will look bad on the attacker. News will
spread fast and the next victim of the attacker will not pay the ransom. Ransomware is a business and one
estimate claims CryptoLocker extorted excess of $300 million USD.
Key Generation & Delivery
Over the years we have seen adversaries enhance their techniques to overcome deficiencies
found in previous ransomware in order to successfully execute their ransomware campaign. The
two approaches adversaries have taken when it comes to the generation of the cryptography
keys is either local (on a victim’s computer) or remote (on an adversary’s/C&C system).
Looking at modern crypto ransomware, it is observed that the symmetric key (the
encryption key which is used for encrypting the files) is generated locally on the victim’s
computer and then the Public key from the asymmetric key pair is used to protect this
encryption key. There are two approaches adversaries take when it comes to the
generation of the asymmetric key pair, for example:
The asymmetric key pair was generated “remotely” on an adversary’s command-and-control (C&C)
system (CryptoLocker used this approach).
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The asymmetric key pair was generated “locally” on a victim’s computer (CryptoDefence used this
In each approach, it was required to communicate with C&C.
In the case of CryptoLocker, the encryption took place only after successful communication with the C&C to
retrieve the public key, if C&C communication was blocked the ransomware didn’t proceed with the encryption.
Symmetric Key generated
on Victim s system
Symmetric key
Encrypt files with this
symmetric key
Victims System
Public Key
Public Key Received
From C&C system
C&C System Under
Adversary Control
Symmetric key with the
Public Key
Private Key
Public Key
Symmetric key
Asymmetric Key pair
Generated on C&C system
under adversary Control
In the case of CryptoDefense, the private key must be sent back to the adversary after the encryption process is
done. Though better than CryptoLocker on when the encryption process can start, using this approach means that
the private key that the adversary is holding to make decryption possible is also left behind on the victim’s
computer after its transmission to the adversary.
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Public Key
Symmetric key
Private Key
Encrypt files with the
symmetric key
Symmetric and Asymmetric Keys
generated on Victim s system
Victims System
Private Key
Public Key
Send Private Key to
C&C system
Symmetric key with the
Public Key
C&C System Under
Adversary Control
Symmetric key
Regardless of which approach the adversary takes in their ransomware, their threat is not always air tight.
CryptoDefense leaves the keys behind that can be located and used to decrypt the files, so there is always a chance
that will leave victims with room to maneuver.
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The design of a defense-in-depth strategy requires humans and technology to
work together. The battle with ransomware is real and we all have to play a
role to win this battle whether as a product designer, as a user of the product,
or as a security professional implementing security product—we all have to
use basic security practices.
Today’s adversaries are equipped with advanced technical skills, well
resourced, and extremely motivated. They are constantly looking to improve
their techniques and have proven that they can move fast and have taken a
more aggressive approach in recent years. They have moved from selling
misleading software to a pure ransom model which has inarguably become
the most dominant form of threats today.
The recommendations we discuss in this section below are structured as
The general best security practices that are adopted by many
organizations around the world in light
of the years of analysis by security organizations.
Specific security controls that are offered by Trend Micro™ Deep
Security™ to help deploy layered
security controls.
General Best Security Practices
User awareness training should be at the top of every organization’s security
practice, as the weakest link in cybersecurity is the end user. An end user welltrained on basic security practices, like clicking on URLs, opening documents, or
executing programs only from trusted sources is vital to the overall strategy of
an organization and it can make a huge difference in its success and failure to
defend against ransomware and other threats. Although information security
professionals know better, end users don’t come to work with intention on
clicking links and opening unknown attachments in their emails. They need to be
Adversaries are extremely tricky and use social engineering techniques to trick
users into acting and responding to opening the door to ransomware. It is also
equally important to conduct simulated phishing attacks to gauge a user’s ability
to identify current threats and encourage users to alert the IT security team of
potential suspicious emails and files.
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Not everyone has the time to understand and master every intricate detail required to ensure their OS and
applications are configured securely. The OS and applications are designed and shipped to keep a wide audience in
mind and the use of such application varies greatly from user to user. This is why application and OS vendors face
the dilemma of finding a balance between “usability” and “security”.
The system hardening approach is a very good foundation to build an overall defense-in-depth strategy, even
though it sometimes creates more work. Not hardening it means having an insecure system that can be broken by
anybody with sufficient knowledge and motivation. There are plenty of resources available, such as the National
Checklist Program (NCP) and CIS benchmarks to name a few, that can help harden systems and applications. This
means adding an additional layer of difficulty that adversaries must go through even if they manage to go through
the other
lines of defense.
Hardening is critical. Don’t provide another avenue for adversaries to explore when it can be avoided altogether.
For example, the authors of WannaCry ransomware used a previously-fixed vulnerability in SMBv1.0 to spread it
like a worm. This particular version should have been disabled in users’ systems and even if they did have a
legitimate reason to leave it enabled on their systems, the OS patch that addresses this vulnerability should have
been applied.
Effective patch management is difficult to achieve given the never-ending
vulnerabilities in OS and applications (in-house as well as off-the-shelf
applications). It is not just a case of patch availability from the vendor and applying
patches to the system. The business operations continuity is very critical when
new patches are released. Each new patch needs to be validated by the IT team to
ensure that the risks are actually addressed without breaking existing applications.
If something breaks, it puts organizations in catch-up mode and provides an
exposure window to adversaries to carry out attacks.
A modern approach to the old dilemma is to use virtual patching solutions, a nondisruptive vulnerability shield that protects OS and applications during the risk
window—and beyond. This information on Shielding End of Support Systems
describes how Trend Micro™ Deep Security™ shields vulnerabilities in critical
systems until a patch is available and deployed, in place of a future patch that may
never materialize, or to protect systems that are not patchable. In each instance,
the user gets a timely, cost-effective complement to traditional patching processes
that can significantly lower costs, reduce disruptions, and provide greater control
over the scheduling of patches.
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Hardening the OS and applications and staying up-to-date on patches ensures
a trusted computing base, and now all of the services and functionality that is
exposed is required to run the business. However, having a “shell” access
available to all users of the system may not be needed to run the business. For
example, the ability to install new software on the system should be restricted
to specific job functions. The principle of least privilege (also known as the
principle of minimal privilege or the principle of least authority) requires that
in a particular abstraction layer of a computing environment, every module
(such as a process, a user, or a program, depending on the subject) must be
able to access only the information and resources that are necessary for its
legitimate purpose. Consider deploying Privilege Access Management security
products that offer a time-based secure way to access a system as a superuser and provide ability to authorize and monitor all privileged users’
interactions with the systems.
The last line of defense when everything fails against ransomware is how
good the backup and restore policies are. The whole notion of ransomware
is “you have something that is valuable to you, let’s hold it hostage and the
fear of losing it forever will make you pay the ransom to get it back.” When
organizations have a good back up policy, it removes the leverage
adversaries have.
This blog outlines the 3-2-1 rule when doing backups: create 3 backup
copies on 2 different media with 1 backup offsite. Some ransomware
variants have been known to go after backup data found on a shared
network drive, which makes it important to set up a backup on a separate
location, such as drives on a system that isn't connected to the company network.
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Deploy Layered Security Controls Using Deep Security
The Lockheed Martin Cyber Kill Chain framework is a great resource to understand what adversaries must do in
order to achieve their objectives. This framework can also outline how to deploy the layered security controls
available through Deep Security.
For any attack (ransomware or others) the adversaries must complete 1 to 6 stages. If adversaries are stopped at
any stage of their attack then it is considered successful. The first two stages (Reconnaissance and Weaponization)
are hard to defend against and beyond the scope of this paper, however the security controls available with Deep
Security™ are mapped against the next five stages of this chain to help create a defense-in-depth strategy.
In the diagram below on the right each stage is labelled with either N (network level) or S (system level) which
represents the opportunity area and segment to defend against ransomware attacks.
Detection of Reconnaissance as it happens is very difficult.
Cannot detect weaponization as it happens.
Firewall, Intrusion Prevention System, and Web Reputation Service
Application Control, Anti-Malware, Integrity Monitoring and, Log
Firewall, Intrusion Prevention System, and Web Reputation Service
Command & Control (C2)
Firewall, Intrusion Prevention System, and Web Reputation Service
Actions on Objectives
Application Control, Anti-Malware, Integrity Monitoring, and Log
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Network Security Controls
Network segmentation is an effective security practice that can help prevent
adversaries from carrying out their ransomware attacks. When an adversary
gains access to a system, the network segmentation or as we call it “zones”
will limit their further movement across the network. There are industry
standards available which provide guidance on creating a clear separation of
data within the network. Splitting the network into multiple zones, with
specific security requirements, and then enforcing firewall policy on what is
allowed to move from zone to zone makes the adversary’s job extremely
difficult. The Deep Security Firewall control creates logical network
segments at the host level without requiring rewiring and touching network
Deep Security: Firewall Recommendations >>
The Deep Security Firewall control is a host-based stateful
firewall which can be used in either “Prohibitive mode” when
“allow rules” are used in the policy or “Permissive mode”
when “deny rules” are used exclusively in the policy. Using
Firewall in “Permissive mode” is not recommended since any
traffic that is not matching a “deny rule” will be allowed. It is
recommended to create a firewall policy with “allow rules” for
the traffic that is needed for the system to function properly
and let the implicit “deny rules” restrict all the other traffic not
matching the “allow” firewall rules.
Once a system is infected with ransomware, it needs to reach
out to a command and control (C&C) server under adversary control to receive more instructions or download
payload. This is where the Deep Security Firewall control can be used to implement egress firewall rules to detect
and block C2 traffic. It is a common practice to have an “ingress” firewall policy and restrict allowed ports and
communication protocols to reduce the attack surface. It is equally important to create an “egress” firewall policy,
especially for servers. For example, if an “egress” firewall rules policy is created for servers that limits the ports,
protocols, and communications in the network, any ransomware that tries to use protocols like IRC, NTP, FTP,
ICMP etc., to communicate back with C&C servers will be blocked automatically if they’re not specifically covered
by the “allow” firewall rules. The objective of the firewall policy should be to block open ports and services that are
not needed and this will help weed out some ransomware families relying on such protocols and services.
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Filter Out Malicious Web Urls
Adversaries must drop ransomware to the victims and one of the
infection vectors they use is “drive-by-downloads”. A lot of
ransomware infects through drive-by downloads, where visiting
a compromised website with an unpatched or outdated browser
or software plug-in can infect a machine. These compromised
website hosts the exploit kit which in turn runs malicious code
when a user visits the website, and checks for known
vulnerabilities in the system. This is how adversaries can
discover a vulnerability that can be exploited and drops the
Deep Security: Web Reputation Service Recommendations >>
By enabling a Web Reputation Service Module in Deep
Security, protection can be added against web threats by
blocking access to malicious URLs. Deep Security uses
Trend Micro's web security threat intelligence from the
Trend Micro ™ Smart Protection Network™ to check the
reputation of websites. The website's reputation is
correlated with the specific Web reputation policy
enforced on the computer.
Depending on the Web Reputation Security Level being
enforced, Deep Security will either block or allow access
to the URL.
Furthermore, on servers, where outbound
communication to specific URLs is typically known or put
together with much less effort than an end user system,
access can be restricted to specific domains that the
server is allowed to talk to. For example, specific updates
to servers receive patches etc., by using an “Allowed”
and “Blocked” list exception in combination, which
supports wild cards to make filtering string easier.
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Use Network Intrusion Prevention and Detection System
To add further difficulty for adversaries, it is recommended to use an
Intrusion Prevention System and inspect the allowed traffic for
vulnerabilities and exploits before they reach applications. Traffic
allowed for business operations to continue must be confirmed and the
application is expected to receive and this is where Deep Security
Intrusion Prevention System can be used, which inspects and blocks
inbound, outbound, and lateral network traffic in real-time for known,
unknown, and zero-day vulnerabilities. For example, any HTTPS packet
that comes in on port 443 can be allowed, but if a non-HTTPS packets
like SSH comes over this allowed port it can be blocked by Deep Security
IPS control since it violates the protocol, hence enforcing protocol
Deep Security: Intrusion Prevention System Recommendations >>
Run Recommendation Scan Regularly
Figuring out what Intrusion Prevention Rules must be
assigned to the system can be a daunting task even for a
security professional. We recommend leveraging the
Deep Security Recommendation Scan feature which help
extract the complexity. During a Recommendation Scan,
Deep Security will scan operating system details, such as
installed applications on the system, running processes,
and services and correlate this information with the
vulnerabilities that the system is exposed to. Then, it can
either assign the recommended rules automatically or
let then be reviewed and assigned. This process should
be automated to ensure the context-aware and
appropriate protection is assigned. There are two ways
to achieve this:
• Leverage the scheduling feature which allows
for defining a schedule
• Use “on-going recommendation” scan feature
This blog shows how recommendation scan works.
Note: It is also important to understand that not all IPS rules will be auto-assigned or recommended, so in some
cases the administrator must assign rules manually. The exceptions are:
Rules that require configuration before they can be applied.
Rules that have been automatically assigned or unassigned based on a previous recommendation scan but
which a user has overridden. For example, if Deep Security automatically assigns a rule and then it
subsequently gets unassigned, the rule will not get reassigned after the next recommendation scan.
Rules that have been assigned at a higher level in the policy hierarchy cannot be unassigned at a lower
level. A rule assigned to a computer at the policy level must be unassigned at the policy level.
Rules that Trend Micro has issued but which may pose a risk of producing false positives. (This will be
addressed in the rule description.)
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Assign Ransomware Rules for Command & Control, Network Share Protection, and Suspicious Network Activity
To detect ransomware activity, ransomware rules should be
assigned to detect command-and-control traffic (C&C), identify
lateral movement activity with suspicious network activity rules,
and further protect network shares from getting infected when
ransomware tries to reach out from a victim’s system to file
shares. Trend Micro™ Deep Security™ provides the following
Intrusion Prevention rules which specifically address the
ransomware technique of encrypting files on mounted shares
(Windows or Linux – Samba).
Rule name: 1007596 - Identified Suspicious File
Extension Rename Activity Over Network Share
This rule provides visibility into ransomware activity but in most
cases does not prevent ransomware encryption activity. This rule
monitors for known techniques that ransomware uses in changing
file extensions (e.g. .zzz, .encryptedRSA, .crypt etc.). There’s a
check for ~50 file extensions in the rule. The rule also provides an
option to exclude and include certain file extensions to maximize
the benefits of this rule.
Malware Prevention & System Security Controls
Use Definition and Behavior Based Anti-Virus
Definition-based or signature-based anti-malware solutions can help
identify the ransomware when it is known and stop the ransomware attack
at the time of delivery.
What about the zero-day attacks where the signature is not known or
adversaries use techniques like polymorphic or encrypted code segments,
difficult to detect and create a hashed signature for? This is where a
“behavior-based” anti-malware solution can help and stop the ransomware
at the time of exploitation. Exploitation is the next stage the adversary will
take to successfully conduct the ransomware attack. The behavior-based
anti-malware solutions looks for characteristics of malware execution
against a list of known malicious behaviors. For example, a document being
opened in an email that invokes JavaScript or Adobe Flash could be viewed
as “highly suspicious behavior.”
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Deep Security: Anti-Malware Recommendations >>
Ensure Patterns and Deep Security Rules are Current
The effectiveness of any security solution is only as good as
the update it has, so keeping the anti-malware patterns and
Deep Security rule updates current is very critical. Using the
Deep Security Scheduling feature, schedules can be defined
to check and roll out updates to the system. The speed at
which the system will receive updates is also important to
ensure the exposure window is kept to a minimum. It’s
critical to carefully plan the number of Deep Security relay
deployments and their assignment to agents to provide
quick roll outs.
In addition, Deep Security provides dashboard widget, alerts, and reporting capabilities to help identify where in
the environment the protection status is out of date and requires immediate attention.
Enable Behavioral Monitoring
As previously discussed, the role of behavior-based anti-malware
solutions is critical to defending against ransomware attacks when
other lines of defense have been compromised. Malware writers
can use malicious code to hook into user mode processes in order
to gain privileged access to trusted processes and to hide the
malicious activity.
Malware writers inject code into user processes through DLL
injection, which calls an API with escalated privileges. They can
also trigger an attack on a software exploit by feeding a malicious
payload to trigger code execution in memory. In Deep Security,
the behavior monitoring functionality monitors for processes that
may be performing actions that are not typically performed by a
given process. Using a number of mechanisms, including Data
Execution Prevention, Structured Exception Handling Overwrite Protection, and heap spray prevention, Deep
Security can determine whether a process has been compromised and then terminate the process to prevent
further infection.
Configure Network Sandboxing (Optional)
Though this is marked as optional, it is highly recommended to combat techniques to bypass malware detection
attacks that are targeted specifically at an organization. Deep Security provides enhanced malware protection for
new and emerging threats through its Connected Threat Defense feature, where it uses heuristic detection to
analyze files on the protected computer and determines whether they are suspicious. Please note, the Connected
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Threat Defense feature would require additional components, such as Trend Micro Control Manager and Trend
Micro™ Deep Discovery™ Analyzer.
Implement Application Whitelisting
Behavior monitoring keeps “anomalies” or unusual system activities at bay, while
application control only allows a list of non-malicious routines, files, and processes to run
on the system. This helps to determine which application and programs are allowed to
function and operate within the organization’s network. Deep Security’s application control
security module looks for software files when examining the initial installation and
monitors for change. There is a vast list of software that includes windows applications
(.exe, .dll, .com etc.), linux applications (.so and other compiled binaries) the compiled byte
code (.jar, .class) scripts (phython, shell and php etc.,) and windows scripts (Powershell,
.vbs, .js etc.,). Adding application control to a defense-in-depth strategy will greatly reduce
adversaries’ ability to execute malware on the system.
Deep Security: Application Control Recommendations >>
Deploy in “Block Mode” for Best Protection
The application control security module in Deep
Security offers two modes of operation, each mode
tracks for changes and reports it back, but whether to
allow or block the execution of the specific software
depends on what mode it is set for, either “Allow” or
“Block.” It is recommended to switch to block mode
once initial vetting is done and the system is
promoted to production.
After that, the Deep Security Agent continuously
monitors the computer for changes. Application
control is integrated with the kernel (on Linux
computers) and file system, so it has permissions to
monitor the whole computer, including software
installed by root or administrator accounts.
The agent watches for disk write activity on executable files, and for attempts to execute software. To determine if
the software is new or has changed, it compares the file with the hashes of the initially installed software.
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Leverage the “Maintenance Mode” Capabilities of Application Control
When patches are installed, software is
upgraded, or web applications are
deployed, application control will detect
them. Depending on the setting for how to
handle unrecognized software, this could
block that software until it is specifically
allowed from the web console. For
mission-critical software, this service
interruption may not be acceptable.
To avoid extra down time and alerts during deployment and maintenance windows, application control can be put
into a mode designed for maintenance windows. While maintenance mode is enabled, application control will
continue to block blacklisted software, but it will allow new or updated software to run and automatically add it to
the allow rules.
The maintenance mode feature of application control is available via rest APIs to allow Deep Security functionality
to be integrated with other applications or in the CICD pipeline. At the time of update, maintenance mode can be
switched on via a simple API call and then turned off, achieving a balance between security and usability.
Look for Indicators of Compromise Using Integrity Monitoring
To continue to ensure the integrity of the system is not compromised from the “trusted computing base” that
has been created by hardening the system and deploying other security controls, it is equally important to deploy
integrity monitoring to detect changes to files and critical system areas like the Windows registry that could
indicate suspicious activity.
Deep Security: Integrity Monitoring Recommendations >>
Deep Security’s integrity monitoring module can monitor various areas of the
system, such as file, software, port, process, registry, services, users, and
WQL. Ransomware and other malware typically infects a system by modifying
certain registry keys and various system files. The default Deep Security rules
allow for monitoring of the integrity of a machine by observing what is most
commonly changed by malware in an infected system.
It is recommended to:
Leverage the Recommendation Scan feature as discussed earlier to
discover the recommended integrity monitoring rules for the
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Assign rules that are written to detect specific known malicious indicators of an attack or a compromise.
Ex: Rule with TMTR-xxxx string in the name that are written to provide IOC.
Unless new software or a security patch is installed, there is no reason why any of these files should be modified. If
such an event is raised, the administrator can check what is happening on the machine to determine whether or
not it is compromised.
It is also possible to create custom rules to monitor specific threats. If a user knows the behavior of a particular
virus they are trying to contain in an environment, they can create a special monitoring rule that checks for certain
registry keys or files created by the virus. This can determine if the spread of the virus is being contained.
This paper covered a brief history and evolution of ransomware. It highlighted how crypto ransomware works and
creates a successful revenue-generated business model for adversaries. It outlined how our adversaries have
moved from selling misleading software to a pure ransom model, which is inarguably the most dominant threat
these days. It discussed what steps an adversary needs to execute to successfully conduct an attack based on the
Lockheed Cyber Kill Chain framework. It then discussed, that despite the continuous improvement in its
encryption, deletion, and communication methods, it is possible to design a layered defense strategy that can stop
a large number of ransomware attacks. It also outlined general best practices for security and listed specific
security controls and the recommendations around them that Deep Security can offer to help design a defense-indepth strategy.
Find out more about how Deep Security can help secure your enterprise servers:
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Ransomware: Detection and Prevention using Trend Micro Deep Security
A Trend Micro White Paper I October 2017
Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in security software, strives to make the world
safe for exchanging digital information. Our innovative solutions for consumers,
businesses and governments provide layered content security to protect information on
mobile devices, endpoints, gateways, servers and the cloud. All of our solutions are
powered by cloud-based global threat intelligence, the Trend Micro™ Smart Protection
Network™, and are supported by over 1,200 threat experts around the globe. For more
information, visit www.trendmicro.com.
©2017 by Trend Micro Incorporated. All rights reserved. Trend Micro, the Trend Micro t-ball logo, and Smart Protection Network are trademarks or
registered trademarks of Trend Micro Incorporated. All other company and/or product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their
owners. Information contained in this document is subject to change without notice. [WP01_Ransomware-DeepSecurity_171001US]
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