Encryption has become key to protecting the privacy of electronic communication – and for certain transactions, encryption is a legal requirement – but it’s a bit like beer goggles; it makes everything look a lot rosier than it is. With between 50% and 70% of online traffic now encrypted, it is safe to say that some of that traffic is concealed malware. This is according to Brenwin Traill from Securicom, a managed IT security solutions provider.
“Nowadays, any secure website you access changes the traffic before it’s transmitted over the Internet to be completely unrecognisable to anyone who might be able to eavesdrop the traffic. In technical terms, any HTTPS or SSL traffic is encrypted. This is to protect sensitive data, banking details, ID numbers, corporate deals and secrets. It also extends to social media and streaming too, with over 70% of all browser-based traffic now encrypted.
“The thing is that cybercriminals are using encryption too; to conceal malware and hide their advances on unsuspecting companies and their users. So while it is a crucial tool for protecting the privacy of users and information, it is also a thorn in the side for IT security. Due to its nature, HTTPS traffic is designed to give end-to-end encryption between a browser and a server. This means that security devices are blind to this traffic and cannot monitor or block this traffic based on the corporate policy.
“As a result, threats are ‘innocently’ slipping under the radar, making encrypted malware a significant IT security threat. There are ways to see this traffic, but they must be correctly implemented to not cause any errors or pop ups on the user’s browser,” explains Traill.
Gartner has suggested that encrypted traffic will be the conduit for more than 70% of web-based malware by 2020 and that over 60% of companies will fail to decrypt it. Next-generation firewalls are currently the most commonly used and effective methods for monitoring and analysing traffic.
“In addition to being able to recognise and understand different languages, next-generation firewalls also have additional tools in their toolkits which make them more secure than traditional firewalls. For instance, they can inspect and block suspicious app-traffic which is very relevant with the massive volumes and types of apps that are at play nowadays. In addition, bypass policies can be setup to not inspect certain traffic in line with banking and health industry regulations.
“However, tools for analysing encrypted traffic should be integrated into security systems to effectively monitor and decrypt traffic without slowing down the network or without compromising the integrity of the encryption. Next-generation firewalls alone are not the most efficient or effective way of filtering and decrypting encrypted malware.
“All traffic should be inspected for threats. Your Web security products should cater for this, be flexible in their deployment and cater for on and off network operation. It is up to the brains implementing and managing these systems to get it right,” concludes Traill.