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Encrypted HTTPS Traffic is the Culprit in Most Malware Attacks


The recently released quarterly Internet Security Report by WatchGuard Technologies revealed that encrypted HTTPS traffic delivered over 91.5% of all malware threats. So, firms that do not decrypt and inspect HTTPS traffic at the perimeter risk allowing 9/10 malware into the system, an alarming fact that negates efforts spent on perimeter and endpoint cybersecurity. In short, loosely monitored HTTPS traffic vastly increases the risk of system infection.

But here’s the biggest question that most people have.

Isn’t HTTPS supposed to be secure? For most people, the green lock before the URL signifies a secure connection. While this perception is partly true, HTTPS in no way guarantees safety.

Before we delve any further, let’s first discuss how HTTPS works.

What is HTTPS, and how does it work?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP is the primary protocol to exchange information between a web browser and a website. The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure.” Websites with URLs beginning with HTTPS have an added layer of security wherein they encrypt the data exchanged between the client and the server.

HTTPS uses two keys–one public and the other private–to encrypt data. Encryption is important while using websites that require login details, credit card information, banking details or any type of personal data. Without encryption, malicious hackers can intercept and steal data. Moreover, because there’s no encryption, the data appears as plain text. The plain text format makes it easy for hackers to view and steal data.

On the other hand, HTTPS prevents data from reaching the wrong hands by encrypting it. Even if the data is intercepted, it comes across as a string of useless characters and is thus useless to malicious actors.

Why HTTPS isn’t as secure as it seems

HTTPS can prevent the stealing of data and man-in-the-middle attacks. But it also allows malicious traffic directed towards an organization to hide behind the encryption. Since the secure gateway cannot inspect the encrypted data, it lets everything through–including malware.

So, a secure gateway can put organizations at risk, even if they’ve set up stringent perimeter controls and endpoint security measures. The finance, healthcare and tech industries are the most vulnerable to these attacks. Add the fact that malware attacks are up by 87% over the last decade, and one can see why companies are worried.

So how can one ensure that no malware gets through to the network? What are the available solutions?

HTTPS inspection – How does it help?

HTTPS inspection is a process that decrypts the encrypted data at the gateway itself, which helps analyze the traffic and content coming through. So, malicious traffic can be flagged and blocked, keeping the network secure. Unless paired with a robust HTTPS inspection tool, even the best security products and protocols can fail to identify most malware delivered via HTTPS connections.

With remote work becoming the norm, this problem has become more prevalent. Remote workers are not contained within the security of a protected enterprise network, leaving their browsers vulnerable to malware delivery via this method. The work-from-home scenario has made it even more important for firms to implement scalable HTTPS inspection for all their employees.

Many firms are wary of setting up HTTPS inspection because of the investments and extra work involved. Moreover, a poorly configured protocol can backfire, creating even more holes than before. Hence, partner with a trusted cybersecurity firm to build a clear strategy to ensure the needed level of security.

To learn more about protecting your firm from different types of malware, read here.

Firms not inspecting encrypted traffic are letting almost every piece of malware targeted at them into their network. With malware technology improving by the day, companies can lose millions in operational losses if infected. HTTPS inspection with trusted certificates is the only way to prevent malware attacks.