What is Malicious Traffic Detection and How Does it Work?

January 6th, 2020
Malicious Traffic

The internet is all about the flow of traffic – that is data. Whenever you connect to the internet, there is an immediate flow of data happening, meaning data is being sent and received across the World Wide Web. Not all this data is ‘good data’. There is a tremendous amount of bad data out there, that needs to be stopped from reaching your home computer.

Think of malicious traffic detection as your guardian angel. There is a lot of malicious traffic out there that doesn’t mean well for your PC or Mac (and that is an understatement). It’s the job of the malicious traffic detection feature on your antivirus solution to protect your computer from harm. If we were to grade the various features of your endpoint security based on order of importance, there is no doubt that detecting malicious traffic will be ranked first.

Before we address malicious traffic detection, it’s important to get more clarity on ‘malicious traffic.’

What is malicious traffic?

Malicious traffic or malicious network traffic is any suspicious link, file or connection that is being created or received over the network. Malicious traffic is a threat that creates an incident which can either impact an organization’s security or may compromise your personal computer.

The most dangerous and prevalent type of malicious traffic is a form of HTTP traffic from non-browser applications that wants to connect to known bad URLs such as command and control servers. This traffic is an early indicator of malicious malware on your PC that wants to connect to remote servers and wreak havoc. This can include delivery of additional malware, further instructions/updates for intrusion, communication with a botnet, instructions to upload/download further files or exfiltrate sensitive data.

How does malicious traffic work – the process

When bad HTTP requests reach the command and control servers, these issue a communication to your compromised PC or Mac and make it a part of their larger zombie army known as botnets. This communication can be as simple as maintaining a timed beacon on your PC, so that cybercriminals who have compromised your PC can keep tabs on how many such PCs are available in their inventory (yes, they have an inventory!). Alternately, attackers can issue commands to launch malicious actions that can take the form of data theft or a ransomware attack.

For a command and control attack to take place, malware must enter your system. This happens primarily through phishing emails, social engineering attacks, or malspam.

Detecting malicious traffic

Malicious traffic detection technology continuously monitors traffic for possible signs of any suspicious links, files, or connections created or received. In order to identify malicious traffic, advanced malicious traffic detection capabilities can verify if the suspicious link is a form of malicious traffic coming from bad URLs or C2 sites. Typically, it verifies the link against the vast amount of security data collected from hundreds of millions of devices across the globe. This provides protection against both known and unknown threats.

Sophos Home with malicious threat detection

The best defense against malicious traffic is a solution that offers real-time protection against it, like Sophos Home. Sophos Home’s malicious traffic detection feature monitors network traffic for signs of connectivity to known bad servers and URLs, such as command and control servers. If such traffic is detected, it is immediately blocked, and the process stopped. Available in both free and premium versions, Sophos Home offers powerful, business-grade security. 

The whole idea behind deploying protection against malicious traffic is to ensure you are never caught off-guard. And, you can browse the internet in peace, knowing someone’s got your back. 

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