What is Grayware and How Can You Defend Against It?

What is Grayware and How Can You Defend Against It?

Here at Solutions Review, we spend a great amount of time discussing various strains of malware such as ransomware, cryptojacking attacks, and fileless malware. We explore how these threats manifest on enterprise networks and the damage they can wreak on your bottom line. We discuss how next-generation endpoint security solutions can defend against these attacks and shut down attack vectors in the digital perimeter before hackers find them.

But what about the ambiguous cases, where it isn’t clear if the mysterious file on your network is malicious or not? This is where we enter the tenuous realm of grayware.

What is grayware? How does it manifest? And what can your enterprise do to defend against it?

What is Grayware?

Grayware refers to any program, file, or application that raises suspicions or otherwise seems untrustworthy to your security team or endpoint security solution. The programs or files may carry unfamiliar names or have familiar names and publishers but are offered through suspicious sites or platforms.

The issue is not these programs and files being malicious. Instead, the issue is they are impossible to distinguish from malicious programs or innocent ones. Often, these programs create new vulnerabilities not by being actively malicious but by being so poorly coded they create new attack vectors. Alternatively, grayware’s activities can create security issues exacerbating actual malicious programs.          

What Activities Make Grayware so Suspicious?

According to a recent report by Dark Reading, grayware can do plenty of damage even if they aren’t actively malicious:

  • These programs may collect sensitive data, plant cookies, or utilize keyloggers, all of which may put your data at risk through unintended siloing or through unaccountable exposure.
  • Grayware provokes security threat detection and EDR alarms, potentially alarm fatigue or distracting from true vulnerabilities.
  • Malware or fake applications may use these suspicious as cover or as entryways in your enterprise’s network. Malware may even be bundled with other grayware programs to conceal its tracks.
  • As with any other program or file, these programs can eat away at bandwidth, slowing down work processes. This can be doubly true as grayware accumulates over time.       

How to Avoid Grayware

Your enterprise needs to take the proper steps to avoid the endpoint security complications inherent to grayware. This requires providing sufficient educational programs for your employees so they understand and implement these best practices in their daily work processes:

  • Only work with legitimate, recognized software on your work endpoints. Moreover, only download software from recognized market platforms. Make sure your employees understand that being the first search engine result does not always confer legitimacy.  
  • Use up-to-date browsers and do not download browser add-ons or applications unless they are recognized and legitimate.
  • Have a next-generation endpoint security solution with a strong anti-virus capabilitiy. AV technology can catch and remove most malicious programs and grayware. However, only a next-generation solution can catch more concealed threats and prepare for new threats.
  • If possible, your security team should supervise all program and file downloads, and employees should be forbidden from causally downloading programs not specifically related to their work duties.

Thanks to Dark Reading for their help on the research!

       

Ben Canner
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Ben Canner

Editor, Cybersecurity at Solutions Review
Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ben Canner
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