Beyond EDR Detection: Full Enrichment in Ransomware & Extortion Defense

Nov 02nd 2023

Beyond EDR Detection:

Full Enrichment in Ransomware & Extortion Defense

2 November 2023

The urgency of addressing ransomware is underscored by a recent international initiative. 40 countries, under a U.S.-led alliance, have pledged to refuse ransom payments to cybercriminals, aiming to cut off the very funding mechanism that fuels these attacks. Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser, emphasized the critical need for this step, stating, “As long as there is money flowing to ransomware criminals, this is a problem that will continue to grow.” 

In recent times, we’ve witnessed a disturbing trend where ransomware actors not only encrypt data but also increasingly lean towards data exfiltration and extortion. This evolution of ransomware to a tool for sophisticated extortion schemes highlights the need for a more robust and layered defense strategy.

As SOC analysts, your role of understanding the intricate connections between common malware, downloaders, and the rising tide of ransomware is key to fortifying your organization’s defenses. This blog post aims to delve into the tools and strategies that can enhance your capabilities, especially focusing on the synergy of Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools and advanced sandboxing techniques.

EDR Explained: Your First Line of Defense Against Ransomware

EDR tools are the watchguards of endpoint security, offering real-time monitoring and detection of threats. They play a critical role in identifying suspicious activities, isolating affected systems, and providing valuable data for incident response. 

However, while EDR and XDR solutions excel at detecting threats, the depth of their analysis can sometimes be limited. This is where advanced threat analysis integration comes into play.

Downloader Malware: A Gateway to Ransomware Infections

Imagine an endpoint in a large organization compromised by downloader malware, a type of malware designed to download additional malicious payloads. If not detected and neutralized promptly, this could lead to severe consequences, including data breaches or ransomware attacks.

The Importance of Full Enrichment

Full enrichment involves a comprehensive analysis of executables attached to the alerts, going beyond initial detection. It’s about understanding the “how” and “why” behind a threat. While EDR can alert you to the presence of malware, and quarantine, it might not provide a complete picture of the threat. This is where recursive analysis capabilities become invaluable. 

Recursive analysis of payloads involves examining not just the initial malicious file but also any subsequent payloads or “child samples” that it might generate or download. This is especially crucial in the context of downloader malware which can often act as a gateway for more destructive payloads like ransomware.

When a downloader malware infiltrates a system, it may not immediately unleash its full impact. Instead, it can stealthily download additional malicious payloads, each potentially having different characteristics and objectives. By analyzing these child samples recursively, SOC analysts can uncover a comprehensive map of a ransomware attack.

Benefits of a thorough analysis:

1 – Enriched IOC Extraction:

Sandboxing helps extract detailed Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) from the malware, providing crucial information for threat mitigation.

2 – Understanding Attacker’s Motives:

By analyzing the behavior in a sandbox, we can infer the attacker’s intentions, whether it’s data exfiltration or deploying ransomware.

3 – Enhanced Scope of IR:

Insights gained from sandboxing enable a broader and more effective incident response strategy.

4 – Preventing Wider Distribution:

Understanding the malware’s command and control mechanism aids in preventing its goals via different endpoints some of which are not protected by EDR due to several reasons.

A Real-World Case

A relevant example comes from a research by DFIR Report, a community blog maintained by experienced analysts. In 2022, an organization fell victim to a sophisticated cyber-attack that began with a downloader malware delivered via HTML smuggling. 

The attackers used a password-protected ZIP file containing an ISO file that deployed IcedID, leading to Cobalt Strike and ultimately Nokoyawa ransomware. Notably, the threat actor deployed the final ransomware payload just 12 hours after the initial compromise. This incident highlights the rapid progression of such attacks and underscores the need for quick and comprehensive analysis.

Next? Explore our Unlimited Plans for Free 

Integrating sandboxing with your existing EDR solution involves considering compatibility, scalability, and cost. It’s important to choose a sandboxing tool that complements your EDR’s capabilities and fits into your overall SOC model.

In the battle against ransomware groups, the power of full enrichment and integrated tools like sandboxing and EDR is undeniable. But there’s more to robust measures than just powerful tools; seamless integration and the freedom from capacity constraints are crucial.

That’s why we offer Unlimited Plans for FinalVerdict and TotalInsight, giving you the power to analyze without limits. No more quota constraints, just unrestricted, comprehensive threat analysis.

Reach out to us for a free trial.

Ertugrul Kara
Ertugrul Kara

Ertugrul Kara is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for VMRay. With a career spanning over 10 years in cybersecurity, he has seen the advancement of security products from open source firewalls to automation-powered threat detection technologies following the evolution of threat landscape.

He is currently focused on leading the marketing efforts for VMRay’s security automation solutions while enhancing the alignment between the products with enterprise customer needs.

Previously, he has held various roles in early stage security startups, led the product launch and growth strategies, and run his own startup specialized in network security.

Andrey Voitenko
Andrey Voitenko

Andrey is the Senior Product Manager at VMRay. Andrey has over a comprehensive experience in Software Security and spent 15+ years with a leading International Software Vendor. He has 20 years in product development and promotion on his clock and knows the dark and the bright sides of the EDR , SIEM, and SOAR spaces.

Table of Contents


Stay current on the threat landscape with industry-leading insights.

See VMRay in action.
Solve your malware & phishing challenges.

Calculate how much malware false positives are costing your organization:
Malware False Positive Cost Calculator