Just when cybersecurity has risen to the top of business priority lists, something even more sinister than typical cybercrime is emerging with ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS). It's a service on the dark web provided by cybercriminals for other cybercriminals to use hacking tools. A similar service is called malware-as-a-service (MaaS).
Here's a look at why you should be concerned about these underworld schemes and how they can affect your business.
Cybercriminal Business Ventures
Every business must be prepared to defend itself with strong cybersecurity layers due to the steady rise in cybercrime. Hackers keep looking for new ways to market stolen data. Some attackers such as DarkSide have been quietly facilitating hacking tools for sale or rent in recent years, which accounts for the major 2021 attack on the Colonial Pipeline. That attack caused 50 million Americans to temporarily be without energy.
The ransomware marketplace run by cybercriminals is set up like eBay, according to Mark Arena, CEO of cybersecurity firm Intel471. Businesses can no longer ignore the importance of establishing multiple cybersecurity layers to protect confidential data. Many of these illegal businesses have taken on roles played in supply chains, which impacts both supply and demand of illegal services.
The Emergence of the Global Ransomware Protection Market
The financial forecast for the global ransomware protection market is expected to hit $46.7 billion by 2028, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. Ransomware attackers now use a technique called cryptoviral extortion in which they lock up victims' files with encryption software until the victims pay a fee in cryptocurrency.
Effects from illegal RaaS and MaaS services may be severe for small businesses that refuse to invest in modern cybersecurity strategies. A team of IT experts can help watch out for suspicious actors who try to extract confidential data from unsuspecting employees via email. An effective way to protect against a ransomware attack is to always back up critical data so that an intruder does not gain a monopoly on data access.
Ransomware vs. Malware
Malware is the broader term for software designed to conduct malicious activity, as ransomware is a subset. There are various types of malwares beyond ransomware, such as botnets, infostealers, trojans and cryptominers. Phishing schemes via email are the most common way an attacker launches various types of malware attacks. Typically, the attacker poses as a trusted source in an attempt to fool an employee into clicking an infected link.
Ransomware has become a common form of malware attack in terms of big-name cases. If an attacker gains control of a computer that houses confidential data, they may threaten to release it to the public unless the victim pays a ransom fee by a stated deadline. Other variations exist on how attackers threaten to tie up digital assets until a ransom is paid.
Some of the most notorious types of ransomwares are worms, data-breaching software and ransomware wipers. Ransomware worms spread throughout a computer network, compromising or destroying files along the way. The purpose may simply be to hinder a business operation's productivity. Stolen or hijacked data is the bread and butter of the ransomware market. Ransomware wipers are software programs that do not provide a decryption key, as the goal of these attacks is more to create havoc than demand money.
Nobody likes to think of themselves as the primary reason their computers can get controlled by hackers. The best way to guard against hackers is to audit your computer network and make a list of its vulnerabilities. An outsourced IT team of consultants can simplify the audit process and suggest data protection strategies.
While you can leave plenty of technical expertise to your IT team, you should at least know about the top ways hackers can gain access to computers without permission. An old operating system makes a computer particularly vulnerable. You can fall victim to a malware attack by clicking emails too much without thinking. Many times, attackers offer fake discount coupons for victims to click, which unleashes malware.
How to Create a Malware Defense
While there is no 100 percent foolproof strategy for blocking malware from entering your computer network, you can take proactive steps that reduce the chances of a cybersecurity breach. One of the most important things you or your IT team can do for your staff is alert them to the various phishing schemes that malware attackers commonly use.
One of the strongest defenses you can establish against cybercrime is to set strict policies on who can access your digital assets. Your IT team can set up firewalls that prevent unwanted visitors from signing on to your network. The use of automated 24/7 monitoring software has helped alert your team when suspicious activity occurs on your network. Encryption software is one of the most reliable ways to frustrate hackers.
Make sure you implement strong cybersecurity policies for remote workers who access your network. A helpful policy is to not respond to strange requests from anybody and uses multifactor authentication to grant network access. That is how the Zero Trust model works. Zero trust security is a strategy where anyone who seeks network access must prove their identity. Learn more about Zero Trust Architecture from our previous blog: Why Zero Trust Security is a Strong Strategy.
Malware attackers who pose as supervisors might ask you to log in to your account from a bogus link that gives the hacker your confidential login information. The use of multi-factor authentication has been another reliable method for reducing malware incidents.
Be aware that malware activity can occur without you or your staff noticing it. But if you work with a reputable IT firm, technicians will likely spot suspicious activity before it escalates into a quagmire. Malware attackers typically operate quietly with a series of calculated steps. Malware attack software can be used to extract valuable information that a hacker can sell to resellers in the dark web community.
Since malware attackers may take their time over a period of several months to orchestrate an attack, it's helpful to tap into machine learning technology that monitors traffic patterns. Your IT team can detect vulnerabilities in your system and send you alerts when a strange actor keeps visiting your network.
RaaS and MaaS Market Models
The malware-as-a-service paradigm has been developing since its launch in 2006. It's a good idea to learn about what RaaS and MaaS consist of so that you understand how easy it is for a hacker to launch a malware attack. Here are the components of a RaaS package offered on the dark web by cyber criminals:
- Ransomware source code
- Malicious customization tools for specific targets
- Control panel with easy access to instructions
- Technical support
- A privacy community forum
Broader MaaS models target various areas of big data generation, such as hacking and manipulating an IoT device. The combination of IoT and ransomware can create shockwaves through any business.
The MaaS market has expanded with the availability of malware-creation tools that even an inexperienced hacker can use to disrupt a business. One of the malware services offered by cybercriminals is called SOCKS, which is a method for obscuring hacker activity. Other uses of MaaS include denial-of-service attacks, digital identity theft and tools for setting up phishing campaigns.
RaaS began in 2021, according to cyberthreat researcher Sean Gallagher from the cybersecurity firm Sophos. He adds that starting in 2022 every type of cybercriminal activity can be facilitated by an online service for a few hundred dollars. Many cybercriminals have become acquainted with cybercrime options through the dark web marketplace Genesis and similar portals. The hacker who penetrated the network of Electronic Arts used $10 software via Genesis.
Botnets based on compromised computers can be used for spamming campaigns or rigging data. Criminals operating within the United States can purchase access to such a botnet for about $120. In European countries, the cost is sometimes half as much. Costs in general for hacking tools have been dropping over the years due to competition within dark web supply chains.
The best way for a business to steer clear of damage from RaaS and MaaS hacking tools is to build strong defense layers and work with an experienced team of IT experts. Don't treat cybersecurity as a lightweight issue, since it must be treated as a top priority to reduce the chances of a cyberattack. Always have a backup plan ready in case your company becomes the target of a malware attack.