Ransomware attacks have become a significant and widespread threat in the ever-evolving realm of cybersecurity. Among the various iterations of ransomware, one trend that is gaining prominence is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). This alarming development has changed the cybercrime landscape, enabling individuals with limited technical skills to carry out devastating attacks.
Traditional and double extortion ransomware attacks
Traditionally, ransomware refers to a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s files, effectively blocking access to data and applications until a ransom is paid to the attacker. However, many contemporary attackers often employ an additional strategy. Bad actors make copies of compromised data and use the threat of publishing sensitive information online unless their demands for ransom are met. This dual approach adds an additional layer of complexity and potential harm to victims.
A new model for ransomware
RaaS is the latest business model in the ransomware world. As with other “as-a-service” offerings, inexperienced hackers can now exploit on-demand tools for malicious activities. Instead of creating and deploying their own ransomware, they are given the option to pay a fee, select a target, and launch an attack using special tools provided by a service provider.
This model significantly reduces the time and cost required to execute a ransomware attack, especially when identifying new targets. In fact, a recent survey revealed that the average timeframe between a ransomware attacker breaching a network and encrypting files dropped to less than 24 hours for the first time.
The RaaS model also promotes economies of scale, as service providers are encouraged to create new lines that bypass security defenses. Broja Rodriguez, Outpost24’s Threat Hunting Team Lead, emphasized that having more customers can actually help ransomware creators market their tools.
“(Customers) spread a specifically named ransomware to many machines, creating a sense of urgency to make victims pay. a branding strategy in the criminal world.”
The customer base also means that ransomware creators can get more detailed feedback about which techniques work best in different scenarios. They get real-time intelligence on how well cybersecurity tools are adapting to new strains, and where vulnerabilities remain unplugged.
The RaaS business model
Despite its illicit nature, RaaS operates similarly to legitimate businesses. Customers, often referred to as “partners,” have a variety of payment options, including flat fees, subscriptions, or a percentage of revenue. In some cases, providers even offer to manage the process of collecting the ransom, often using untraceable cryptocurrencies, which effectively serve as payment processors.
It is also a competitive market, with user feedback on “dark web” forums. As Broja Rodriguez explains, customers are not loyal, and competition drives quality (which is bad news for victims). If a service fails:
“(Customers) don’t hesitate to try another RaaS group. Having multiple affiliations expands their options and increases their chances of profiting from their cybercriminal activities. The less failure your malware has not executing a victim will lose you affiliates, and they’ll move on to other groups with more name recognition or, at least, to where their malware is executing.”
Defend against RaaS
There are many recommendations for protecting against ransomware that emphasize the importance of business continuity. This includes maintaining reliable backups and implementing effective disaster recovery plans to minimize the impact of a successful attack. While these measures are undoubtedly valuable, it is important to note that they do not directly address the risk of data exposure.
To effectively mitigate ransomware attacks, it is important to proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities. Using penetration testing and red teaming methodologies can improve your defense. For a continuous and comprehensive approach, especially for dynamic attack surfaces such as web applications, collaboration with a pen testing as a service (PTaaS) provider is highly recommended. Outpost24’s PTaaS offers real-time insights, continuous monitoring, and expert validation, ensuring the security of your web applications at scale.
Information is a critical asset in the fight against ransomware, and Cyber Threat Intelligence plays a key role. Outpost24’s Threat Compass offers a modular approach, enabling threat detection and analysis tailored to your organization’s infrastructure. With access to the latest threat intelligence and actionable context, your security team can respond quickly and effectively, strengthening your defenses against ransomware attacks.
The bottom line
Ransomware attacks are becoming more sophisticated, resulting in more powerful, targeted, and agile threats. To effectively defend against this evolving threat, it is important to use targeted tools powered by the latest intelligence. Contact Outpost24 to help you take the necessary steps to protect your organization’s security.