Ransomware isn’t a new threat to the cyber world as its traces goes back to more than a decade now. It has affected users around the world on mass level duping millions of dollars in ransom and causing a serious threat to data security. But what makes ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) distribution model reprehensible is, it has multifold the cyber threat to new levels. It has given apprentice cybercriminals a new tool to threaten the world. With RaaS kits, you need not to write some sophisticated malicious codes to cause damage or eventually to earn millions of dollars in ransom. Its franchise-like deployment model is making things easy for cybercriminals. Let’s discuss more about it here.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of malicious software that encrypts or lock the user out of his/her system. It further block access to files and data on system. Here, user could regain access to its data with decryption key provided once ransom is paid. There are two types of ransomware:
Encrypting Ransomware: It incorporates latest and sophisticated encryption algorithms to encrypt user’s data. It is designed to block user’s access to its system files and data. Here, ransom is demanded by malware attacker to provide a decryption key to decrypt the blocked data. Examples of encrypting ransomware include, Locky, CryptoLocker, CryptoWall etc.
Locker Ransomware: It locks the user out of his/her system/operating system, making it impossible for user to access the data on system. Here, attackers don’t encrypt the files but they simply lock the system. Further, they demand ransom to help unlock the infected system. Some Locker ransomware versions even infect Master Boot Record (MBR) of victim’s system causing serious trouble. Examples of locker ransomware include, Winlocker, Police-themed Ransomware etc.
What is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)?
Taking note from software-as-a-service (SaaS) playbook, ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) has enabled even the novice cybercriminals to launch some deceitful and sophisticated cyber-attacks. In Fact, RaaS has lowered the barriers to enter cybercrime world and it has allowed wider swathe of cybercriminals to launch some profitable attacks. You can buy a RaaS package from Dark Web and launch ransomware with ease even if you have less technical skills. Technically, it allows any user to buy a service to attack a target.
How does Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) work?
Further, you can take RaaS as a franchise-like deployment model where you share your knowledge of coding malicious codes to earn some quick bucks. Here, cybercriminal (service provider) writes and generates a code to a ransomware and sell it to aspiring cybercriminal (user) who have purchased the package with intent to hack. The package even includes step-by-step instructions to help user launch the attack along with dashboard to monitor the status of the attack in real-time.
You can see RaaS providers advertising their products on hacking forums, offering easy customization features and many more enticements to drive subscriptions to launch more and more attacks to earn a huge amount. Here, ransomware encrypts and locks the victim’s system and provided with a decoder only he agrees to pay the ransom. Further, this ransom is split into cybercriminals (servicer provider & user or developer and attacker) into certain ratio. You can even see cybercriminals (service providers) offering extra percentage when their services are referred to others.
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Why Cybercriminals Choose Ransowmare-as-a-Service(RaaS) Model?
- It is comparatively cheap to purchase.
- You need not to write sophisticated codes.
- Even the novice user can launch an attack with ease.
- Notorious for earning some hefty sums.
- Easy to launch ransomware to unwitting victims.
- It incentivizes a higher volume of attacks and higher ransom requests.
Common Types of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) Operations
Philadelphia: It is considered to be one of the most sophisticated and market-savvy RaaS cases. It offers more personized options to earn huge amount. Its creators run their business as a legitimate software company while offering their different products and services. It sells Philadelphia on a Dark Web and offers various introduction video on YouTube explaining how this RaaS kit works.
Cerber: Cerber is again a widely distributed RaaS kit that accounts one-fourth of ransomware activity in recent times. It usually spread through phishing emails and exploit kits to earn millions of dollars. Cerber attacks victims with RSA and RC4 algorithms to encrypt their data and important files. It even works offline where there is no network thus disconnecting from network may not help user from further infection to device.
Satan: Satan is free and easy to deploy encryption variant that is said to offer users to create their own ransomware in less than a minute. This user-friendly RaaS package works on intuitive GUI and allows criminals to customize various settings effortlessly. It offers various tools to create and distribute code and translate the ransom note into different languages. Further, it offers dashboard to help affiliates track the status of the attack.
Atom: Atom was previously known as Shark, offers numerous customization features to change file formats using Atom GUI. It offers higher share (80%) in ransom to affiliates. Further, it creates a unique tracking ID for individual build code to allow real-time monitoring of attacks. It even claims to keep on updating its source code daily to avoid AV detection.
Hostman: Hostman is relatively new RaaS encryption-style package that includes worm capabilities. It cost much higher than comparative products and offers range of features. It offers features like leaving the affiliate free to pursue other victims, auto-decryption, and range of other features. This is new entrant yet it causes a grave threat to the cyber world.
Most Common Medium of Attack
The most common medium of RaaS attacks is through phishing emails and exploit kits. Using RaaS packages, cybercriminals send bulk phishing emails to attack users. This is anyways most common style of getting quick and effective success.
Future of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) Model
Ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) as a business model has succeeded in its account as it enables aspiring cybercriminals to launch sophisticated attacks on victims with ease and comfort of their home. It has reduced the cumbersome work of coding malicious codes as it offers ready-to-use subscription or franchise-based model. This illicit affiliate marketing business model offers a leverage to like-minded cybercriminals to earn some quick money by bypassing existing security mechanism. Though there are limited RaaS kit creators today still the scope is huge and open. We believe this monster has legs to run wild for quite a long time.
Backup Data: This is a panacea for all your system related worries that may cause data loss. Either, if you are facing sudden system crash, app failure, malware attack, hardware malfunctioning, natural calamities or any possible threat to your data security, this simple data backup solution will help you deal with all. Keep data backup on an external drive on cloud servers or via another medium to access second copy of your recent data when required. It will also help you recover accidentally deleted data effortlessly. While using data backup method look for encryption services for better data protection.
Disable Macros: You can find auto-execution of macros turned off by default on your Windows system. It is done by Microsoft as an important security measure. Despite that, if you have macros enabled on your system than it is time to disable them. You can even find various malware persuading you to turn on macros, but simply don’t do it!
Be Careful About Unsolicited Attachments: Do not ever open suspicious attachments if you are not sure whether you were supposed to receive something like this. Further, for other unknown emails better ignore them if you are in dilemma. As most virus threats are spread through phishing emails it is important to stay alert from such email attachments.
Keep Software Up-to-Date: Malware attackers tend to exploit security loopholes in your system software to infect your device. To deal with these issues, developers keep on releasing various updates for their software with necessary bug fixes and security patches. Thus, you should be proactive while installing all such software updates.
Ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) has definitely opened a new horizon for cybercriminals to target victims with comparative ease and comfort of their home. Here, they are not required to spent days & months to write a malicious code to target victims instead they get it prepared at their perusal. Here, they are required to spend few hundred dollars (sometimes free) to earn immense returns in ransom paid by victims. Though RaaS is new and notorious still it is attracting cybercriminals around the world. We suggest you follow all necessary precautions including data backup to help reduce harmful effects of this cyber threat.
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