Ransomware-as-a-Service: The Black Hat Industry is More Professional Than You Think

Threat actors are banding together in a collaborative cybercriminal effort known as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a subscription-based business […]

By zivaro|February 10, 2022|0 Comments
black hat graphic

Threat actors are banding together in a collaborative cybercriminal effort known as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS).

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a subscription-based business model that sees coders build ransomware and sell to cybercriminals on the dark web. Affiliates buy or rent the ransomware tools and execute attacks on vulnerable companies, encrypting data before demanding a ransom payment for its return.

The world is full of heroes and villains. In the movies, dastardly perpetrators of crime are easily identified by a scar, evil eyes, or dark clothing. But when it comes to the real world—especially on the Internet—those indicators of ill intent are much harder to spot. 

Cybercriminals who perform illegal activities for personal gain are often referred to as “black hats.” Inspired by the bad guys in big screen-westerns, the term “black hat industry” refers to the recent phenomenon of these cybercriminals forming what amounts to a virtual criminal empire. Deploying ransomware and other underhanded cyber-assault tactics, cybercriminals are ruthless in their pursuit of your vulnerable data and valuable information. 

One way black hats have begun working together is through Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), a cottage industry of interconnected hackers that target operating systems of a vast array of companies. Let’s dive deep into RaaS and learn how it works and what you can do to guard against a RaaS attack.

What is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)?

As you probably know, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data on a targeted device. Through the encryption process, the malware scrambles the user’s data to be unreadable. As a result, organizations end up paying hefty ransoms to retrieve access to their data. That’s right; ransomware refers to actual ransom money that organizations send to cybercriminals in exchange for a decryption key.

RaaS transforms those dirty tactics into a “legitimate business.” As much a business model as it is malware, RaaS sees threat actors take their ransomware and sell it on the dark web—this effort models the same approach as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). 

How Do RaaS Attacks Work?

In RaaS, cybercriminals intent on launching an attack buy or rent the ransomware code from other cybercriminals who write and deploy the malicious code under an affiliate program. The ransomware authors provide technical leadership and step-by-step instructions on how to launch the attack. Some RaaS setups are even equipped with a platform that allows both parties to view the status of the attack on a real-time dashboard.

These attackers are so brazen that they even advertise their RaaS on the dark web, much like SaaS and other service providers might promote their companies as pop-up ads on numerous websites. And cybercriminals are quick to latch onto these RaaS efforts, as there’s a lot of money to be taken. 

How Does RaaS Make Money?

The ransomware business model, especially under the auspices of the greater RaaS community, generates a staggering amount of money for cybercriminals. Like we said earlier, RaaS is a business—and business is booming. According to reports, total ransomware costs are expected to exceed $20 billion in 2021. And as cybercrime tends to beget more cybercrime, that’s a figure that will only increase.

When a RaaS attack is successful, the ransom money is divided between the provider and the attacker. For the involved parties, it’s a quick buck through an attack that’s hard to trace, while the authors of the code rake in even more cash when they roll out these pre-packaged digital schemes to multiple attackers. 

What are Top Known Ransomware-as-a-Service Threats?

Since these cybercriminals flaunt their services for all to see on the dark web, word has gotten out about how they refer to themselves. Here are some of the biggest RaaS variant threats hidden in plain sight:

  • Satan
  • Netwalker
  • Cerber
  • Egregor
  • Hostman
  • WannaCry
  • Philadelphia
  • MacRansom
  • Atom
  • FLUX
  • Tox
  • REvil
  • Ryuk
  • Encryptor
  • Fakben
  • ORX Locker
  • Alpha Locker
  • Hidden Tear
  • Janus
  • Ransom3

Is Your Company at Risk of a Ransomware Attack?

Cybercriminals do not discriminate. If there is a buck to be made via underhanded activities, you can bet that they will make a concerted effort to get their hands on your data and, ultimately, your hard-earned money.

Simply put: if your organization has valuable data on the web, you are at risk of a ransomware attack from RaaS providers and their affiliates. From large enterprises such as credit card companies and credit reporting agencies to retail operations and small businesses, everyone is at risk for a cyberattack at all times. 

How Can I Prevent RaaS Attacks?

Attack mitigation strategies require buy-in from all of your team members—nothing short of an all-hands-on-deck approach will keep cyber criminals at bay. Fortunately, there are several dynamic approaches a company can take to guard against attacks from individual bad actors or a black hat conglomerate of connected RaaS perpetrators. 

  1. Backup Your Data

Ransomware targets a company’s sensitive and important data. Therefore, it’s crucial to back up your data. Multiple copies ensure your data ensures your ability to protect your business and keep day-to-day operations humming along. Utilize external drives or cloud servers as an extra layer of security. 

  1. Know The Signs of Suspicious Links/Attachments

Phishing emails and exploit kits are two of the favored tools of ransomware cybercriminals. Avoiding suspicious links and never clicking on unknown links keeps you from being an unwilling target of cybercrime. If you have anti-malware programs at hand, you can scan attachments before attempting to open them. 

  1. Update Your Software

Much like burglars are less likely to break into a home with a state-of-the-art security system, cybercriminals would instead go after a company using an old, out-of-date data security system. Keeping all of your software up to date safeguards against weak spots in your system, puts you in a better position to defend yourself against emerging cyber threats. Every software update comes packaged with new bug fixes, security patches, and more. Implement these updates as often as possible. 

  1. Install A Security Suite

Anti-malware software protects from malicious RaaS threats. These smart tools are calibrated to shield data and operate on advanced algorithms to detect and clear ransomware threats. It’s a set-it and forget-it protective maneuver, working automatically in the background to protect you against malware threats 24/7.

  1. Train Your Team

Recognizing a cyber threat is the first step to preventing a cyber threat. When team members can spot those suspicious emails, know when to update software, and backup data, it protects the company at large. Security awareness training turns your crew into the heroes of your company, arming them with the tools and tech needed to defend against the bad guys.  

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