Ransomware as a Service: The Trending Business Model for Attacks
Ransomware as a Service is one of the latest threats to prey on organizations in the digital world. It has become important to take some preventive measures.
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Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is the new and trending business model for ransomware attacks. It’s a decentralized and mostly automated mode of distribution to support the fast-growing demands of ransomware operators.
Currently, the attackers behind ransomware campaigns are constantly looking for ways to maximize profit (and minimize the effort). The RaaS framework can be used by anyone, even without any coding skills, as it provides essential tools to implement encryption and communication with command-and-control servers quickly.
Pondering what Ransomware as a Service means, how it works, and what risks it poses to users? Keep on reading.
What Is Ransomware as a Service?
Ransomware as a Service is an online platform that enables anyone to start their own business by distributing ransomware. Essentially, it’s the perfect example of the risk of insider jobs (even if the insiders are external).
However, being an “outsider” isn’t required for joining RaaS. All you need to do to get access to the RaaS backend and start your own business is pay a small fee. The other side of the company (distributing and deploying ransomware) is entirely automated by the backend, so users can focus on developing their unique strain of ransomware.
How Does RaaS Work?
Ransomware as a Service is pretty easy to understand. Once the RaaS developers release their “product,” potential affiliates purchase one (or more) copies of it. These copies are generated for each user separately, based on their unique Bitcoin address.
The backend of this service has an automated affiliate system that can handle multiple users at once. Once the affiliate purchase is completed, they can immediately start using the Ransomware and distributing it to victims.
Every affiliate has a control panel that allows them to track and monitor how many infections their strain of Ransomware had caused. They can also see the current price of their product and change some general settings (such as changing encryption keys).
Ransomware as a Service is entirely decentralized, so there is no central point of failure (no server to take down). The backend of the service only serves the purpose of managing affiliates and their products. Since each affiliate uses their unique Bitcoin address for purchasing the ransomware copy, there’s no way for law enforcement officers to connect them.
The attacker’s business model also offers the opportunity to buy traffic for distribution. Some RaaS platforms even offer affiliate networks with massive traffic that can be distributed through exploit kits or spam emails. It is something that all ransomware developers can benefit from, regardless of the actual technical capabilities of their strain.
What Risks Do RaaS Users Pose to the Public?
Ransomware as a Service is a scary concept that can quickly become a nightmare for everyone involved. See how it brings together hackers, distributors, and customers into one system?
This online platform is very similar to the underground economy. It’s perfect for cybercriminals looking for ways to maximize their profits while minimizing their efforts. Since ransomware developers can sell their creations with no coding skills required, they’ll undoubtedly start flooding the market with multiple variations of ransomware that will eventually target you and your family, friends, and colleagues.
On top of that, we must consider that these cybercriminals can’t be blocked at the same level as regular ransomware distributors (because they’re using a decentralized platform), and updating their ransomware strain is very easy. If an affiliate managed to sell hundreds of copies of RaaS ransomware, they’d surely get away with it.
Businesses and individuals worldwide are vulnerable to RaaS attacks. Still, those who live in areas with high levels of corruption and poor cybersecurity practices are especially at risk. Also, people who regularly use pirated software or P2P sharing services are at a greater risk of getting their files encrypted by RaaS ransomware.
What Should You Do to Protect Yourself?
Ransomware as a Service may seem like an incredible deal for cybercriminals, but there’s no need to panic. There are various precautions that everyone must take to protect themselves and their data:
1. Keep Your Data Backed Up
If you want to avoid the dangers of Ransomware, keep your data backed up on an external drive or remote storage (cloud backup services included). This way, if a ransomware strain encrypts your files and demands a ransom, you can restore them in no time.
2. Don’t Open Dangerous Files
The golden rule should always be on everyone’s mind: If you don’t know what it is, don’t open it. Keep your anti-virus software up to date and only download files from official sources.
3. Avoid Getting Phished
Ransomware often comes through phishing emails, and if you get tricked into opening such a message, it may result in a ransomware infection. Make sure to watch out for poor grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as links that point to unknown websites. If you want to make sure that an email is genuine, contact the company directly through a verified email address.
4. Don’t Access Illegal Torrents and Streaming Websites
It may seem like a no-brainer for some of you, but there are people out there who still do this regularly. You should avoid using P2P sharing software whenever possible, because it’s infamous for spreading malware. On top of that, you should also stay away from illegal torrents and streaming websites because they may contain ransomware or other types of viruses.
5. Take Security Into Your Own Hands
Paying the ransom is not the best way to keep your files safe, but cybercriminals don’t see it that way. If you want to protect yourself from RaaS ransomware, you need to invest in good cybersecurity practices like the ones listed above.
Ransomware as a Service may seem scary at first, but it can be stopped with proper protection software and precautions before causing any damage.
As you can see, there are certain precautions that everyone should take to protect themselves against ransomware. It’s all about being intelligent and vigilant, especially on the internet.
Now that we’ve seen what Ransomware as a Service is and the dangers it may present, we can conclude that you shouldn’t take your data for granted. After all, it’s not only hackers who are interested in compromising our privacy; governments do it, too (look at PRISM).
That’s why you shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of investing in good cybersecurity practices. There’s no need to get paranoid, but you should know that there are people out there who want to get their hands on your data and information, so don’t let them!
Remember that Ransomware as a Service has been designed to work with custom ransomware strains, which is why we’re bound to see more of them in the future. Therefore, it’s essential to follow these safety guidelines and regularly back up your data.
Published at DZone with permission of Naimisha Raj. See the original article here.
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