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Ransomware as a Service (RaaS): A Comprehensive Guide.


Image of a computer screen displaying the skull danger symbol and a locked file.
Protect your device from RaaS!

Do you know that a ransomware attack happens once every 11 seconds? Over the years, the frequency and intensity of these attacks have increased. This is due to the increased sophistication of cybercriminals and the easy availability of Ransomware as a Service (RaaS). Cybercriminals have also come up with ingenious ways to extort money from companies, and RaaS is one of them. Needless to say, these strategies are detrimental to companies. As a result, you need to spend considerable resources to protect your networks. 

In this article, I’ll go into detail about RaaS, how it works, and some examples. Now, let’s start with the basics. 

What Is Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)?

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is offered by malicious cybercriminals who want to make some extra money with their ransomware software. Firstly, they create a ransomware tool. Then, they allow other criminals to use this software for a fee. This business model is a win-win situation for everyone. It’ll enable other criminals, even those without specialized technical knowledge, to use this tool. That way, they can steal and lock data, and extort money from businesses. As for the creators, it generates revenue without a lot of personal risks. Due to these reasons, RaaS is becoming relatively widespread today.

How Does Ransomware as a Service Work?

The creators of ransomware software use the successful Software as a Service (SaaS) model to distribute ransomware. It all starts with an individual or a group that creates ransomware software to encrypt a victim company’s data. Along with this, the creators also build an infrastructure to give others access to this ransomware through a link or a one-line script. In many cases, they also create a sign-in portal for potential customers to access this link or script for a fee.

Once ready, the RaaS creators advertise their service on the dark web. Then, interested cybercriminals will sign up through the portal. These customers pay a monthly or a one-time fee, depending on the business model, to gain access to the ransomware. Generally, this fee is paid in the form of cryptocurrency. After that, the customers use this ransomware to lock the companies’ data and get a ransom through it. 

Sometimes, the ransomware creators also use an affiliate model. Here, the RaaS customers send a certain percentage of the ransom payout to the creators. The model depends on how the ransomware is created and the creators’ business model. Now, let’s look at some examples of RaaS.

4 Examples of Ransomware as a Service

To give a better idea of ransomware as a service, here are a few examples.

  1. Ryuk: This popular ransomware targets large companies and public entities like US schools. It’s believed that two or more Russian cybercriminal cartels build and operate this RaaS. 
  2. Lock Bit: This RaaS uses an affiliate model. It has also accounted for 15% of ransomware attacks in 2022 alone. Lock Bit quickly encrypts the first 4KB of each file, as this is enough to render the rest of the file useless. 
  3. REvil/Sodinokibi: Ransomware Evil (REvil) is a Russian RaaS that would threaten to publish confidential information unless the company pays a ransom. It’s best known for attacking a supplier of Apple and stealing the schematics of upcoming products. 
  4. Egregor/Maze: This RaaS uses double extortion techniques to encrypt the data and threaten to publish sensitive information on the dark web. 

What’s the common thread here? These all infect a network or device through a phishing attack. Thus, if your company has security policies against phishing, you can greatly decrease the chances of these RaaS attacks. This is why, I’ll talk about safeguarding your company from a RaaS attack next. 

8 Practices to Prevent Ransomware-as-a-Service Attacks

You can prevent RaaS with good security policies and strategies. Here are some suggestions to safeguard your network from a possible ransomware attack.

Image of a cybercriminal holding a jolly roger flag over a laptop.
Avoid paying a ransom by using best practices.
  1. Educate your employees about phishing and ensure they don’t click unknown links 
  2. Ensure you back up your data, so you can recover it even if a ransomware attacker encrypts the data 
  3. Update all the software and devices to ensure you address all known exploits
  4. Consider using multi-factor authentication
  5. Use anti-phishing software like GFI MailEssentials to reduce the chances of attacks
  6. Segment your network to prevent the attack from quickly infiltrating other areas of your network
  7. Implement endpoint protection software that uses advanced algorithms 
  8. Invest in advanced security software to add a comprehensive layer of protection to your network 

The 6 Top Security Software

Many types of security software exist today. While some are comprehensive, others specialize in handling some critical aspects of your security. Now, I’ll discuss 6 popular and effective security software options. Some of these tools provide specialized protection. Conversely, the others provide generalized protection.

1. Email Security – GFI MailEssentials

GFI MailEssentials offers comprehensive email security. Here are some of its benefits:

  • Includes 14 anti-spam filters, four antivirus engines, and a malware scanner 
  • Blocks viruses and malware transmitted through emails 
  • Filters out spam to save server space
  • Fits well into any infrastructure because it’s compatible with many popular mail servers, including Exchange
  • Provides planning and compliance reports

Note: This tool provides specialized protection.

2. Email Security – Spam Titan

SpamTitan is an anti-spam and anti-phishing solution. Here are some of its benefits:  

  • Protects your network from a host of cyberattacks like whaling, malware, ransomware, etc. 
  • Protects your sensitive emails from internal threats by utilizing Data Leak Prevention (DLP) rules
  • Includes built-in heuristics that add to its threat protection capabilities 
  • Provides a defense-in-depth approach to strengthen your Office 365’s email security
  • Has an easy set up process
  • Comes with extensive filtering rules
  • Blocks spam

Note: This tool provides specialized protection.

3. Email Security – Proofpoint Email Security

Proofpoint email security is a versatile tool you can use on-premises or as a cloud service. What are the benefits? 

  • Protects your network from a wide range of threats
  • Detects and blocks phishing emails using Advanced BEC Defense feature 
  • Comes with granular email filters and controls to block spam and malicious content
  • Tracks any email within seconds to improve email hygiene and user awareness 
  • Includes email encryption, integrated email authentication, threat response automation, scalability, etc.

Note: This tool provides specialized protection.

4. General Security – GFI KerioControl 

GFI KerioControl is a firewall designed to protect small and medium businesses from ransomware, malware, and other malicious content. Here are some of its advantages: 

  • Comes with unified threat protection capabilities to detect threats, control the flow of traffic, and identify and block malicious content 
  • Reduces the chance of cyberattacks like RaaS, DDoS, etc. To this end, KerioControl uses web content, application filtering, and Intrusion Prevention Systems
  • Configures quickly and easy to use
  • Generates reports for internal and external auditing

Note: This tool provides generalized protection.

5. General Security – TrendMicro

TrendMicro is a unified cybersecurity platform. Here are some of its benefits:

  • Works well on any cloud infrastructure, on-premises, networks, endpoints, etc. 
  • Analyzes the existing cybersecurity practices in your company 
  • Computes a value called the Cyber Risk Index (CRI) which helps you determine the gaps in your existing security and strive to fix them
  • Integrates well with the leading service providers to offer comprehensive data protection and advanced threat intelligence
  • Reduces security-related costs

Note: This tool provides generalized protection.

6. General security – Cybereason

Cybereason is a company best known for its anti-virus software. Here are the benefits: 

  • Provides comprehensive protection against ransomware and other malicious software 
  • Analyzes petabytes of data passing through your company’s network to protect endpoints against known and unknown threats 
  • Offers automated prediction and response to serious threats that don’t require human intervention
  • Includes alerts and the context surrounding them to help teams fix the security gaps right away 

Note: This tool provides generalized protection.

So, the choice of a tool depends on your company’s setup, budget, what you want to achieve, other tools in your infrastructure, etc. 

Final Words

To sum up, Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is a growing threat. One or more individuals can create ransomware and distribute it as a service to other cybercriminals. As a result, the cybercriminals reduce their losses and vulnerability. At the same time, cybercriminals also get revenue for their ransomware. As for other cybercriminals, creating ransomware doesn’t require any advanced technical knowledge. So, it works well for all the parties involved.

As a company, you’ll have to safeguard your assets from RaaS. The tools and strategies I mentioned above can come in handy for you. 

Do you have more questions about RaaS? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

What’s the cost of a RaaS?

The cost of ransomware depends on the revenue model. In the case of a subscription model, a RaaS can start as low as about $40/month. However, it also can cost thousands of dollars. The other option is to buy an outright license. But this can run into several thousands of dollars. Some cybercriminals prefer to work on an affiliate model where they get a certain percentage of the ransom as commission. 

Which is the most destructive RaaS?

At the time of writing this piece, the fiercest RaaS is RYUK. It encrypts data on an infected system and accepts payments in Bitcoin. It’s also untraceable, impacts organizations, and can spread quickly to create a wide infection area. 

How do cybercriminals use RaaS to infect networks and devices?

Generally, cybercriminals use phishing and whaling strategies to infect networks and devices. When unsuspecting employees click on a link, the RaaS is automatically downloaded to their system. Then, it spreads quickly to infect the entire network.

What does double extortion in RaaS mean?

Double extortion means the RaaS creator/distributor encrypts the data and steals the sensitive information. Then, the creator threatens to expose it on the dark web. This way, they get to extort additional money from the victim. Sometimes, it’s also used to apply pressure on the victim. 

Can companies safeguard their networks from RaaS?

Yes, companies can use a combination of strategies and security platforms. This is to beef up their email and network security. Many advanced security tools are also available today. Thus, companies have to pick the one that best meets their setup and requirements. 

Resources

TechGenix: Newsletters

Subscribe to our newsletters for more quality content.

TechGenix: Article on How Ransomware Can Attack Microsoft 365

Read more about how ransomware can impact Microsoft 365.

TechGenix: Article on Negotiating with Ransomware Attackers

Learn to use some tips and tricks for negotiating with ransomware attackers

TechGenix: Article on Europol’s Anti-Ransomware Project

Educate yourself on Europol’s anti-ransomware project

TechGenix: Article on How Cybercriminals Use RaaS

Read more about how cybercriminals use RaaS.

TechGenix: Article on REvil Ransomware

Learn all about the REvil ransomware.

TechGenix: Article on Reducing the Risk of a Ransomware Attack

Educate yourself on reducing the risk of a ransomware attack.



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