Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) Explained
What is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)? Ransomware attacks involve criminals encrypting files on users' computers and demanding a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) refers to a subscription-based ransomware system, one that enables even inexperienced cyber criminals to launch ransomware attacks.
RaaS programs eliminate the need for attackers to write malicious code. As a result, online criminals who lack the technical expertise to develop ransomware on their own frequently use RaaS. Anyone can use RaaS by simply signing up for a subscription. This makes RaaS similar to traditional Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, which enable people to use prebuilt software for a monthly fee.
Is Ransomware-as-a-Service Legal?
RaaS is illegal. Participating in any campaign involving a ransomware attack is strictly forbidden. This includes purchasing ransomware kits from the dark web, hacking into a company network, stealing, encrypting, and downloading system files, as well as demanding payment—via cryptocurrency or any other form—from victims.
How Does the Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) Model Work?
How does Ransomware-as-a-Service work? RaaS services use a couple of different revenue structures. Service providers may charge a one-time licensing fee or a flat monthly membership fee. A RaaS customer can choose the kind of virus they want after creating an account and paying the initial fee, typically using bitcoin.
Attackers then launch their ransomware campaign, typically using phishing and social engineering attacks, to spread the malware and infect target systems. These techniques cost less than paying for a zero-day exploit or getting access via a backdoor to get ransomware into the victim’s system.
Once the malware has been run, the victim's machine is rendered useless and the data is encrypted. At that point, the attacker displays a message on at least one of the victim’s screens with instructions on how to send the ransom.
For attackers who run into problems or are unable to get the malware to function properly, RaaS companies even provide 24/7 customer care. Their services usually include discussion boards where ransomware hackers can ask questions and get answers from ransomware designers or providers. Many ransomware developers also include detailed instructions on how to use their ransomware to carry out an assault, making it easy for even non-techy criminals to successfully execute attacks.
Examples of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)
Many of the most well-known ransomware criminals are also the top RaaS providers. The following are some of the most prevalent and harmful Ransomware-as-a-Service examples:
- REvil/Sodinokibi: REvil is a particularly virulent strain of ransomware, competing with Ryuk when it comes to attack severity. REvil affiliates have been found to infect computers by taking advantage of unpatched Citrix and Pulse Secure VPNs, both of which are common networking tools that enable organizations and people to share information.
- Egregor/Maze: Maze was the first ransomware to use "double extortion," which entails stealing data and threatening to release it if the ransom is not paid. While Maze's operations have now ended, similar ransomware versions, such as Egregor, continue to operate and use the RaaS affiliate model.
- Ryuk: Ryuk is one of the most common and costly ransomware strains in use today. According to estimates, Ryuk is to blame for nearly a third of ransomware infections and has raked in an estimated $150 million from victims.
- LockBit: Although LockBit was first launched in September 2019, it has only lately joined the RaaS market. LockBit ransomware quickly encrypts the systems of big businesses, making it harder for IT teams to find and get rid of it before it harms their system.
These are only a few examples of ransomware that use the RaaS model. Other ransomware organizations collaborate with partners using a RaaS framework, but due to their potency and popularity, the above ransomware strains have attracted a bigger number of cyber criminals.
5 Pitfalls of Ransomware-as-a-Service
RaaS makes it easier than ever to launch a ransomware attack. Here are some of the most significant dangers an organization may face as a result of a RaaS attack.
1. Compliance Issues
An assault will suggest that your security system is weak since most ransomware attacks target security flaws and gaps in applications and websites. Additionally, you may have to pay steep fines for breaking any of the compliance standards that demand a certain level of security.
After a ransomware attack, your organization’s network may become prone to bugs and glitches that can bring operations to a halt. This affects your customers' ability to use your services. If they can no longer purchase or use your products, they may lose confidence in your dependability and professionalism.
3. Lost Data
It is possible to experience mission-critical and irreplaceable data loss—both during and after a ransomware assault. The chances of never getting your data back, especially if you do not have a backup, are very high.
4. Payments Made to Attackers
The ransom is usually expensive, and the perpetrators may even make multiple demands. Ransom payments will not only affect your bottom line but also expose your infrastructure's security flaws to stakeholders, including insurers. Even if you have cyber insurance to cover the cost of an attack, your premiums may go up in subsequent years as a result.
5. Credibility with Customers
Customers may switch brands if they do not trust a company's ability to protect their data. When you fall victim to a RaaS attack, all of your data—including your customers'—belongs to the attacker, at least temporarily. This can cause customers to lose faith in your security system and ultimately bring their business elsewhere.
The Future of Ransomware-as-a-Service
The potential harm that cyber criminals can cause has increased in severity, particularly in light of DarkSide's attack on Colonial Pipeline. Attacks on vital infrastructure are on the rise, and with RaaS, the number of cyber criminals that want to replicate the magnitude of the damage is likely to grow.
Also, RaaS providers are likely to increase the sophistication of their attack tools. For example, RaaS attackers can now target different disk partitions. This means even if an organization partitions its hard drives to hide mission-critical data from attackers, RaaS-associated hackers may still be able to access and encrypt it.
4 Ways to protect Against RaaS Attacks
Fortunately, by taking the following precautions, you can develop a strategy to prevent ransomware. In this way, you can reduce—if not totally avoid—the impact of an attack on your organization.
1. Regular Data Backups
A RaaS attack often focuses on confidential and private data, and RaaS attackers will not have as much power if you perform frequent data backups. Hackers infiltrate your systems and then demand a ransom in exchange for not stealing or releasing your data. As a precaution against RaaS, back up your data on external hard drives instead of exclusively relying on cloud storage.
2. Regularly Update Software
Maintaining the most recent software versions is another effective approach against RaaS attacks. Update not just the applications you use to run your business but also your antivirus protection. Cyber criminals take advantage of outdated systems because software updates/upgrades exist to address security vulnerabilities and fix known bugs.
3. Ongoing Training for Staff
RaaS attackers deceive victims through phishing emails containing harmful links and attachments. Employees should know to avoid any suspicious message, particularly from an unknown sender. Take the time to teach your staff how to recognize, report, and quarantine potentially harmful messages. Conduct regular training on RaaS techniques, including social engineering and phishing.
4. Endpoint Protection
In addition to keeping cybersecurity solutions updated, deploy endpoint protection and threat detection technology. These can help ensure your defenses are active around the clock. Many applications use the latest in threat technology to protect your endpoints, such as the Fortinet suite of solutions.