Ransomware remains one of the most disruptive cyber threats facing businesses today. But beyond just ransomware, a newer threat known as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is now gaining steam.
Moving forward, businesses need to account for RaaS in their cybersecurity plans to ensure they aren’t subjected to the extreme financial damages that RaaS attacks can result in.
Traditionally, ransomware refers to malware that encrypts an organization’s data until a ransom payment is made. However, deploying ransomware requires technical expertise to code the malware, distribute it to victims, negotiate extortion payments, and more.
Ransomware-as-a-Service lowers barriers for cybercriminals by allowing users to essentially “rent” ransomware infrastructure, resources, and services rather than build campaigns themselves.
There are two primary RaaS models:
- Affiliate Programs: Developers create ransomware toolkits and open them to affiliates who execute attacks and receive a percentage of profits.
- Subscription Models: Cybercriminals pay a subscription fee to access hosted ransomware infrastructure they can use to customize and deploy attacks.
In both cases, RaaS allows less technical users to leverage sophisticated ransomware variants without needing coding or distribution skills. RaaS executives handle tasks like negotiating payments and money laundering, leaving affiliates to focus on maximizing infections.
RaaS Risks to Organizations
The RaaS model provides attackers with many advantages that amplify risks, including:
- Access to advanced ransomware: Affiliates utilize sophisticated, constantly updated ransomware variants without needing technical skills.
- Scalability: RaaS networks manage ransom negotiations and payments, allowing affiliates to execute more attacks.
- Anonymity: Bitcoin payments and technical infrastructure make attack attribution difficult.
- Customization: Many RaaS offerings allow affiliates to tailor ransomware to evade defenses.
- Limited overhead: The subscription model eliminates upfront development costs for affiliates.
These factors lead to ransomware campaigns that are more prolific. Attacks are also stealthier and equipped to bypass traditional security measures.
However, the ultimate goal of disruption and extortion remains unchanged. Consequences for impacted businesses can include:
- Data and Systems Encrypted: Core files, databases, and systems may be rendered inaccessible.
- Business Disruption: Outages can halt operations for days or weeks while recovery occurs.
- Financial Loss: Income is reduced, and ransom payments may be required for data access.
- Reputational Harm: Customers lose trust after a breach becomes public.
Without contingency plans, small businesses especially can face bankruptcy. But companies of all sizes are critically vulnerable.
Protecting Against RaaS Threats
Combating RaaS attacks requires proactive cybersecurity measures, including making sure your systems are up-to-date, installing anti-ransomware software, and implementing access controls.
Keep Systems Patched and Updated
Unfixed software vulnerabilities are ransomware’s best friend. Regularly patch operating systems, applications, and firmware.
Install Anti-Ransomware Software
Specialized anti-ransomware programs can detect malware behavior and halt encryption.
Enable Automated Backups
Maintain current backups of all critical data and systems offline. Test restoring to ensure viability.
Implement Access Controls
Least privilege and need-to-know access prevent lateral ransomware movement if systems are breached.
Develop an Incident Response Plan
Document procedures for investigation, remediation, communication, and reporting to ensure effective crisis response.
Train staff to identify social engineering and report suspicious activity. Empower them to make security a shared responsibility.
Consider Cyber Insurance
Policies can cover ransom payments (in some cases), business interruptions, and restoration costs to ensure business continuity.
Leveraging an MSP or IT security partner for technical measures and guidance can provide additional protection and rapid response.
Email Security Essentials
Make sure to implement strong email security practices, such as:
- Using phishing simulation tools to improve employee reporting
- Enabling spam filters, DMARC authentication, and email scanning
- Being wary of unsolicited attachments and links
Securing Web Applications
Follow these steps to secure your web applications:
- Perform vulnerability scanning and penetration testing
- Implement Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)
- Utilize multi-factor authentication
- Follow secure development practices like input validation and encryption
Protecting Remote Access Points
To protect remote access points, businesses should:
- Require VPNs and avoid exposing RDP directly to the internet
- Use zero-trust access models and microsegmentation to limit lateral movement
- Enforce multi-factor authentication and limit ports
- Deploy endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools
RaaS networks will continue innovating new tactics and tools to extract payments. But by cultivating organizational resilience and cyber readiness, companies can adapt to meet modern ransomware realities.
Get a Free Risk Assessment
RaaS has propelled ransomware by lowering barriers for less sophisticated actors. Both affiliate programs and subscription models make dangerous malware accessible.
As ransomware continues evolving, organizations must remain proactive and diligent and regularly assess risks. Cyber insurance and partnerships with IT security specialists provide further support when facing extortion threats.
KSA partners Coalition offers a free cyber risk assessment, providing an overview of your risks and vulnerabilities. In addition to highlighting your vulnerabilities, the assessment includes a summary of recommended actions to help you mitigate your risk. Coalition also offers access to trained cybersecurity experts who can answer any questions you may have about the assessment or the recommendations you are provided.