What is Ransomware as a Service RaaS?

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

Cybersecurity professionals can reduce the effects of RaaS by employing measures like multi-factor authentication and network segmentation, in addition to endpoint detection and response solutions.

Additionally, organizations should implement phishing training to prepare employees for ransomware attacks and retain an experienced incident response (IR) retainer to stay vigilant against cyberattacks.

What is Ransomware as a Service RaaS?

Ransomware strikes fear into cybersecurity professionals. Just the mention of ransomware conjures images of business disruptions, customer outrage, damaged brand reputation and significant financial losses.

On top of this, ransomware attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, necessitating cybersecurity professionals to implement proactive protection measures, including malware detection and response solutions, endpoint protection software and backups in order to counteract them.

These threat detection technologies use advanced machine learning algorithms to quickly recognize ransomware attacks that bypass traditional security controls, known as MDR. MDR involves analyzing logs, network traffic and behavior anomalies to spot hidden threats that have previously gone undetected.

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is an increasingly popular cybercrime model that allows attackers to rent or purchase malware for a monthly fee, similar to software as a Service (SaaS) models but without technical expertise needed for hosting SaaS programs. Ransomware as a Service operators create and distribute malware kits designed to steal user data and encrypt files for sale via underground forums across the dark web.

How does RaaS work?

Cybercriminals can subscribe to lists of stolen credentials, rent botnets and buy banking trojans in order to execute their attacks. Recently, ransomware attackers can pay an annual subscription fee and gain access to an attack kit with all the tools necessary for sophisticated cyberattacks.

The ransomware kit contains multiple variations of ransomware exploits designed to gain entry to victim systems. Cybercriminals will typically target certain industries such as healthcare or finance for their attacks due to higher ransom demands from these sectors – making these more lucrative targets for cybercrime attacks.

RaaS kits can be purchased either through monthly subscription models, affiliate models (wherein an additional monthly fee plus percentage of profits) or pure profit sharing models. They may even be found for sale illegally via dark web marketplaces.

Threat actor groups build RaaS operations to lower the barrier of entry for would-be ransomware authors and can then deploy an attack campaign more broadly by recruiting affiliates who will distribute ransomware kits across multiple systems, potentially expanding their reach and possibly leading to additional victims.

1. Monthly subscription

RaaS provides hackers without prior coding knowledge the opportunity to engage in cyberattacks and reap significant profits. Instead of purchasing and deploying costly malware tools, cybercriminals simply log onto Dark Web portals as affiliates and launch sophisticated ransomware attacks with just the click of a button.

Not surprisingly, ransomware as a service (RaaS) has attracted many threat actors. Notable RaaS operators include Hive (North Korean Lazarus Group responsible for massive 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline) and Ryuk, which has attacked businesses, healthcare organizations, and non-profits alike.

RaaS providers not only offer malware to their customers, but they also offer support services, such as 24/7 customer service and community forums where attackers can discuss strategies. Step-by-step guides may also be provided on how to use the malware. Some providers prefer clients with proven track records who target large targets while others will accept everyone who pays a monthly fee and participates in profit sharing schemes.

2. One-time fee

Ransomware-as-a-service reduces the barrier to entry for cybercrime. Skilled ransomware developers create software with high chances of penetration success and low likelihood of discovery, then sell or lease it to threat actors lacking the time or skills to develop their own malware. Attack kits may be purchased or leased monthly subscription fees or at once for one-off payments.

Developer and affiliate split profits from each successful ransomware attack, with the former responsible for developing and maintaining ransomware code, creating and maintaining a customer portal and maintaining backend infrastructure to run campaigns.

RaaS operators assess the profit potential of potential targets before selecting one type of ransomware like Dharma to offer to its users, for example Dharma which has been used since 2016 to gain money from businesses across various industries and even disrupt critical services like utilities, transportation and banking that customers rely on.

3. Affiliate models

RaaS offers cybercriminals an easier path into cybercrime by offering pre-built ransomware packages, making their attacks scalable and earning them more money while decreasing personal risk as they no longer perform these attacks themselves.

Skilled ransomware operators create software with high rates of penetration success and low risks of discovery, then market it to affiliates on underground forums. They may offer bundles, volume discounts and customer support services – similar to what legitimate SaaS providers advertise their solutions.

Once an affiliate purchases their ransomware package, they are ready to begin attacks. Most often they sign in through a payment portal provided by RaaS providers and pay a percentage of their profits back as fees.

Some RaaS operators provide full-service ransomware campaigns, managing everything from code development and delivery through payment portal management and customer support, making tracking cybercriminals much harder.

4. Profit sharing

RaaS allows cybercriminals to launch ransomware attacks using pre-built packages without needing coding expertise, making the attacks much faster and simpler to launch. These kits can be found on dark web portals, complete with onboarding documentation, step-by-step guides, customer support features and profit sharing schemes that reward affiliates a share of each ransom payment from victims.

Cybercriminals have found an entryway into this business model of cybercrime with ransomware-as-a-Service; now lowering the barriers for entry. Now they can make money off unsuspecting victims who fall prey to Locky, Goliath, Shark and Stampado variants that extort ransom payments by locking out files until payment of a ransom has been made.

As more cybercriminals join the RaaS ecosystem, attacks are becoming ever more sophisticated. Many are designed to interfere with businesses and critical infrastructure by shutting down power systems or disrupting transportation routes; one notable instance was 2021 DarkSide RaaS attack against Colonial Pipeline which resulted in major disruption of fuel supplies along the East Coast.

How the RaaS Model Works?

Ransomware-as-a-service follows a subscription model similar to many other services and products on the market. Malware kits rented to criminals allow them to launch attacks using techniques such as phishing or software exploits before extorting victims and making payments back to ransomware as a service operators.

RaaS providers retain a percentage of profits made from ransomware-as-a-service sales, creating an economically advantageous business for themselves and incentivizing them to develop more effective and evasive ransomware variants to maximize their share. RaaS operators often test their malware on live targets before providing feedback about its efficacy to other criminals who use their software.

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) has proven immensely popular with cybercriminals because it allows them to launch attacks quickly with minimal skill or effort required, leading us to witness more attacks by new threat actors thanks to RaaS tools which reduce barriers of entry for criminals.

Ransomware As a Service

RaaS provides cybercriminals without programming expertise with the means to execute sophisticated ransomware attacks without needing assistance or instruction from experts in their field. Most RaaS providers also offer support services and step-by-step guides for getting started quickly.

Some RaaS operators provide marketing campaigns and social engineering tactics specifically targeted towards victims. Their tactics seek out healthcare, education, financial institutions and all levels of government in order to maximize monetization potential.

Protecting against RaaS

Ransomware-as-a-service poses an immediate and significant threat to businesses by lowering the bar for cyber attacks. Criminals now have ready access to malicious malware and infrastructure they can use in extortion schemes without needing specialist knowledge of coding languages or technical knowhow to execute attacks successfully.

Full-service RaaS operators typically provide their customers with all of the resources required to launch an attack, from ransomware code and victims signup portals, customer service support, back end infrastructure such as payment processing servers to customer service support.

Organizations can protect themselves against RaaS by adhering to best practices for cybersecurity, such as regularly backing up data and installing phishing protection solutions like Ping Identity’s that block attackers from using stolen passwords from one site to access another, along with multifactor authentication (MFA). Furthermore, training employees about what emails to beware can reduce phishing attacks that are an increasingly prevalent ransomware attack vector.

1. Maintaining backups

Although cyber attacks cannot always be completely avoided, companies can make it harder for hackers to succeed by taking proactive measures. For instance, conducting backups and storing them offsite in order to fend off ransomware attacks.

Skilled ransomware operators build software with a high chance of penetration success and low probability of detection, then market their kit on dark web forums by offering bundle offers, volume discounts, technical support services and community forums that attract potential buyers.

RaaS kits may include additional services, such as automated spamming tools, subscribed lists of stolen credentials, botnets or banking trojans – with revenue models similar to SaaS: affiliates can pay one-time or monthly subscription fees or receive a percentage of profits they generate as payments for services they use.

To guard against ransomware infections, businesses should implement multifactor authentication systems which offer additional layers of security. They should limit access to systems and databases only to those who truly need it and train staff on how to recognize phishing emails which often lead to ransomware infections.

2. Cybersecurity training

Subscription services have quickly become popular for everything from movies to wine to underwear, giving rise to an industry of malware kits designed to enable cybercriminals with minimal programming knowledge to launch ransomware attacks without incurring large costs in terms of deployment infrastructure, encryption mechanisms and payment processing fees. RaaS operators provide access to these kits in exchange for a small fee while affiliates share profits collected from victims as ransom payments.

RaaS operations have become a favorite of threat actors due to their ease of use and potential profit potential. Malware typically delivered through phishing attacks, exploit kits and public password databases is usually distributed this way.

Attackers have become more selective in selecting targets to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies and ensure operational continuity, leading to higher ransom payouts. To combat this threat, organizations must implement cybersecurity training with an MDR solution such as Cortex XDR for effective protection.

3. Implementing access controls

RaaS is based on the software-as-a-service model, providing cybercriminals access to malware tools online for attack use. RaaS can be purchased either for an upfront cost, monthly subscription fee, or affiliate programs that split profits.

Criminals now find it easier and less time intensive to develop and peddle ransomware using RaaS solutions, making the task both less risky and time intensive for themselves. Furthermore, even less experienced cybercriminals can use sophisticated attacks with RaaS solutions. Some RaaS operators have begun becoming increasingly selective in selecting victims; particularly high-profile ones. To maximize profitability for themselves and maximize revenue of attacks performed using their service.

Cybercriminals have recently targeted healthcare, education, and other critical sectors with ransom demands in an attempt to make a substantial ransom payout. In order to do this, cybercriminals often exfiltrate data prior to encrypting systems and threaten publishing stolen files on platforms like leak sites and Telegram channels if their victims do not pay the ransom demand. To defend against such schemes, cybersecurity teams must remain vigilant by instituting access controls on third-party users that offer more granular control options than standard access controls would.

Final Thoughts

Ransomware can be an enormously damaging threat for businesses of any kind, disrupting operations, compromising brand image and leading to financial losses. Even the mere mention of ransomware causes anxiety among cybersecurity professionals.

Ransomware-as-a-service operates similar to legitimate software-as-a-service (SaaS), with hackers offering ready-made malware tools on the dark web to other cybercriminals for rent, making entry easier into cyberattacks for even inexperienced hackers.

Cybercriminals often utilize chat-based services to engage victims and negotiate ransom amounts with them. Once an agreement has been made, attackers often launder Bitcoin payments so as to obscure ownership and reduce their risk of getting caught.

Organizations can protect themselves from ransomware by adopting comprehensive technology and cybersecurity strategies that incorporate multi-factor authentication and network segmentation, as well as working with an incident response (IR) firm that offers retainers so they can detect threats quickly when they arise; this helps avoid paying hefty sums of cryptocurrency to unlock vital systems and data.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.