Ransomware-as-a-Service: The Growing Threat You Can’t Ignore


Ransomware attacks have become a significant and pervasive threat in the ever-evolving realm of cybersecurity. Among the various iterations of ransomware, one trend that has gained prominence is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). This alarming development has transformed the cybercrime landscape, enabling individuals with limited technical expertise to carry out devastating attacks.

Traditional and double extortion ransomware attacks

Traditionally, ransomware refers to a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s files, effectively blocking access to data and applications until a ransom is paid to the attacker. However, more contemporary attackers often employ an additional strategy. The bad actors create copies of the compromised data and leverage the threat of publishing sensitive information online unless their demands for ransom are met. This dual approach adds an extra layer of complexity and potential harm to the victims.

A new model for ransomware

RaaS is the latest business model in the world of ransomware. Similar to other “as-a-service” offerings, inexperienced hackers can now take advantage of on-demand tools for malicious activities. Instead of creating and deploying their own ransomware, they are given the option to pay a fee, select a target, and launch an attack using specialized tools provided by a service provider.

This model significantly reduces the time and cost required to execute a ransomware attack, especially when identifying new targets. In fact, a recent survey revealed that the average timeframe between a ransomware attacker breaching a network and encrypting files has dropped below 24 hours for the first time.

The RaaS model also fosters economies of scale, as service providers are motivated to develop new strains that can bypass security defenses. Broja Rodriguez, Threat Hunting Team Lead at Outpost24, highlights that having multiple customers actually aids ransomware creators in marketing their tools.

“[The customers] propagate a specifically named ransomware across numerous machines, creating a sense of urgency for victims to pay. When victims research the ransomware and find multiple reports about it, they are more inclined to comply with the ransom demands. It’s akin to a branding strategy in the criminal world.”

The customer base also means the ransomware creators can get more detailed feedback about which techniques work best in different scenarios. They get real-time intelligence on how well cybersecurity tools are adapting to new strains, and where vulnerabilities remain unplugged.

The business model of RaaS

Despite its illicit nature, RaaS operates similarly to legitimate businesses. Customers, commonly referred to as “affiliates,” have various payment options, including flat fees, subscriptions, or a percentage of the revenue. In some cases, providers even offer to manage the ransom collection process, typically utilizing untraceable cryptocurrencies, effectively serving as payment processors.

It’s also a highly competitive market, with user feedback on “dark web” forums. As Broja Rodriguez explains, customers aren’t loyal, and the competition drives up quality (which is bad news for victims). If a service disappoints:

“[Customers] won’t hesitate to give a try to another RaaS group. Having multiple affiliations broadens their options and enhances their chances of profiting from their cybercriminal activities. Being that all the affiliates are searching for the best group, competitiveness between RaaS groups can increase. A small failure of your malware not executing on a victim can make you lose affiliates, and they will move to other groups with more name recognition or, at least, to those where their malware executes.”

Defending against RaaS

There are numerous recommendations for defending against ransomware that emphasize the importance of business continuity. These include maintaining reliable backups and implementing effective disaster recovery plans to minimize the impact of a successful attack. While these measures are undoubtedly valuable, it is crucial to note that they do not directly address the risk of data exposure.

To effectively mitigate ransomware attacks, it is crucial to proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities. Leveraging penetration testing and red teaming methodologies can significantly enhance your defense. For a continuous and comprehensive approach, especially for dynamic attack surfaces like web applications, partnering with a pen testing as a service (PTaaS) provider is highly recommended. Outpost24’s PTaaS offers real-time insights, continuous monitoring, and expert validation, ensuring the security of your web applications at scale.

Information is a critical asset in the fight against ransomware, and Cyber Threat Intelligence plays a pivotal role. Outpost24’s Threat Compass offers a modular approach, enabling the detection and analysis of threats tailored to your organization’s infrastructure. With access to up-to-date threat intelligence and actionable context, your security team can respond swiftly and effectively, bolstering your defenses against ransomware attacks.

The bottom line

Ransomware attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated, resulting in more powerful, targeted, and agile threats. To effectively defend against this evolving menace, it is crucial to utilize targeted tools fueled by the latest intelligence. Contact Outpost24 to assist you in taking the necessary steps to safeguard your organization’s security.

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