Ransomware as a service (RaaS): What is it and How Does It Work?

Ransomware as a service (RaaS)

Ransomware, dating back to 1989, is a variety of malware that attempts to extort money from a computer user by infecting and taking control of the victim’s machine, or secure documents stored in it. Ransomware attacks usually either locks the computer from normal usage or encrypts the important documents using a private key available only with the attacker. 

Among the many kinds of ‘software as a service’ provided by tech vendors, ransomware as a service is different as it represents an offering used by criminals to attack IT systems. Ransomware as a service (RaaS) can also be explained as a ransomware infrastructure rented to hackers on the Dark web. This is an easy platform to have access to ransomware attacks and implant them on the victim machine to claim the extortion amount. 

How Does RaaS Function?

In a ransomware as a service, a deceitful vendor offers hackers and malicious actors,  a tool containing Ransomware for the purposes of attacking the Victim and to hold its computer files, information or systems hostage. Typically, the person using the ransomware or hosting the ransomware then requests a financial ransom in order to return data access to the victim. 

Most kinds of software as a service involve straightforward enterprise or user services such as the provision of desktop, infrastructure, ERP, customer relationship management or other digital services. In other words, they can “order up” the capability to plagiarize a system and hold someone else’s data hostage.As with traditional ransoms, ransomware as a service users often take deliberate steps to make their behaviors hard to track, including requesting digital payments that may be difficult to trace. Also post the amount is paid by the victim, it is not necessary that the hacker will provide the decryption key to the victim.  

RaaS Revenue Model 

Cost of ransomware varies on the dark web, depending on the source provider and the purpose of ransomware. In 2016, criminals released ransomware variant “Stampado” on the dark web for $39 which was very cheap, with a lifetime license. This was one of the first widespread and cost effective instances of RaaS. This enabled anyone on the dark web to purchase this service and become a life-long hacker. 

RaaS providers also work with obtaining a percentage of ransom amount from every attack made by using the service into action. This approach often has a lucrative effect as of late 2016 the notable ransomware as a service operations server was estimated to be $200,000 a month. 

The same criminals recently used mainstream marketing tactics including professionally produced video and advertisements and a heavily designed website to promote the latest ransomware as a service offering. 

RaaS in Covid 19 situation 

With the Coronavirus outbreak having a worldwide effect on people, businesses, and governments, some ransomware operators have stated that they will not encrypt health care organizations. This brought an opportunity to attackers to break through the systems and get a hefty ransom, leading to discovery of New IPM Dharma Ransomware variant by Jakub Kroustek and New REMK STOP Ransomware variant by Michael Gillespie in Mid March. 

Not just Health care industry but also the IT industry has been affected by the Covid-19 situation in terms of security. A recent Ransomware attack on Cognizant in mid April, hit by a Maze ransomware has also proved how critical ransomware attacks can be even during the world lock down situation. 

Hygiene Measures for RaaS 

  • Educate: In any organization, employees are the most vulnerable assets and are most likely to cause infection to the organization, but are also the first line of defense. Education on ransomware and other viruses is not just a one-off workshop. It is a continually reviewed reinforcement strategy that seeks to update everyone on the latest threats 
  • Secure: Securing your system and data – is a proactive approach to answer ransomware and viruses attacking home or the work systems. This is the simplest internet hygiene that can be followed for an attack free environment. In a secure environment make sure that all the software is licensed and updated with the latest available patches. To ensure better security, reputable antivirus solutions can also be utilized.  Also, since email is the most used access gateway by attackers, turning on the spam filters on your emails and blacklisting access to unsafe websites is considered a good hygiene practice.
  • Backup: The only safety net is guaranteed to work regular detailed backups of your important files ensure that the hackers will not succeed in their endeavors to damage your business. Usually studies have proved that ransomware is effective when regular backups are not maintained. 

Although no one is safe on this endless and limitless technology ‘internet’, these are just a few mechanisms to ensure a safer environment.