Growing Crime-as-a-Service Threat

Professional cybercriminals are taking over the dark web and making it easier for hackers of all skill levels to launch sophisticated attacks designed to infiltrate today’s critical systems. This business of selling the tools of the cybercrime trade, dubbed crime-as-a-service (CaaS), should be on the radar of every IT and cybersecurity professional.

How Does CaaS Work?

Using the modern dark web, any aspiring hacker with a few hundred dollars can get his or her hands on a wealth of ready-made tools to initiate devastating attacks. Cybercriminals with advanced skills have created code kits, programs and other services they’re more than willing to rent or sell to others. The resulting market is a lucrative one and has the potential to vastly increase the number of attacks and breaches businesses experience.

CaaS has been an issue for several years and is considered to be a growing threat. It was cited as one of the biggest cybersecurity concerns of 2018, and continuing changes in the IT landscape are likely to make the problem worse. AI, machine learning and the popularity of mobile connectivity can all serve as either tools or targets for hackers as they seek to improve their attack methods. 

How Does CaaS Change the Landscape of Cybercrime?

Being able to purchase attack kits on the dark web makes it much easier for hackers to infiltrate networks. With the difficult work already done by someone else, a little customization is all it takes to launch a successful attack. Numerous kits of the same types are available, as well, making it possible for a single hacker to quickly stockpile multiple “weapons” and try each one until system access is gained. Subtle differences between malicious programs and bits of code added to allow the scripting to evade detection by common antivirus programs means CaaS products may be more likely to go undetected.

Damage costs from these attacks are already increasing. Global projections for the impact of cybercrime in 2016 hit $445 billion, and damages from ransomware alone totaled $5 billion in 2017. To prevent these costly attacks, businesses of all sizes must seek the help of knowledgeable IT and cybersecurity professionals to tighten security and upgrade to more sensitive detection and defense systems. 

Common Attacks Generated from CaaS Kits

Phishing is a popular form of cybercrime and is simple to execute using a professionally designed kit. CaaS products designed to mimic emails and webpages of legitimate companies or groups are becoming more realistic. Email attacks can spread faster with the spamming software included in some of these kits, and since it’s more difficult to detect fraudulent messages, the likelihood of a recipient taking the bait is increasing. 

Ransomware exploded between 2015 and 2016 and is still a major concern. It’s easy to launch even for hackers without advanced skills or a great deal of equipment, and the potential payouts are attractive. Globally, about 40 percent of companies pay ransoms despite warnings from cybersecurity experts declaring it’s a bad idea, and this practice generated over $25 million for hackers in 2015 and 2016. 

Exploit kits are designed to take advantage of known software vulnerabilities, opening the door for hackers to spread malware. In the past, only those with the knowledge and skill to design malware programs were able to launch this type of attack, but now these cybercriminals are making the fruits of their labor widely available, which may lead to an increase in the prevalence of malicious programs and attack types like distributed denial of service (DDoS). 

What Can Cybersecurity Professionals Do?

Fighting back against CaaS requires smart, proactive responses from cybersecurity and IT professionals. Businesses need help shoring up security, as well as identifying and addressing hacker activity. With employee ignorance as one of the biggest areas of vulnerability, security training across departments is an essential first step.

In addition, professionals can help businesses to: 

• Perform routine security audits 
• Run penetration testing for programs, networks and applications 
• Establish a security monitoring system 
• Use information from past security breaches or hacker activity to strengthen defenses 

Even with these protections in place, it’s not possible to completely avoid being hacked. Creating and testing a response plan ensures companies are ready to defend their networks and contain breaches before extensive damage can occur. 

As it becomes harder to stay ahead of hackers and prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating business networks, IT and cybersecurity professionals need to be more diligent than ever. Business owners, even those at the enterprise level, don’t have the tools or knowledge necessary to stand up against the onslaught of attacks made possible by CaaS. Individuals with advanced knowledge of cybercrime protections must be ready to provide assistance to improve security protocols, minimize risk and ensure fast mitigation in the event of a breach.

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