Cybercriminals have realized they can greatly increase the number of infections – and profits – by adopting an affiliate model – termed ransomware-as-a-service. The affiliate model works well for online retailers, who can generate sales from customers they would be unlikely to reach if they worked on their own. The same applies to ransomware developers.

Affiliates are recruited to distribute ransomware in exchange for a cut of the profits. Ransomware developers can recruit would-be cybercriminals to send out their malicious code in targeted attacks around the world, extending their reach considerably. The greater the number of affiliates, the wider ransomware can be spread and the more payments are received. The returns are substantial for relatively little effort.

In addition to developing the ransomware, kits have been created that make it simple for affiliates to launch their own campaigns. No technical skill is required, affiliates simply enter in their own parameters via an online interface and they can start conducting their own campaigns. Affiliates just need to know how to distribute the ransomware. Full instructions are usually provided.

With an army of spammers sending out the ransomware, the number of devices infected has soared. In 2017, Cerber became the most widely used ransomware variant, even surpassing Locky. The secret of the success was adopting the ransomware-as-a-service model.

For the most part, ransomware is a numbers game. The more individuals that are actively distributing ransomware, the greater the number of infections. With the threat of email and web-based attacks growing, businesses must invest in new technologies to counter the threat.

There are two key solutions that should be adopted by all businesses to improve protections against ransomware. A spam filter is a must – a fact not lost on the majority of businesses. However, even though email is the primary vector used to spread ransomware and malware, there are still businesses that have not yet purchased a spam filtering solution.

A recent survey by PhishMe indicates only 85% of businesses are using spam filtering technology to block phishing emails. That means 15% of businesses have yet to implement this most fundamental of ransomware defenses.

The second key solution is a web filter. Web filters allow employers to carefully control the websites that their employees can access, including blocking websites known to host malware. If an email makes it past a spam filter and an employee clicks on a malicious hyperlink, a web filter can prevent the malicious site from being accessed. A web filter also offers protection from malvertising – malicious adverts that direct users to phishing websites and sites hosting exploit kits.

Of course, technology can only go so far. Even layered defenses can be breached, which is why employees need to be taught how to identify potentially malicious emails. Employees should receive regular security awareness training and be encouraged to report potentially malicious emails. When those emails are reported, IT teams can add the malicious links to the web filter to prevent other individuals in the organization from visiting the malicious websites.

For further information on spam and web filtering, contact the TitanHQ today.