Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a model of delivering malware to attackers as a service, which allows them to access malicious software tools, services, and infrastructure for conducting cyber attacks without having to develop their own malware or infrastructure.

What is MaaS?

Malware-as-a-service is a cybercrime where bad actors build malicious software and hardware and sell or rent them to other hackers on the dark web. They are used for attempting phishing, scamming, ransomware attacks, DDoS attacks, and whatnot!

Cybercrime is expected to skyrocket in the next few years and its annual destruction cost is anticipated to surge to $23.84 trillion by 2027 from $8.44 trillion in 2022

In MaaS, attackers can lease or rent access to a pre-built, fully functional malware from the MaaS provider, who may be a professional cybercriminal or a hacker-for-hire. The service typically includes a user-friendly interface that allows the attacker to customize the malware and specify the targets and the attack parameters. MaaS can also include a range of additional services, such as botnets for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, phishing kits, and exploit kits.

MaaS allows less skilled attackers to launch sophisticated attacks with minimal effort and expertise, making cybercrime more accessible and affordable. This model has become increasingly popular among cybercriminals due to its profitability and ease of use. MaaS providers often require payment in cryptocurrency, which makes it harder to track transactions and identify the attackers.

MaaS developers offer remunerated botnet services that disseminate malware. Clients get access to personal accounts from where they manage attacks and get technical support via dedicated channels. The prevalence of malware as a service is increasing so much that these platforms have started with membership programs where hackers can access all the features by paying a fee. 

Why is MaaS Dangerous?

Malware as a service is dangerous as anyone can use them regardless of their expertise in programming and a background in computer science. Moreover, developers give out a comprehensive and easy-to-follow instructions guide that makes these malicious programs even easier to access. 

Anyone who knows how to get access to the dark web (which isn’t too challenging, anyway) can take advantage of these spiteful software to launch cyberattacks for various purposes. In addition to money-making, they can be used for vandalism, business rivalry, and political motives. 

How to Prevent Malware as a Service?

Malware-as-a-service has enabled cybercriminals to plan and execute attacks in no time. The malicious developers associate with information security researchers to detect vulnerabilities and develop programs to exploit them. They even create DIY or do-it-yourself malware where the buyers assemble and adapt the malware as per the need and demand of the attack planned.

That’s why IT-driven companies are more prone to such attacks now than ever. You can take the following precautionary steps to avoid being a victim of a MaaS attack.

Use Antivirus Software and Firewall

Antivirus safeguards the system data against malicious programs and a firewall block hackers from accessing your device as it can detect unrecognized traffic. You can shield yourself against software or hardware-based incoming cyberattacks.

In addition to this, an antivirus regularly monitors and filters files for peculiarities and spiteful activities.

Invest in Email Protection 

In 2020, phishing emails were a leading point of entry for ransomware, constituting up to 54 per cent of digital vulnerabilities. Malware-as-a-service enables threat actors to send phishing emails with infected links or attachments to obtain sensitive information like financial details, social security numbers, user ID and credentials, medical reports, official data, etc. 

This leads to phishing attacks in the name of your company which hampers your business image. Using email authentication protocols- SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can help you steer clear of such incidents. 

Deploy Endpoint Security

Common endpoint devices are laptops, mobile phones, and servers. All of these points are gateways for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities and enter a system unethically. It works by pairing continuous real-time monitoring and data collection. The gathered data is then accessed to read threat patterns, if found.

Deploying endpoint security ensures these entry points are well-guarded against viruses and computer worms rented off the dark web.

Keep Your Software Updated

Don’t avoid software updates as the latest versions have patches to combat new viruses developed by MaaS hackers. Keeping your systems updated ensures employee and customer safety, thus investing in patch management is a must. 

Without this, software and systems won’t be able to eliminate vulnerabilities and bad actors can exploit susceptible elements.

Implement Access Controls

Access control is a technique where malware attacks are prevented by limiting user access and permissions to only the data required to finish a specific task by respective employees or third-party vendors. There are two types of access controls: 

  • Principle of Least Privilege

This regulates data access to specific data, files, resources, or software to complete an assigned task. It eliminates the requirement for administrators to shift their focus to network architecture or low-level network constructs.

  • Just-in-Time Access

In this, access to data, files, resources, or software is limited to a predetermined time period depending upon the task. This reduces the probability of hackers exploiting system or software vulnerabilities as they have limited time to crack them. 

Deploy graylisting on User Endpoints

Graylisting prevents phishing and scamming attacks by instructing a mail transfer agent or MTA to temporarily reject emails coming from new email addresses. The sender receives a bounce-back email suggesting them to resend it at a certain time, and their system will accept it.

This is based on cyber actors’ mindset that their time is precious and thus they are less likely to resend the rejected emails at a specific time. Graylisting user endpoints works well unless a hacker aims at targetting a system independently. 

Use an Intrusion Detection System

An Intrusion Detection System detects nefarious activities by comparing network traffic logs to signatures. Here, a signature is referred to a digital file attached to an email that is encrypted for protection against malware as a service attack. The technique checks documents, their source, and content to update signatures and warn you about peculiarities.

Data Backup

Regularly backup all the crucial and sensitive data to avoid being a victim of a ransomware attack. So, even if threat actors get their hands on your data and encrypt it, you don’t have to pay a heavy ransom to access it. 

Try the famous 3-2-1 approach where you make three distinct copies of data on two types of storage devices with one offline copy. Ensure you backup at least once a day to stay safe. 

Educate Yourself and Your Employees

This goes without saying that to implement all or any of the above preventive measures, you need to educate yourself and your employees about their usage. Ensure they know about what is malware as a service and red flags of common cyberattacks. These include:

  • Receiving replies to emails not sent by you.
  • Frequent system failure or breakdowns.
  • Missing, replaced, or edited files.
  • Receiving emails with grammatical errors and typos.
  • An unusual tone of urgency in an email.
  • Deceptive links.
  • Changed browser settings.

Parting Thoughts

Malware attacks are common despite taking adequate precautionary measures. If you become a victim of one, then try these ways to get rid of the malware. 

  • Disconnect from the internet.
  • Enter the safe mode.
  • Run an antivirus program.
  • Uninstall your browser.
  • Clear your cache.
  • Remove suspicious and unrecognised software, files, and extensions.