Microsoft releases its second edition of Cyber Signals tracking ransomware’s new business model

Microsoft has released its second edition of Cyber Signals, a regular cyberthreat intelligence brief, spotlighting security trends and insights gathered from Microsoft’s global security signals and experts. The specialisation and consolidation of the cybercrime economy have fueled ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), becoming a dominant business model, enabling a wider range of criminals, regardless of their technical expertise, to deploy ransomware.

This edition of Cyber Signals provides insights on the evolving factors shaping the extortion segment of the cybercrime economy, and the influential rise of RaaS powering ransomware attacks. 

The RaaS economy allows cybercriminals to purchase access to ransomware payloads and data leakage as well as payment infrastructure. Ransomware “gangs” are in reality RaaS programs like Conti or REvil, used by many different actors who switch between RaaS programs and payloads. This industrialisation of cybercrime has created specialised roles, like access brokers who sell access to networks. A single compromise often involves multiple cybercriminals in different stages of the intrusion. 

Key findings shared within the report include: 

Over 80% of ransomware attacks can be traced to common configuration errors in software and devices[i] 

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit directed the removal of more than 531,000 unique phishing URLs and 5,400 phish kits between?July 2021?and?June 2022, leading to the identification and closure of over 1,400 malicious email accounts used to collect stolen customer credentials[i] 

Median time for an attacker to access a person’s private data if they fall victim to a phishing email is one hour, 12 minutes[i] 

For endpoint threats, the median time for an attacker to begin moving laterally within a corporate network if a device is compromised is one hour, 42 minutes[i] 

Guidance on how businesses can better pre-empt and disrupt extortion threats, by building their credential hygiene, auditing credential exposure, reducing the attack surface, securing their cloud resources and identities, better preventing initial access, and closing security blind spots. 

Vasu Jakkal, Corporate Vice President, Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management at Microsoft, said: “It takes new levels of collaboration to meet the ransomware challenge. The best defenses begin with clarity and prioritisation, that means more sharing of information across and between the public and private sectors and a collective resolve to help each other make the world safer for all. At Microsoft, we take that responsibility to heart because we believe security is a team sport.” 

Microsoft’s threat intelligence provides visibility into threat actors’ actions. With a broad view of the threat landscape – informed by 43 trillion threat signals analysed daily, combined with the human intelligence of more than 8,500 Microsoft experts – threat hunters, forensics investigators, malware engineers, and researchers – Microsoft is able to see first-hand what organisations are facing, and is committed to helping businesses put that information into action to pre-empt and disrupt extortion threats. 

For more information on the RaaS landscape and its evolution, check out the Cyber Signals?microsite?and?report, as well as the Microsoft Security?blogpost?on this. To better understand the cybercrime gig economy and how businesses can protect themselves, visit the?Microsoft Security blog. 

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