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The Rising Power of Ransomware Gangs

5 Minute Read
written by
Dhoof Mohamed

Businesses often hear about the dangers of hackers and how they manage to steal money for enterprises, but few actually know the growing influence these bad actors have accumulated. This has led to the rising phenomenon of ransomware gangs. In contrast to a real-life physical gang, ransomware gangs have the technical expertise and cash to target the most vulnerable organizations to increase their wealth. As of late, ransomware gangs have been using their capital to buy zero-day flaws to bolster their strength. 

laptop with a fishing hook

What are zero-day flaws?

Zero-day flaws, also known as zero-day vulnerabilities, are major vulnerabilities in a system’s hardware or software that often go undetected. When a third party gets hold of a zero-day vulnerability for an organization, they can deploy a cyber attack and perform all the damage way before anyone notices. This is often used by nation-states when they are at war or conducting government operations. Ransomware gangs have accumulated enough money to buy these vulnerabilities in underground forums and use this knowledge to carry out further attacks. 

Generally, nation-states are the main buyers of zero-day flaws. Since the market for this intel is extremely expensive, hackers and ransomware groups were unable to get any major vulnerability intelligence. With ransomware gangs entering the zero-day market, their attacks will be much more informed and harder to detect. This will ultimately lead to more successful cyber attacks and money for ransomware groups. 

Scam, Phishing, Fraud, Email, Attack

Impact and complications: 

Exploit-as-a-service: With new entrants in the zero-day market, exploit-as-a-service has emerged as a new business model for organizations selling zero-day flaws. Instead of selling the vulnerabilities outright to a state-sponsored buyer, hackers can lease these vulnerabilities to certain groups for a price. This allows them to continuously make money and lease their vulnerability expertise to interested buyers. 

Lack of detection: Zero-day flaws are the domain of states and nations. Using this type of intelligence on ill-equipped businesses is a sure way to avoid detection and cause significant damage. Even large corporations are unable to handle a zero-day attack on their business. The lack of detection capabilities of most enterprises should be extremely alarming. This year alone has shown some of the best cybersecurity firms in the world can be compromised. 

Legacy systems risk: Zero-day flaws can take down even the most secured organizations, but hackers typically go for easier targets. Businesses with legacy systems and processes are the easiest prey for ransomware gangs. Without the regular security patches and updates for programs, businesses can be operating on extremely vulnerable systems. This makes it much easier for ransomware gangs to install ransomware and get hold of the data and credentials for a business. Addressing this should be a top priority for businesses. 

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