HP Inc. releases today “The Evolution of Cybercrime: Why the Dark Web is Supercharging the Threat Landscape and How to Fight Back” – an HP Wolf Security report. Findings show cybercrime is being supercharged through “plug and play” malware kits that make it easier to launch attacks. Cyber syndicates collaborate with amateur attackers to target businesses, putting the online world at risk.
The HP Wolf Security threat team worked with Forensic Pathways, a leading group of global forensic professionals, on a three-month dark web investigation, scraping and analyzing more than 35 million cybercriminal marketplaces and forum posts to understand how cybercriminals operate, gain trust, and build a reputation.
Key findings include:
- Malware is cheap and readily available – Over three quarters (76 percent) of malware advertisements listed, and 91 percent of exploits (i.e. code that gives attackers control over systems by taking advantage of software bugs), retail for under $10. The average cost of compromised Remote Desktop Protocol credentials is just $5. Vendors are selling products in bundles, with plug-and-play malware kits, malware-as-a-service, tutorials and mentoring services reducing the need for technical skills and experience to conduct complex, targeted attacks – in fact, just 2-3 percent of threat actors are advanced coders.
- The irony of ‘honor amongst cyber-thieves’ – Much like the legitimate online retail world, trust and reputation are ironically essential parts of cybercriminal commerce: 77 percent of cybercriminal marketplaces analyzed require a vendor bond – a license to sell – which can cost up to $3,000. Eighty-five percent of these use escrow payments, and 92 percent have a third-party dispute resolution service. Every marketplace provides vendor feedback scores. Cybercriminals also try to stay a step ahead of law enforcement by transferring reputation between websites – as the average lifespan of a dark net Tor website is only 55 days.
- Popular software is giving cybercriminals a foot in the door – Cybercriminals focus on finding gaps in software that allow them to get a foothold and take control of systems by targeting known bugs and vulnerabilities in popular software. Examples include the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, web content management systems, and web and mail servers. Kits that exploit vulnerabilities in niche systems command the highest prices (typically ranging from $1,000-$4,000). Zero Days (vulnerabilities that are not yet publicly known) are retailing at 10s of thousands of dollars on dark web markets.
“Unfortunately, it’s never been easier to be a cybercriminal. Complex attacks previously required serious skills, knowledge and resource. Now the technology and training are available for the price of a gallon of gas. And whether it’s having your company ad customer data exposed, deliveries delayed or even a hospital appointment canceled, the explosion in cybercrime affects us all,” said report author Alex Holland, Senior Malware Analyst at HP Inc.
“At the heart of this is ransomware, which has created a new cybercriminal ecosystem rewarding smaller players with a slice of the profits. This is creating a cybercrime factory line, churning out attacks that can be very hard to defend against and putting the businesses we all rely on in the crosshairs.,” Holland added.
HP consulted with a panel of experts from cybersecurity and academia – including ex-black hat hacker Michael ‘Mafia Boy’ Calce and authored criminologist, Dr. Mike McGuire – to understand how cybercrime has evolved and what businesses can do to better protect themselves against the threats of today and tomorrow. They warned that businesses should prepare for destructive data denial attacks, increasingly targeted cyber campaigns, and cyber criminals using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to challenge organizations’ data integrity.
To protect against current and future threats, the report offers this advice for businesses:
- Master the basics to reduce cybercriminals’ chances – Follow best practices, such as multi-factor authentication and patch management; reduce your attack surface from top attack vectors like email, web browsing and file downloads; and prioritize self-healing hardware to boost resilience.
- Focus on winning the game – Plan for the worst; limit the risk posed by your people and partners by putting processes in place to vet supplier security and educate workforces on social engineering; and be process-oriented and rehearse responses to attacks so you can identify problems, make improvements and be better prepared.
- Cybercrime is a team sport. Cybersecurity must be too – Talk to your peers to share threat information and intelligence in real-time; use threat intelligence and be proactive in horizon scanning by monitoring open discussions on underground forums; and work with third-party security services to uncover weak spots and critical risks that need addressing.
To learn more, go to https://www.hpwolf.com/