Guide Types of Attacks

Everything you should know about ransomware-as-a-service 

Everything you should know about ransomware-as-a-service

What is ransomware? 

It is a malware attack that locks out, destroys, or/and publishes its target’s critical files and information assets. A typical ransomware attack usually involves a ransomware note displayed on the display screen of the target demanding a ransom to hand over the files.  

It is known best for its characteristic of locking out its target’s data using some of the most sophisticated encryption. In some ransomware cases, the attacker even warns to make the data public, to further threaten their victims.  

There are two kinds of ransomware attacks: one is a human-operated campaign. The other is self-spreading.  

As the name suggests, self-spreading ransomware automatically infiltrates the system by exploiting vulnerabilities spreading like a virus infecting systems across the infrastructure. This kind of ransomware can self-spread laterally from a single device to multiple devices connected to the network.   

Human-operated ransomware attacks are carried out by highly trained attackers with deep knowledge of systems administration and possess good skill in cyber-attack techniques that involve exploitation of some of the common ns security misconfigurations. They first engage in reconnaissance about the existing measures for security, discover vulnerabilities to exploit, and then engage in orchestrating attacks using their expertise.   

A human-operated ransomware is a more directed ransomware attack where the attacker engages in gaining access to the system gaining privileges, deploying malware to the data, and gaining account access through laterally moving across the network and stealing credentials.   

Their main goal is to infiltrate the system and deploy the ransomware payload. Human-operated attacks are more dangerous since they are highly adaptive in nature and common defense measures do not work against them due to them constantly evolving.  

What are the characteristics of a typical ransomware attack?

The following are some of the typical characteristics of a ransomware attack:  

  • Difficult to decipher encryption 
  • All ransomware attacks rely on having solid encryption that cannot easily be decrypted by the target without the ransom payment for all the information assets that are being locked out.   
  • It reassigns file names and scrambles them such that the owner of the files finds it highly difficult to know which files are affected.   
  • A ransomware attacker may assign an extension that is different than their victim’s files that may connote a specific strain of ransomware.  
  • It may consist of an image note demanding a ransom that warns the victim of the lockout of their information assets.   
  • It will have payment requests that will be a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin that is almost impossible to track by law enforcement and cybersecurity experts.  
  • Once they get a hold of some of the compromised systems, they use them to engage further in other attacks such as botnet attacks.  
  • It uses data exfiltration techniques to transmit information like passwords, usernames, and account details to the server that is controlled by ransomware attackers.  
  • It would have a limited window for the ransom payment. If the target fails to pay the ransom in time the attacker would usually increase the ransom to mostly double threatening to publish, alter or destroy the files.  
  • Ransomware attacks usually are quite complex, always bypassing and sometimes going undetected through conventional defense mechanisms like anti-virus.   

What is ransomware-as-a-service?

Ransomware-as-service borrows the base idea from software as a service. It allows a non-coder to purchase ransomware on a subscription basis from the developer of the ransomware. Ransomware-as-a-service has gained traction in recent times with skilled and non-skilled attackers targeting big companies.  It is one of the biggest reasons behind the rise of ransomware attacks recently since it has made it easy for even non-technical attackers to come up with complex ransomware attacks targeting big companies.

How does the ransomware-as-a-service model work

Some of the biggest ransomware attacks based on ransomware-as-a-service: 


Cerber was a widely running ransomware-as-a-service over the world having run over 161 active campaigns worldwide with each campaign targeting high-net-worth businesses in countries like the United States, Australia, China, Japan, and other countries. It cost more than $2.3 million to businesses worldwide in 2017 


LockBit was among the most persistent ransomware groups from Russian-affected businesses across multiple countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and the United States, causing massive disruption in operations and massive financial loss. Through the ransomware attack, they earned more than $3 billion globally in 2019 through affiliates.   


REvil had targeted businesses across multiple industries across different countries worldwide. They are known for publishing the information on their Happy Blog page once they have successfully encrypted their victims’ files. The ransomware group has affected over 5000 businesses. It is one of the largest private ransomware-as-a-services. It has targeted some of the biggest businesses including Apple. 

Top 10 biggest ransomware attacks of all time

  1. Wanna Cry 
  2. NotPetya
  3. Locky
  4. Cryptolocker
  5. Bad Rabbit
  6. Cerber
  7. Jigsaw
  8. Lockbit
  9. SamSam
  10. Cl0p – MOVEit

If you are interested in learning about some of the most dangerous ransomware attacks of all time

What is the business impact of ransomware-as-a-service? 

It causes disruption in operations and causes extended downtime in services  

Ransomware attacks often cause a state of disruption, causing high downtime in businesses affecting their operations widely. As per Statista, the number of days spent in downtime increased from 22 days (about 3 weeks) in Q3 of 2021 to 24 days in 2022. For small businesses, ransomware can be deadly, causing a loss of less than 100% of productivity. What is even more damaging is that many processes across different departments at different levels rely on certain operational information that is locked up during a ransomware attack. It puts additional pressure on the security teams as the recovery of data can take a lot of effort and time without the data rarely being fully recovered with the business productivity at a standstill.   

As per one report, businesses take around 8 months to properly recover from cyber-attacks.    

It causes a significant damage to the reputation of a brand 

Any form of ransomware attack can have a significant impact on a business’ brand reputation among customers, partners, and investors due to huge disruption in operations, and unavailability of information that is accessed by stakeholders. A good example of this is the Cerber ransomware attack that had a massive impact on the reputation of many businesses worldwide. Cerber has run more than 150 active campaigns across the world, targeting businesses that are of high net worth. The ransomware service operator ran in countries like the United States, Australia, China, Japan, and other countries causing reputational damage to global business giants.   

46% of businesses have suffered damage in reputation due to ransomware attack  

It causes organizations to pay for non-compliance due to violations  

When an organization fails to comply with the regulatory and global guidelines that they are subjected to, they face actions due to non-compliance. It could result in payment of huge fines because of non-compliance that could negatively impact their financial posture.  It causes a major impact on their reputation among their key stakeholders such as customers, partners, and investors who have invested their money and trust in their company.   

L.A Care HealthPlan paid a $13,00,000 settlement for HIPAA non-compliance in 2023 

Ransomware leads to a huge financial loss in businesses 

It poses a critical cyber threat that businesses have to take measures against. It is no wonder why most small and medium businesses run out of business within six months of a cyber attack. It is also one of the primary reasons why businesses are looking forward to availing cyber insurance that could help them manage financial risks associated with ransomware attacks. 

Ransomware costs an average of $4.54 million in loss for a business. 

It creates vulnerable points that makes way for future cyberattack 

Once an attacker has made his way through the defenses of an organization through multiple campaigns of reconnaissance, he leaves out vulnerable points for entry in the future. If left unaddressed by the security teams, these security vulnerabilities can effectively be exploited by the attackers to orchestrate a full-fledged breach with more sophisticated than previous attacks.    

80% of ransomware victims suffer repeat attacks     

How to secure your business from a ransomware attack? 

Follow the 3-2-1 rule for backup 

What is the 3 2 1 rule in ransomware? 

It is an industry practice that is followed as one of the best practices for backup against ransomware. It is considered one of the best first steps to secure data and it could ease the whole recovery process.  

No wonder it is recommended by some of the world’s top security experts and government agencies such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). What makes this backup rule beneficial to business is that it does not require any special hardware or technology and that it addresses very failure scenarios.   

The 3-2-1 backup rule connotes the recommendation that data should be always kept in 3 copies in 2 different types of storage with at least 1 copy kept off-site   

So how do you implement the 3-2-1 rule? It is simple, follow these steps: 

Step 1: Identify all the critical data assets and make a minimum of 3 copies of all of them with 2 copies as backup.  

Remove as many steps as you can for recovery and avoid a single point of failure in the case of incidents.   

Step 2: Store the copies of data in two different storage media.  

Make sure that you test all the storage media before you store the data in them to avoid failure at the time of recovery.   

Step 3: Store one copy of all data in a remote, off-site location.  

It could be anything from a remote city, state, or as far as another country! It must be in a remote location that can be safely retrieved in worst-case scenarios when there are no other copies available at the time of recovery.  

Implement some of the cybersecurity hygiene best practices 

We suggest the following proactive measures to secure your business from ransomware attacks: 

  • Encrypt and backup your data 
  • Use layered security – login location and MFA 
  • Create and implement strong password policies and use password managers whenever possible 
  • Use endpoint security  
  • Prioritize cybersecurity 

First response steps for ransomware attack 

Here are some first steps that we recommend in case of ransomware attacks: 

1. Isolate Infected Systems: 

The first step would be to immediately disconnect the infected system that is connected to the network to prevent the ransomware from further spreading to other connected devices.  

2. Identify the Ransomware: 

To find an effective decryption for the ransomware, you have to identify the ransomware. You can do this by checking the type of extension used to encrypt files.   

3. Alert Authorities: 

Immediately report the incident to your local law enforcement agencies. It could be the cybercrime unit of your locality or the police. Communicate organization-wide about the ransomware incident.  

4. Assess the Damage: 

Identify the affected systems and data and the extent of the damage as it will help you plan the recovery more precisely   

5. Decide on a Recovery Strategy: 

Upon evaluation of the affected systems and data decide whether you want to restore systems from available clean backups or reset them from scratch.  

6. Restore from Backup: 

Engage in restoration if you already possess an updated backup that is neither compromised nor encrypted by the attack.  

7. Patch and Update: 

Post-recovery, perform an update check for all your software and systems for updates with the latest security patches.  

8. Implement Security Measures: 

Implement proactive measures against future attacks. It means implementing the best practices for cybersecurity and raising awareness across different levels of the organization.   

9. Forensic Analysis: 

Take assistance from experts to conduct a forensic analysis of the complete incident, identifying all the potential vulnerabilities for proactive security against future incidents.

10. Review and Update Security Policies: 

Upgrade all your organizational security policies and procedures to mitigate the possibilities of future attacks. 

SharkStriker’s solution for ransomware attacks 

Incident response support 

Avail an end-to-end service for an incident response that comes with a dedicated team of round-the-clock incident responders who take the timely steps needed to secure the most critical assets of your organization with the help of our unified AI/ML-driven holistic cybersecurity platform STRIEGO.  


  • Round the clock monitoring of the IT infrastructure for suspicious activity 
  • Automated response to threats using AI and HI with unified STRIEGO platform  
  • 24×7 expert led incident response support 
  • Full cycle incident response with unlimited incident coverage 
  • Expert driven remediation (short+long cycle)  

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