Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, revolutionized how software companies connect with consumers. Before the development of the cloud and SaaS, most applications were only available to consumers as discrete products; they would purchase a copy of the program, install it on their device, and have access to that software forever. With SaaS, users don’t worry about the hassle of installing and managing applications on their devices; they get access to the program through the internet. As a result, businesses can charge subscription fees to users, allowing them to continue to profit from their software products. SaaS is a practical development in the digital landscape that has undeniably benefited both consumers and companies.
Unfortunately, SaaS has also inspired cybercriminals to create a similar service of their own. Malware-as-a-Service and Ransomware-as-a-Service are on the rise, and they pose a significant threat to home users and organizations.
Not long ago, to launch a cyberattack, a criminal needed exceedingly advanced hacking skills. Malware programs were bespoke, written individually by hackers or hacking groups for specific purposes. Some of the most cutting-edge cyberattacks continue to be custom-created in this way, but most malware is a result of the burgeoning cybercrime service economy.
Malware-as-a-Service, or MaaS, is one of the most popular products available within the cybercrime service economy. MaaS is essentially a botnet or a network of devices that have been infiltrated by hackers and linked together. Device owners rarely know that their devices are part of a botnet; often, they join the botnet after an initial malware infection that they fail to eradicate completely. The manager of the botnet leases access to the botnet to other criminals, who can use the connected devices as tools for launching large-scale attacks on other networks or as victims of additional malware and ransomware attacks.
What Are the Risks of MaaS?
With MaaS, any criminal with any level of tech knowledge and expertise has access to various types of malware programs to accomplish a variety of digital misdeeds. Unfortunately, the low barrier for entry into cybercrime has allowed the number of active cybercriminals and the number of ongoing attacks to swell. What’s more, because the process of identifying victims and delivering malware is automated with MaaS, malware attacks can occur with much greater speed.
The larger number of attacks and the greater speed with which they are carried out is bad for the average user for a variety of reasons. First, users need to be much more careful to avoid infecting their devices with malware, as a single security breach could result in years of ongoing attacks as their device (or network) remains part of a MaaS botnet. Secondly, security experts can find it more difficult to identify and understand a MaaS attack before it is a widespread issue. This means there could be a delay between a user experiencing a malware attack and when they have a viable solution from cybersecurity providers.
In cybersecurity, the best strategy is always to prevent a problem from developing in the first place. For users and MaaS, this means taking advantage of high-quality and trustworthy antivirus software to block malware infections from the jump. Antivirus tools help users stay away from malicious websites and quarantine risky files. Keeping their devices clean and their data safe. Plus, antivirus programs are consistently updated to protect against emerging threats. So even the latest cyber-attacks shouldn’t infiltrate a user’s defenses.
On a broader scale, there is little that security firms can do to fight MaaS. Cybercrime is already against the law, and cybersecurity experts are doing what they can to identify hacking groups. And thwart their attacks as quickly as possible. Developing technology like artificial intelligence can help professionals create better security tools. But it can also help cyber criminals design more advanced attacks. For now, the best strategy is to get every user to install adequate defenses on all their devices. Which should severely limit the number of machines capable of succumbing to MaaS attacks.
Malware will continue to be a threat to users, their devices, and their data. Especially as the digital space becomes even more critical to day-to-day life. Yet, MaaS is not an insurmountable threat, and with the right preparation, users can stay safe.