Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS): what it is and why it is (very) dangerous

Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) refers to the illegal lease of software and hardware for carrying out cyber-attacks. Owners of MaaS servers offer to threat actors a paid botnet service that distributes malwares. Typically, these “clients”, get access to a personal account in an online platform. Through it, they can control the attack, as well as, being supplied with technical support. Hackers buy this “service” on the Dark Web. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly popular among threat actors, which pay owners of the MaaS platform a sort of subscription fee. Usually, the developers of MaaSs are not interested in the data stolen through their product: they may sell them to the highest bidder in Dark Web forums or leave them to the MaaS subscriptionists. MaaS lowered the technical bar to carry out an attack. Learn more on our blog!  

MaaS: why it is dangerous

As you may have guessed from the introduction, MaaS is the bad twin of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), which equals to any web service you may buy from Internet. Thus, as any service or product on sale, developers supply the seller with a complete instructions kit. In short, it is very similar to a pre-assembled piece of furniture. It goes without saying, then, that the to-be purchaser does not require in-depth knowledge of a given programming language. True, most MaaSs do not require it at all. Therefore, virtually anyone with no computer science skills can manage a MaaS. They just need to figure out the best way to initiate an attack and know how to access the Darkweb. Indeed, MaaS has been designed to democratize malware exploitations: the unskilled, meant as a sort of “IT proletariat”, could benefit from it.  

Getting rid of MaaS

Having said so, these characteristics make MaaS a concrete and potentially widespread threat. Moreover, thanks to MaaS, cyber threats are even more sophisticated and spectacular than in the past. As MaaSs use botnets, their attacks are much more powerful. One single MaaS user can launch an attack that must have been carried out by at least ten hackers not so many years ago. For sure, defenders can use technologies and augmented computational power to deal with it. However, as a single breach can take down a whole system in a go, attackers seem to have a considerable advantage for now. What can do business do to protect their asset, then? A proper defense, finally, cannot be based on commercial firewalls or “factotum” security software to deal with threat. You may need to professionally tailor it to the architecture of your system.  

Conclusion

Malware-as-a-Service can be seen as the non-plus-ultra of cyber threats. It is virtually open to anyone to use it and can cause widespread damage. MaaSs can take the shape of a virus or a powerful ransomware. The news is full of attacks carried out through MaaS. Businesses should not underestimate it. Thanks to it, their data can be easily stolen and sold to competitors on the Darkweb. Thus, improving organizations’ cybersecurity is an impelling need.