Positive Technologies research shows increasing popularity of "rent-a-Trojan" attacks

Positive Technologies experts observe continued uptick in Q2 2017 of "ransomware as a service."

The U.S. and Russia remain the most frequent victims of cyberattacks, but over a quarter (28%) of attacks in Q2 2017 affected dozens of countries and hundreds—sometimes even thousands—of companies.

According to Positive Technologies statistics, 67 percent of attacks were performed for direct financial gain. Over half of attacks were non-targeted and primarily relied on malware to spread.

The epidemic of WannaCry (WanaCypt0r, WCry) ransomware showed that even vigilant users, who don't open suspicious messages or links, can still fall victim. Intel data indicates that over 530,000 computers were infected. The Bitcoin wallets of the WannaCry developers received over 50 BTC (equivalent to USD $128,000) of payoffs from victims, although damage to companies exceeded $1 billion.

Another massive malware campaign, conducted in late June, involved NotPetya (also known by names including ExPetr, PetrWrap, Petya, and Petya.A). This epidemic was unique in that the perpetrators did not seek financial gain; they did not attempt to send out the disk recovery key in response to ransom payments. Instead, the malware was intended to knock systems offline, cause digital sabotage, and delete files. Over 40 victims paid ransoms totaling the equivalent of $10,000.

Sadly, the trend of "ransomware as a service" predicted by Positive Technologies analysts in the company's previous report has come to pass. New services for renting out Trojans are appearing online: for example, a distributor of Petya or Mischa malware gets a cut of 25 to 85 percent of victims' ransoms. Another Trojan, Karmen, is sold on the black market for a mere $175.

Some criminals prefer difficult-to-trace cryptocurrencies for receiving the proceeds of crime (to pay a ransom, victims must transfer money to a Bitcoin wallet). Other criminals attack these cryptocurrencies' exchanges and client accounts. For example, by obtaining the personal data of 31,800 users of South Korean exchange Bithumb, attackers were able to access these users' accounts. Losses from the attack were estimated at 1 billion won (around $890,000). As part of a different attack on Tapizon, hackers gained access to four wallets and made off with a total of around 3,816 BTC ($5.3 million).

Security analysts have noted new and unusual target penetration chains. For instance, the Cobalt group used arbitrary vulnerable sites to host malware intended for target systems. Another group, APT10, first penetrated the corporate networks of cloud service providers and then, using the trust placed in those providers, compromised the network of targeted companies.

"Ransomware is at the center of discussion right now, but criminals are continuing to create novel malware and plan new attacks," commented Positive Technologies analyst Olga Zinenko. "Even as researchers are finding new botnets consisting of compromised IoT devices, there are currently very few signs of any high-throughput attacks that would require such botnets. This could mean that attackers are biding their time and accumulating resources in preparation for massive attacks yet to come."