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Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:27

Ransomware a major threat in Australia too, says ACSC report Featured

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As is the case in many other countries, ransomware has been one of the most persistent threats to Australia in 2017, and this is likely to continue into the future, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre's annual threat report which was released today.

In its usual sober and almost dry style, the ACSC said that some ransomware operators had expanded their operations to a pseudo franchise model which was dubbed as ransomware-as-a-service (see graphic below).

Ransomware is almost exclusively seen on Windows systems, though infosec professionals often claim that other systems can be affected too.

"RaaS provides entry to the ransomware market for anyone willing to pay, regardless of technical capability. RaaS developers write ransomware, build the infrastructure required to run a campaign and sell it through darknet markets," the report said.

"The infrastructure is generally sold at a low price, with a percentage of profits returned to the vendor. Purchasers (known as affiliates) are generally provided access to a darknet-based dashboard."

raas model

The ransomware-as-a-service operating model.

It said that the development of ransomware campaigns had grown in sophistication by using advanced forms of social engineering and employing known Australian brands and government department identities.

The most common way for ransomware to arrive on a Windows computer was through mass-market untargeted phishing campaigns, the report said. Close behind was infection through an exploit kit, a software tool kit which runs on a Web service and contains known exploits to infect visitors to a website.

The ACSC also made mention of credential-harvesting malware and social engineering, both of which were on the rise in the period covered by the report. One form of social engineering which was prominent was business email compromise.

"Over 2016-17, reports to the ACIC’s Australian Cyber Crime Online Reporting Network indicated losses of more than $20 million due to business email compromise," the report said.

"This was up from $8.6 million in 2015-16, representing an increase of more than 230%. This likely represents only a small percentage of total activity as both misreporting and under-reporting occurs."

Graphic: courtesy Australian Cyber Security Centre

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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