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ransomware as a service (RaaS)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is the offering of pay-for-use malware created for extortion over stolen or encrypted data, known as ransomware.

The author of the ransomware makes the software available to customers called affiliates who can use the software to hold people’s data hostage with relatively little technical skill. The use of RaaS allows affiliates to enter an area of extortion practices that was previously exclusive to the authors themselves.

For the malware author, the business model allows them to scale their earnings from their software with less personal risk than incurred if they use it themselves. Offering their software to others removes them from the final crime by having another perform the act of ransom.

An uptick in the number of ransomware infections has been attributed by many security experts to the advent of RaaS. McAfee security researchers claim that the RaaS model has an ability to create vast affiliate networks, enabling ransomware such as CTB-Locker to increase their impact.

While affiliates might take the chance of paying for RaaS via credit card, cryptocurrency is often used as payment.

This was last updated in December 2018

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