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Cyber Insights 2023 | Criminal Gangs

Our intention here is to talk about cybercrime and cybercriminals. Despite some geopolitical overlaps with state attackers, the majority of cyberattacks still come from simple – or perhaps sophisticated – criminals who are more motivated by money than politics.

“With the Russia-Ukraine War, many actors polarized, including players like Conti, Killnet and Anonymous. However, the ecosystem is much larger, and even with setbacks in cryptocurrency brokerage, which advanced the liquidity and economics of criminals online, criminal organizations are thriving, diversifying, and going gangbusters as we enter 2023,” comments Sam Curry, CSO at Cybereason.

“There are no signs of this letting up and all signs indicate that criminal organizations’ real growth is e-crime going forward.”

Know your enemy

An increasing sophistication among the more elite criminals together with a more streamlined organization of the infrastructure from which they operate has been apparent for many years. This process continues and will continue throughout 2023. It is apparent in both how the gangs operate and the tools they use.

“Malware will continue to evolve in 2023 as attackers find new ways to hide it to maintain persistence and get what they came for,” says Mike Parkin, senior technical engineer at Vulcan Cyber – adding, “The attack vectors they use to get a foothold will also evolve, taking advantage of new vulnerabilities, and leveraging variations of old ones.”

But it is the increasing maturity of the criminal business that perhaps poses the greatest threat. “There is a significant maturing of the tools used by cybercriminal groups,” explains Andrew Barratt, VP at Coalfire. “They are becoming platforms (as a service) for other criminal groups with significantly less technical expertise to leverage.”

We’ve had ransomware-as-a-service and infostealers-as-a-service for a few years, but it is becoming more accurate to describe the process as a complete ‘crime-as-a-service’. “While we’ve seen the crime-as-a-service infrastructure become very prevalent, it’s probably likely we’ll see an uptick in volume and/or pricing of these attacks in the year ahead,” adds Barratt.


“We’ve looked at numerous online forums and found such a rise and diversification in the many kinds of criminal ‘as a service’ offerings that people really can set up their own cybercrime business with little to no technical knowledge or skills,” explains Christopher Budd, senior manager of threat research at Sophos.

“Now you can find a vendor or supplier to cover your needs around targeting and initial compromise of victims, evasion and operational security, and malware delivery, among others.” These offerings often come with good marketing and customer service and support that meets – or even exceeds – those you get when paying for legitimate software.

Calling it malware-as-a-service (MaaS) rather than crime-as-a-service, Andrew Pendergast, EVP of product at ThreatConnect, adds, “MaaS operators act like a business, because they are a business – just an illegal one. Their goals are to make as much money as possible selling their product and services. This entails making it as accessible, trustable, reliable, and easy to use as possible for their ‘market’.”

He expects the CaaS providers to continue to improve their support and services to accommodate a broader set of customers and affiliates, adding, “The net results will be a broadening user base for various MaaS offerings which in 2023 likely means more ransomware attacks.”

Continue reading Andy’s observations here: SecurityWeek – CyberCrime