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Cheap malware kits put channel under pressure

Research from HP underlines just how easy it is for criminals to get hold of malware, and the need for partners to protect customers

The channel knows it’s often seen as the vital provider of cyber defences by customers, but the idea that malware can be purchased for the price of a pint is a sobering thought that shows the ease with which threats can be shared around the dark web.

HP is altering the channel to the findings of its report, The evolution of cybercrime: Why the dark web is supercharging the threat landscape and how to fight back. The main revelation was the extent to which malware was being spread through “plug-and-play” kits that often cost very little.

HP found that 76% of malware advertisements listed were on the dark web, and 91% of exploits were being priced at not much more than the price of a pint in a central London pub, at around £8.50. Kits often comes as a bundle, with malware as a service, tutorials and mentoring services added to the malware offering.

Criminals are targeting major software brands, looking to exploit known vulnerabilities and bugs that they can take advantage of so they can get in a position to take command of user systems.

Ian Pratt, global head of security for personal systems at HP, said its research would be shared with the channel, and that partners would be alerted to its implications.

“The commodification of malware means the barrier for entry for cyber crime has never been lower – even low-skill attackers can purchase sophisticated tools and collaborate with experienced ransomware gangs,” he said. “All organisations are in the firing line, regardless of their size or area of business.

“The channel is uniquely placed to help customers prepare for this aggressive threat landscape, helping them to take a proactive approach to defending themselves, designing for resilience to attacks rather than just hoping traditional security tools detect and block them,” said Pratt.

Educating customers

He added that employee devices were still the main route into an organisation for attackers, and partners could educate customers, and help protect users from email phishing campaigns and web-based attacks.

“The channel can help customers escape this game of Russian roulette by bringing them technologies that isolate these common threat vectors at the hardware level, neutralising such attacks regardless of whether they can be detected – thus resulting in a greatly reduced attack surface and far more resilient security posture,” said Pratt.

What can be done?

Along with the grim warnings about the spread of malware, HP also had some advice to share with users:

Master the basics: Reduce the chances of being hit by using multi-factor authentication and patch management. Steps could also be taken to reduce the attack surface across email, web browsing and file downloads.

Plan for the worst: Limit the risk posed by staff and partners by putting processes in place to vet supplier security and educate workforces on social engineering.

Share information: Talk to your peers to share threat information and intelligence in real time.

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