Understanding Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS): The future Of cyber attack accessibility

January 9, 2023  |  Marija Mladenovska

The content of this post is solely the responsibility of the author.  AT&T does not adopt or endorse any of the views, positions, or information provided by the author in this article. 

With the explosive growth of technology, businesses are more vulnerable than ever to malicious cyber attacks. And as cybercriminals become more sophisticated, new methods of attack are popping up left and right.

To add fuel to the fire, the average cost of a data breach increased from $3.86 million to $4.24 million in 2021. That's costly enough to put most SMBs into the red. Not to mention the reputational damage it can cause for your brand.

Avoid this dreaded fate by protecting yourself against the latest cybersecurity developments — like Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) — to protect your networks, data, systems, and business reputation.

If you've never heard of Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) before, don't fret. This article is for you.

We'll teach you everything you need to know about Malware-as-a-Service and wrap it up by sharing some best practices for protecting your proprietary company data from potential threats.

Let's dive in.

What is Malware-as-a-Service (Maas)?

Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a type of cyber attack in which criminals offer malware and deployment services to other hackers or malicious actors on the internet.

These services typically are available on the dark web. When purchased, a bad actor can carry out various malicious activities, such as stealing sensitive information, disrupting computer systems, or encrypting data and demanding a ransom to unlock it.

Some of the most common types of malware include the following:

  • Viruses: Programs that can replicate themselves and spread to other computers. They can cause various problems, such as disrupting computer operations, stealing information, or damaging files.
  • Trojan horses: These programs masquerade themselves as legitimate software but can carry out malicious activities, such as stealing data or giving attackers unauthorized access to a computer.
  • Worms: A self-replicating program that can spread across networks, disrupting computer operations and consuming network resources.
  • Adware: Software that displays unwanted advertisements on a computer. It can be intrusive and annoying and sometimes track a user's online activities.
  • Ransomware: Encryption of a victim's data with the demand for a ransom payment to unlock it. It can devastate businesses, resulting in losing important data and files.
  • Spyware: Software designed to collect information about a user's online activities without their knowledge or consent to steal sensitive information (like financial statements and passwords).
  • Bots: Often used in conjunction with other types of malware, such as viruses or worms. For example, a virus could infect a computer and then download and install a bot, which could carry out malicious activities on that computer or other computers on the network.

MaaS makes it easier for cybercriminals to launch attacks, as they can purchase and use pre-made malware without developing it themselves. This distinction can make it harder for law enforcement, cybersecurity experts, and IT teams to track down the people responsible for the attacks.

And sadly, cyber-attacks are industry agnostic. For example, in the transportation industry, cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities of electronic logging devices and steal valuable information from cloud-connected trucks.

MaaS is also a significant threat to online job boards like Salarship, Indeed, UpWork, or any other platform where job applications are stored. Attackers can easily access the personal data of thousands or millions of people by targeting these sites.

The bottom line: As a business with priority company data, it's essential to be aware of the different types of malware and take the necessary precautionary steps to protect against these heinous services.

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) vs. Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS)

Ransomware falls under the umbrella of malware. But what's the difference between Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) and Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS)?

The main difference between MaaS and RaaS is the specific type of malware offered as a service. MaaS involves the development and deployment of any malware, while RaaS specifically consists of the development and deployment of ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to the infected computer system or its data and demands a ransom payment to regain access. It typically spreads through phishing emails, malicious websites, and targeted exploits.

MaaS and RaaS are online services on the dark web that make it easy for anyone with no experience or knowledge to launch an attack.

In some RaaS cases, the attackers may steal the victim's data and hold it for ransom, demanding payment to return it to the victim. Or the attackers may encrypt the victim's data and demand payment to unlock it without stealing it.

Regardless, the goal of ransomware is to make money by extorting the victim.

How to protect your business against MaaS

As malware becomes more sophisticated and accessible, it's imperative to have some defense programs in place that can offer your extra business protection against bad actors.

According to a recent study, 64% of Americans would blame the company, not the hacker, for losing personal data.

Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the impact. ​​A report from Cisco states that adhering to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) has been shown to minimize the effects of a data breach.

Why? Because if a company complies with the GDPR, attackers might not find any data to exploit. And with the help of a privacy policy generator, your business can be GDPR-compliant with the click of a button.

Here are a few additional steps that your business can take to protect itself from MaaS:

  • Implement strong network security measures, such as a web application firewall, intrusion detection, and secure passwords.
  • Regularly update and patch all software and operating systems to fix known vulnerabilities.
  • Educate employees about Malware-as-a-Service risks and how to avoid them, such as not opening suspicious email attachments or visiting untrusted websites.
  • Use reputable anti-virus and anti-malware software and regularly scan the network for signs of infection.
  • Back up any necessary data regularly so your business can quickly restore its operations if anything goes south.

One of your company's most significant assets is its data privacy and reputation, which directly affects how much your business is worth. So it's critical to protect it against MaaS with a strong and well-implemented cybersecurity plan.

Wrapping up

Cybercriminals no longer need a strong technical background to pull off a malicious hack. The MaaS model has made it possible for anyone to become a cybercriminal.

But that doesn't mean you have to avoid the internet forever — which is pretty challenging to do in today's day and age.

With preventative measures and a robust cybersecurity strategy, you can sleep soundly at night, knowing your company data is safe from a MaaS attack.

For more advice on staying secure online, check out the AT&T Cybersecurity blog for additional insight.

Share this with others

Featured resources



2024 Futures Report

Get price Free trial