Cybercrime-as-a-service on the rise says government report

Online marketplaces making it easier for cybercriminals

'Cybercrime as a service is likely' to increase as criminals continue to find it easier to purchase malware rather than developing their own, according to the first report of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

“Malware used for cybercrime is now readily available through the online marketplace, often with ongoing technical support, making it accessible to people with minimal ICT knowledge,” states the report (PDF).

“The complexity and sophistication of malware used for cybercrime now rivals the capabilities of some state-sponsored adversaries. Foreign state-sponsored adversaries are using malicious software typically used for financially motivated cybercrime to mask their identities and activities."

The ACSC added that cybercrime activity will continue to increase over the next five years as Australia’s relative wealth and high use of technology makes it an attractive target for organised criminal syndicates.

“Although it is difficult to establish an accurate figure for the cost of cybercrime, an October 2013 industry estimate put the cost over the previous 12 months at $1 billion.”

Activity that targeted Australian networks in 2014 included spear phishing, the use remote access tools (RAT) and watering hole techniques.

A RAT is an administration tool that allows someone to access a computer from a remote location.

Last year, the ACSC received a report from an Australian state government agency that had discovered a compromise of one of its servers.

An investigation confirmed the presence of Java ServerPage Rat on four servers.

“This had allowed remote admin access to the servers and confidential files stored on them. The default admin credentials had not been changed after a recent software upgrade.”

“The use of watering hole techniques by cyber adversaries targeting Australian networks continues to grow. Taking full advantage of a user’s trust in a website, the watering hole technique provides an effective method for exploitation,” states the report.

Last year, the ACSC noted incidents involving watering hole exploitation of websites regularly visited by Australian government employees.

“These incidents were mitigated successfully as the malware was attempting to exploit a vulnerability to which the visitor was not exposed. It is now an activity targeting Australian government and business.”

Looking to 2015, the ACSC predicted that spear phishing will continue to be popular and the use of watering hole techniques will increase.

“There will be an increase in the number of cyber adversaries with a destructive capability and possibly the number of incidents with a destructive element.”

According to the report, effective cyber security requires a partnership between government and the private sector, with organisations and their users taking greater responsibility for the security of their networks and information.

“We envisage the report will be a useful resource for organisations to start an informed conversation about protecting their vital information,” ACSC co-ordinator Clive Lines said in a statement.

“If every Australian organisation read this report and acted to improve their security posture, we would see a far more informed and secure Australian Internet presence.”

The ACSC brings together the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), ASIO, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and CERT Australia.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Tags ACSC(Australian Cyber Security Centre)cybercrimecyber security

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