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The Business of Hackers-for-Hire Threat Actors

Today’s web has made hackers’ tasks remarkably easy. For the most part, hackers don’t even have to hide in the dark recesses of the web to take advantage of people any longer; they can be found right in plain sight on social media sites or forums, professionally advertised with their websites, and may even approach you anonymously through such channels as Twitter.

Cybercrime has entered a new era where people don’t steal just for the thrill of doing it anymore. They make it their business to carry out illegal cyber activities in small groups or individually to earn business from online criminals, selling offensive services like spyware as a service or commercial cybersecurity.

For instance, a series of new DDoS for Hire are commoditizing the art of hacking and reducing the barrier to launching DDoS attacks.

Who are Hackers-for-Hire?

Hackers-for-hire are secret cyber experts or groups who specialize in infiltrating organizations to acquire intelligence in one way or another. They offer their services to people who encounter problems when trying to break into an organization for various reasons, for example, lack of skills necessary for the operation or simply because they cannot do it by themselves.

  • A hacker would like to steal the private email of a person going through a divorce, separation, or child custody case. Why? Because hackers don’t mind breaking the law and getting involved in financial and legal disputes as long as they can benefit financially.
  • False information and malicious actions on social media can cause social confusion (not just political).
  • A hackers-for-hire group would attempt to access bank accounts to execute data breaches, which they could sell on the black market at a percentage of the account’s current cash balance.

Hackers-for-Hire Emerge as A Threat

Since 2020, Hackers-for-hire has had unprecedented access to computer networks and have posed as hackers and users contracted to perform different kinds of work for them. For example, COVID-19 was seen as a big threat because it gave hackers something that we might see in the future more often– the ability to use computers via clever public communications channels like Twitter and email.

If any of your assets are valuable, and if others have a vested interest in taking these assets away from you, you should expect to be the target of an attack.

How Hack-For-Hire Operations Work

To get a general overview of the whole process, we can break everything down into three phases that make up a surveillance chain. The first phase involves reconnaissance, where hackers will gather as much information about their target’s company or business as they can by using various tools and techniques. This informative phase will then inform phase 2, where hackers will carry out attacks to damage their target.

Let’s try to understand the working as follows:

1 — Reconnaissance

In the reconnaissance stage, cyber hackers start as information gatherers and data miners when they start to profile their targets silently. A few examples of how they do this is by gathering information about them from publicly available sources such as blogs, social media, knowledge management platforms like Wikipedia and Wikidata, news media, forums, etc. (this can involve scraping dark websites too).

2 — Engagement

During the Engagement phase, an attacker, using the power of social engineering, tries to build trust with you and uses that as a way to gain your confidence and trick you into sharing confidential information. The attacker’s objective is to get you excited about clicking on what they might refer to as a “special link” or downloading a file that they say will give you more details. Social engineering is a form of manipulation that might be directed through tricking, deceiving, or even blackmailing an individual. By talking to the people, you are after information, you can eventually gain access or manipulate them into answering your questions.

3 — Exploitation

A hacker’s primary objective during the exploitation stage is to gain access to surveillance for mobile phones or computers.

A hacker can access personal data on a victim’s phone or computer by taking advantage of keyloggers and phishing websites. These elements allow them to steal sensitive information like passwords, cookies, access tokens, photos, videos, messages, and more. They may be able to hack into the microphone on your cell phone or the camera on your computer to activate them even without your knowledge.

Who are Hackers-for-Hire Targets?

Cybercriminals have a soft spot for targeting companies that would have access to sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card details, etc. They target every kind of organization, including financial, Hospitals, cellular equipment vendors, and radio and satellite communication companies in the hope of exposing sensitive details. Sometimes they focus on individuals like CIOs, Human rights activists, workers like journalists, politicians, telecommunications engineers, and medical doctors, etc.

How to Protect Businesses from Hackers-for-Hire?

By far, the most common attack when it comes to hacking is phishing. Many cybercriminals will use this method as a starting point and generally do not go further than the compromise of email accounts and data exfiltration. This means that threat actors don’t necessarily need any malware because basic social engineering tricks can be enough.

But what can we do at our end to safeguard our critical assets from prying eyes? Let’s discuss the top four ways.

Scan your Assets

With a vulnerability assessment service, you’ll be able to identify common security vulnerabilities in your websites and applications and related libraries that are likely a result of weak coding. It can then be passed onto an application developer so they know what holes in the code they might need to patch up.

Pen Testing

Penetration testing is detecting and analyzing potential security vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, white hat hacking, or security testing, is a type of validation testing used to attack a computer system to find vulnerabilities within the target application, network, or device.

Keep Apps Up-To-Date

If you’re seeking to beef up your application’s security, an important aspect is constant sync testing and patching of web applications, which need to be protected. An organization needs to be able to stay on top of new threats and vulnerability patches as soon as possible, so it’s necessary to update your security suite regularly.

Prepare to Block Attacks

No matter how well you ensure your network is guarded against hackers, there will always be cyber-criminals just waiting for the right opportunity to wreak havoc with attacks like DDoS.

A way to thwart the biggest and most powerful cyber-attack is to ensure that you have an anti-DDoS cyber shield in place. AppTrana WAF, from the Indusface, stops malicious traffic to keep hackers away from the site.

Conclusion

Information security researchers believe that to effectively detect and repair web application security vulnerabilities, individuals/groups should adopt a combination of static and dynamic web application testing methods backed by a web application firewall for instant virtual patching for the detectable defects within your system.

Trusted security partners are like skilled bodyguards. They stay on top of the latest methods to access confidential information and carry out regular monitoring rounds to keep your data safe from any security breaches.

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