What Is Phishing-as-a-Service (PhaaS)?
We all know that cybercriminals are finding every day newer and more efficient ways to obtain money from their criminal activities. So, keeping the money-making goal in mind, it was only logical that cyberattacks evolve into an even more lucrative business model.
This includes also the Phishing-as-a-Service or PhaaS platforms that are on the rise among hackers. PhaaS has evolved from the classic phishing attacks when threat actors have discovered a new way of making money with their specific set of skills. At the same time, less experienced users embraced the opportunity of leading a successful attack without necessarily owning the technical abilities for it.
In this article, we will define Phishing-as-a-Service, discuss the way it works, and how you can shelter your organization from it.
What Is PhaaS?
Phishing-as-a-Service (PhaaS) uses a software-as-a-service business model providing access to a phishing kit in exchange for a fee. Cybercriminals are service providers, selling access to the tools and knowledge necessary to carry out a phishing attack.
Traditionally, creating a phishing campaign required a broad set of skills, but Phishing-as-a-Service managed to change all that, allowing even a novice to conduct an attack. At the same time, PhaaS gave hackers a new way to obtain revenue.
As we said, before Phishing-as-a-Service, there were phishing attacks, so let’s also see what a traditional phishing attack involves.
We define phishing as a malicious technique that aims to steal personal data using deception. Threat actors impersonate a trustworthy entity by copying its logo, colors, official website, etc. The success of a phishing campaign depends on how realistic it is.
Victims are tricked this way to reveal confidential information like usernames and passwords, credit card details, etc. Once harvested, this data can be used in financial fraud, identity theft, to access the victims’ accounts, to blackmail them, or can be sold on the dark web.
How Phishing-as-a-Service Works?
Initially, PhaaS vendors were advertising their products on the darknet, but now you can see them trying to find customers even on the regular Internet.
When a customer is interested to use Phishing-as-a-Service, he buys a phishing kit. Kits have prices that can begin at only $40, and some vendors even offer discounts and Black Friday deals.
A phishing kit includes everything needed for launching a phishing attack. It can contain templates for emails directed to the victims, templates for fake websites where the targets will land, even lists of potential targets, detailed instructions, and customer support.
Some phishing kits are designed to send a copy of the stolen data to the creator of the PhaaS, allowing skilled hackers to make more money by using them in future malicious endeavors or directly selling them to a third party.
All these components of a phishing kit show us even more that they are intended for persons who want to be involved in cyberattacks but do not have the technical abilities to do it on their own.
Why Is PhaaS a Growing Problem for Organizations?
This new way of cybercriminals doing money proved to be a success, making it more and more frequently used. The FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report, shows that phishing, in all its forms, is the fastest-growing criminal activity on the Internet, with 241,342 reported cases in 2020, and 323,972 cases in 2021.
But this also means that nowadays everybody can be a cybercriminal. If phishing campaigns required threat actors to achieve a high level of technical knowledge, Phishing-as-a-Service makes the whole process a lot faster and more inclusive for every criminal mind.
A traditional phishing campaign involves coming up with a scam, creating an effective phishing email, and building a fake site that also steals data, but now you can just buy all these.
The success of a phishing attack often resides in preparatory measures, so a well-built ShaaS platform will be something that will attract more and more hackers. Consequently, this will bring more money to phishing actors.
Prosecuting the authors of phishing attacks is made more difficult by PhaaS. A hacker can design a phishing kit but not carry out any attack himself, so even if the user of the phishing kit is caught by the authorities, the provider of the kit can avoid prosecution and continue to sell his product.
How to Protect Your Company Against PhaaS?
Although there’s nothing you can do to stop the growing PhaaS industry, individuals and organizations can learn how to protect themselves from the increased volume, and sophistication of the attacks produced using Phishing-as-a-Service.
Here are a few simple protection measures:
- Always pay attention to the sender of an email, threat actors rely on you not looking twice.
- Spelling errors and formatting variations are another sign of a phishing email.
- Investigate properly links before clicking them, as well as any attachments that are sent to you.
- Every phishing email will request your credential in one form or another, so be very reluctant of divulging your personal information online.
- Training your employees to spot phishing campaigns should be a top priority as most attacks against businesses start by targeting an employee.
- An anti-phishing software can stop a phishing email before it reaches your or your colleagues’ inboxes. Even the most advanced attacks can be identified by solutions that use a zero-trust approach in conjunction with machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) technologies.
How Can Heimdal® Help?
The vast majority of phishing attacks are delivered via email that’s why Heimdal Email Security is a necessary addition to your spam filter.
It is a ground-breaking malware protection system that safeguards your digital communications with more security vectors than any other platform on the market. Lightweight and simple to set up, it includes cutting-edge spam filtering that detects and removes malicious attachments, screens through infected IPs and domains, and recognizes malicious links.
You can pair it with Heimdal Fraud Prevention to fill all the gaps in your email security. Your phishing protection will be significantly improved with over 125 vectors and a live monitoring team at your disposal.
Heimdal® Email Security
- Completely secure your infrastructure against email-delivered threats;
- Deep content scanning for malicious attachments and links;
- Block Phishing and man-in-the-email attacks;
- Complete email-based reporting for compliance & auditing requirements;
The PhaaS trend is nowhere close to the end, as it brings many advantages to skilled hackers – more money, fewer risks – and newcomers as well – professional-level phishing attacks at one click away. The only ones who see the flaws in it are we, the potential targets.
But the offensive strategy in cybersecurity is always the winning card. Don’t wait to have your credential stolen or your network intruded on to invest in protecting yourself and your company. Knowledge is the best strategy, so stay informed about the latest evolutions in the phishing business and choose the right tools to shelter you from malicious actions.