Blackhole Exploit Kit introduced the lucrative but hazardous exploit-kit-ransomware combo with CryptoLocker back in 2013. Soon after, other exploit kits, like Angler, Neutrino, Magnitude, and Rig, followed suit. At least 18 percent of known ransomware families now arrive via exploit kits.
Note, though, that exploit kits have been distributing a plethora of threats since as early as 2006. Since 2010, we’ve seen at least 100 exploits incorporated in more than 10 kits.
Ransomware comprises just one of the many threat types that exploit kits can possibly deliver to vulnerable systems.
[READ: More on exploit kits]
2016 has yet to end, but ransomware has already raked in around US$209 million from enterprises alone. While data loss is an immediate ransomware risk, other ill effects that surface range from damage to brand and reputation and legal fines to additional costs to recover critical data.
[READ: The Reign of Ransomware]
What makes exploit kits effective means to deliver a myriad of threats? They require less user action, for one, as they take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities in the most popular software. In the first half of the year alone, Trend Micro (with TippingPoint) and the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) detected 473 vulnerabilities.
At any given time, networks will always have vulnerabilities, especially if they use legacy systems or software. Add to the mix zero-day vulnerabilities, patches for which are not readily available, and you have a constant race with time. IT administrators need to protect their networks even if security patches for zero-day exploits that are integrated into kits have yet to be released. They need to face various challenges like keeping mission-critical systems online while securing their network perimeters. It doesn’t help that they have to first test patches prior to deployment. On average, enterprises need around 30 days for patch testing. These and other factors can introduce windows of exposure to threats brought on by exploit kits.
Windows of exposure tied to exploits that were integrated into kits in the first half of 2016
Patching is critical to mitigate risks that exploits pose. With the aforementioned challenges though, endpoint and network protection via Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) solutions are also a must. These technologies secure systems from zero-day and other vulnerabilities, even those for which patches will no longer be made available.
Read this guide on Exploits as a Service (EaaS) to learn how a company’s bottom line can suffer from related attacks and what it can do to secure its perimeter and data.