Ransomware hackers are delving into the archives for some old-school attacks

ransomware avast
(Image credit: Avast)

Ransomware hackers are delving into the archives, looking for old vulnerabilities that could be exploited in new attacks, experts have claimed.

A new report recently published by Cyber Security Works, Ivanti, Cyware, and Securin found that for ransomware operators, “old is still gold”, as more than three-quarters (76%) of all the vulnerabilities being exploited in ransomware attacks were discovered between 2010 and 2019. 

Last year, of the 56 vulnerabilities that were proven to have been used to deploy malware, 20 (35%) were discovered between 2015 and 2019.

Looking for holes

To deploy ransomware, the attackers need to find a vulnerability that will allow them to install malicious code remotely, disable any firewalls or antivirus solutions the victims might have installed on their endpoints, and cover their tracks as they go about the encryption. 

A useful vulnerability can be found anywhere, from the operating system (OS), to any programs the victims might have installed on their devices, to any connected devices such as routers, printers, smart home devices, and similar.

While security researchers, as well as hardware and software vendors, try their best to discover these vulnerabilities before they’re abused, and release a patch to plug the hole, users are often not that quick. As a result, many devices out there are still vulnerable to years-old flaws. Older vulnerabilities are arguably more dangerous than newly discovered ones, as for those there is already a proof-of-concept and a developed compromise methodology. The only thing the attackers need to do in such a case is to find a vulnerable device. 

Last year, the research states, 56 new vulnerabilities used to deploy malware were discovered, among a total of 344 flaws found in 2022 - representing a 19% increase year-on-year. 

“Ransomware is top of mind for every organization whether in the private or public sector,” said Srinivas Mukkamala, Chief Product Officer, Ivanti. “Combating ransomware has been placed at the top of the agenda for world leaders because of the rising toll being placed on organizations, communities and individuals. It is imperative that all organizations truly understand their attack surface and provide layered security to their organization so they can be resilient in the face of increasing attacks.”

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.