Remote-access software, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other innovations have steadily swelled the remote workforce. As the adoption of those technologies has jumped suddenly and exponentially, threat actors have been quick to find ways to exploit network access tools. Initial access brokers (IABs) are among the threat actors benefitting from this situation, which has elevated their status in the cybercriminal underground to critical.
Digital Shadows’ Photon Team has been tracking these threat actors since 2016, and we’re now witnessing a “perfect storm“: a dramatic increase in remote working and an incredibly successful ransomware monetization model. To better understand this phenomenon and what it means for security practitioners, we analyzed more than 500 access listings between 1 Jan 2020 and 31 Dec 2020, and made some useful discoveries, covered in this report.