Droppers for hire are delivering bundles of malicious and unwanted content to targets looking for “cracked” versions of popular business and consumer applications.

This is according to new Sophos research, “Fake Pirated Software Serves Up Malware Droppers as a Service”.

Sean Gallagher, senior threat researcher at Sophos, comments: “Paid download and dropper services have been around for a long time, but they continue to evolve and thrive and make money for the operators behind them.

“Our research suggests that this success is due in part to the fact that underground demand for account access credentials remains high, and these paid-for services enable less-skilled cybercriminals to implement bulk credential theft and cryptocurrency fraud at minimal cost.

“The dropper-as-a-service operators have also adapted to maximise their profits by bundling a range of malicious or unwanted content in each dropper, hitting victims with a raft of toxic applications in a single download,” he adds.

“The last 18 months have seen millions more people working from home and often using personal devices to do that work. This has extended the risk of malicious dropper downloads to businesses and brought potentially far more lucrative corporate targets within the range of entry-level adversaries.

“For instance, our research uncovered droppers delivering backdoors such as Glupteba alongside information stealers such as Raccoon Stealer and Crypto Bot.

“Fortunately, when it comes to organisational security, malware delivered by droppers is easily detectable by security software, either because of its signature or its behavior. However, because malicious packages are in encrypted archives, security technologies don’t detect the malicious files until they are unpacked.”

Sophos recommends that organisations review their security software, settings and policies to ensure they can detect and block malicious and unwanted downloads.

This includes having a robust approach to web filtering and up-to-date endpoint protection that has behavioral detection capabilities.