Somewhere in your home, you likely have a first aid or sewing kit, equipped with everything you need to patch torn clothing or clean a cut or scrape. Cybercriminals, on the other hand, have a different kind of kit, one that’s specially designed to pinpoint vulnerable people, plant malicious software on their device, and extract sensitive data to use as they please. In the cybersecurity industry, this is known as an exploit kit.
What is an exploit kit, exactly? An exploit kit is a pre-assembled product that bad actors can purchase to quickly and easily execute cyber attacks. You can think of it as a convenient toolbox with everything someone would need to find vulnerabilities in a browser, software, or operating system—and then launch an attack.
Exploit kits—or exploit packs, as they’re otherwise called—quickly rose to popularity after debuting in 2006. They target common softwares with widely known vulnerabilities, like those made by Adobe and Microsoft. To this day, the most infamous exploit kit is one called Angler, responsible for infecting over 90,000 websites between 2013 and 2016.
While secured softwares and web browsers have made exploit kits slightly less effective—and, consequently, less prevalent—they’re still a pertinent threat you need to protect yourself against. Read on to find answers to common questions like how does an exploit kit work and what is an exploit kit attack.
Simply put, exploit kits find and exploit a vulnerability in an operating system, software, or browser in order to deliver a malware payload. If the potential victim’s device has the system, software, or browser that the exploit kit is programmed to attack, and if they haven’t patched the vulnerability, they’re a prime target.
What makes exploit kits particularly dangerous is how easy they are to use. Because they come ready-made and automated, they don’t require much technical knowledge to deploy, making them perfect for newbies. What’s more, they’re fairly easy to buy on the dark web.
And given that the kits automatically find their targets based on predetermined criteria, any person or business can be on the receiving end of an exploit kit attack. In essence, even if you don’t think you have information or data that’s desirable to hackers, you can still fall victim.
An exploit kit attack occurs in a few steps:
Of course, once the exploit kit has delivered a malware payload onto the device, the attacker can record the victim’s keystrokes to learn their passwords, take over system resources, or even render a device inoperable until the victim pays a ransom.
Malware can pose a serious threat to your data, finances, and peace of mind. After learning about exploit kits, you may be wondering about other types of cyber-attacks—and how you can prevent becoming a victim.
For more information on how cyber attackers corrupt your web assets, read “What Is An Attack Vector?” on our blog.