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Initial access brokers

Initial access brokers

Initial access broker definition

Initial access brokers (IABs) are individuals or groups who specialize in breaking into business networks. Their techniques include phishing, exploitation of public-facing applications, and brute-forcing credentials. They sell the access they’ve gained to other cybercriminals who use it for bigger attacks, like data theft or espionage.

See also: cybercrime, unauthorized access, brute-force attack

How initial access brokers work

Initial access brokers use various methods to gain unauthorized access to a target network. This could involve sending phishing emails to trick employees, exploiting software vulnerabilities, or brute-forcing weak passwords.

Once they gain access, they explore the network to identify valuable assets and increase their foothold. Then they sell this access to the highest bidder in underground markets or dark web forums. The buyer may be a different cybercrime group or even a state-sponsored actor. They may use the access for advanced persistent threats (APTs), ransomware attacks, data breaches, or other types of crime.

Dangers posed by initial access brokers

  • Facilitating major cybercrime. IABs open the door for other cybercriminals to perform major attacks, which can cost businesses a lot of money and harm their reputation.
  • Ransomware attacks. Ransomware groups often purchase initial access to networks from IABs. This has led to an increase in successful ransomware attacks, which can cripple businesses and lead to big financial losses.
  • Data theft and espionage. Unauthorized access often leads to data breaches. Sensitive company or customer data can be stolen, sold, or used for malicious purposes. This can also lead to corporate espionage, where trade secrets and intellectual property are stolen.
  • Increasing threat complexity. IABs sell access to a variety of threat actors. This means that organizations may have to deal with attacks that can be challenging to predict and defend against.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security