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What is Advanced Persistent Threat?

What is advanced persistent threat?

When an organization is breached, stringent measures are taken, and the organization’s security is scaled up by security professionals. This leads them to believe that the organization is now safe. Well, this is not true. Even after a massive cyberattack, the attackers are still not gone! They are very much present in the security network and remain a threat to the organization. In cyberspace, this is known as Advanced Persistent Threat.

What is Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)?

APT is a cyber-attack, typically targeting large organizations that have valuable trade secrets, intellectual properties, patents, etc. However, unlike other cyberattacks, attackers launch an APT with an intention to have their foothold in the organization’s security network for a long time and persistently attack the organization.

How does APT take place?

A typical Advanced Persistent Threat takes place in the following way:

First Step: Invade

The organization’s network is thoroughly scanned. Then, the attacker enters the security network in the following (and most common) ways:

#1 Social engineering
This perhaps is the most devastating kind of cyberattack. The attacker can surpass even the most complex security barriers easily by manipulating the Human Resource. A Social Engineering attack does not even need special tools or technical knowledge. By taking advantage of human psychology such as curiosity, and vulnerability, the attacker will trick the user into giving out vital business information. For instance, phishing attack. A normal looking mail from an undoubtful resource carries malicious links. As soon as the employee clicks on the link, malware gets delivered straight into the system and exposes sensitive information.

#2 Remote file inclusion
Attackers thrive and survive on vulnerabilities. One little glitch or a loophole in your organization’s website or web application, they are halfway through. Attackers, with the use of search engines or scanners, will look for a website with the “remote file inclusion” vulnerability, allowing him to include malware or malicious code. The results could be- complete website takeover, stolen credentials, or server hijack.

#3 SQL injection
Essentially, an SQL injection attack is like remote file inclusion. Only here, the attacker injects malicious SQL statements to data-driven applications such as “From users Where email” as soon he runs the SQL, the users’ vital business information, passwords, financial details, etc. will get dumped into the attackers’ e-mail account. It is said that 65.1% (two-third) of the web attacks are SQL injection attacks.

Second Step: Spread across the network

This step essentially defines why it is called an Advanced “persistent” attack. Once the attackers enter the organization’s security network through either of the above-mentioned ways, they will stay put. They will continue broadening their presence. For instance, say you managed to stop phishing attacks by educating your employees about social engineering. This doesn’t mean the organization is now safe. You may stop social engineers, but the malicious coders are still operating.

Third Step: Collect, store and misuse data

The final stage of the attackers’ endeavor. They will collect data through malicious ways. Once that is done, they will store the data and misuse it. They may sell your organization’s critical data or intellectual properties to competitors, modify, delete or manipulate data to cause financial loss, expose customer database and tamper with the organization’s reputation and goodwill, etc.

How do you prevent APT?

Monitor every activity
Threat actors are looking for one chance to break into essential systems and disrupt the security infrastructure. Most often, massive cybercrimes take place due to glitches in day to day activity. Sometimes, even if the security policies and measures are in place, the attackers may still find their way to the corporate network. For instance, an employee who doesn’t conform to mandatory password policies like using MFA to secure critical accounts. So, it is vital to keep track of every activity, the data being transferred, network security, etc. Frequent audits certainly do help here.

Behavioral Analytics
If there is one thing that even the smartest attacker cannot steal, it is the unique behavioral attributes. Behavioral analytics has attained significant importance in the cyberspace today. Through machine learning and data science, unique user attributes such as typing speed, stroking style, login time, etc. are monitored and analyzed. Even if a bad actor’s presence in your security system is persistent, every time he’d try to break in, a user anomaly will be detected, and he will be denied access.

Network security management
Sometimes, attackers don’t even have to get to the system. They will easily steal, modify, or delete the data while it is being transferred on a network. They may do so by placing sniffers in the pathway or launch a DDOS attack and congest the network traffic. So, monitoring the network and managing endpoints is just as essential as keeping a check on critical systems.

Protection from APT with CI
Cross Identity is a cloud IAM solution designed to deliver  Access Management, Identity Governance and Administration, Customer Identity and Access Management, and Privileged Access Management. The solution also includes business to consumer functions, unified endpoint management, personalized dashboards, high powered analytics, and business intelligence.

Drop-in a line at and talk to us about deploying CI.

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