What is an Advanced Persistent Threat?

The notion of an attack employing various sophisticated strategies meant to steal the company's vital information keeps corporate cybersecurity professionals awake at night. An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) uses continuous, covert, and sophisticated hacking tactics to obtain access to a system and stay inside for an extended time, with potentially catastrophic effects, as the term implies.

Advanced Persistent Threat

An Advanced Persistent Threat is a cyberattack carried out by a hacker who has the resources, organization, and motive to carry out a long-term attack on a target.

  • APT uses stealth and various attack methods to compromise the target, typically a high-value corporate or government resource.

  • It's tough to identify, delete, and attribute the attack. Backdoors are frequently constructed after a target has been penetrated to provide the attacker with continued access to the compromised system.

  • APT is persistent because the attacker can spend months acquiring information about the target and then using that information to conduct additional attacks over time.

How Does an APT Work?

An APT takes place over time and usually consists of the following steps −

  • The threat actor infiltrates the network. This is commonly accomplished by using a phishing email, malicious attachment, or application vulnerability and requires the installation of malware someplace on the web.

  • The malicious software searches for flaws or communicates with external command-and-control (CnC) servers for further information or code.

  • Malware frequently creates several points of compromise to ensure that the attack can continue even if a given entry point or vulnerability is closed or strengthened.

  • Once a cybercriminal has ascertained that they have gained successful network access, they can begin their work. This could include obtaining account names and passwords, stealing confidential files, or erasing information.

  • The malware collects data using a staging server. Subsequently, this data is exfiltrated onto an external server under the threat actor's control. At this point, the network has been completely breached, but the threat actor will do everything possible to mask their tracks and erase any evidence so that they can come back and repeat the procedure.

Features of Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced persistent attacks have several characteristics that demonstrate the high level of planning and coordination required to breach high-value targets successfully.

The majority of APTs have numerous phases, all of which follow the same basic pattern of obtaining access, maintaining and growing access, and attempting to remain undetected in the victim network until the attack's objectives are met.

A focus on developing many points of compromise is another feature of advanced persistent threats. APTs typically strive to create numerous entry points into targeted networks, allowing them to keep access even if malicious activity is found and incident response is initiated, allowing cybersecurity defenders to close one penetration.

How are APTs Different from Other Cyber Attacks?

APTs are distinct from other cyberattacks in several ways −

  • They frequently utilize specialized tools and intrusion tactics to breach the target organization, including vulnerability exploits, malware, worms, and rootkits.

  • They take place over a long period, with the attackers moving slowly and softly to avoid detection.

  • They're made to meet the needs of espionage and sabotage, which typically include covert state actors.

  • They're directed against a small number of high-value targets, such as government buildings, defense contractors, and high-tech product makers.

How to Prevent APTs?

Unfortunately, traditional security methods such as firewalls, defense-in-depth, and antivirus solutions are ineffective in defending a company against an APT attack. Advanced persistent threat detection technologies, which use the most up-to-date information on threat tactics and the threat actors pulling the strings, are necessary to stop potential attacks.

Forcepoint's Advanced Malware Detection is your first and last line of defense against APT attacks. It is designed to prevent crippling breaches from even the most evasive zero-day malware and provide incident response teams with the tools and information they need to respond to threats quickly and thoroughly.

Updated on: 23-Mar-2022


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