Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are cyber attacks that have the potential to cause the most disruption to an organization. They are high-risk, high-impact digital intrusions that occur when a security threat actor has access to privileged data, usually for an extended period of time and generally without detection.
They remain undetected within the network and use various techniques to remain hidden and continue monitoring the target, gaining further access as needed.
In this article, we explain in detail what APT attacks are and what you can do to avoid them.
What is an APT attack?
An APT attack is an advanced computer attack that is typically discovered after the damage has been done. The attack is persistent and can last for years. As opposed to a standard computer attack, there is no single, dramatic event that indicates a successful breach.
The goal of an APT attack is to infiltrate computer systems and networks, quietly, extract data over an extended period of time, and avoid detection. This can allow the attacker to obtain sensitive information on a company’s operations and clients, potentially causing the organization to lose customers. These types of attacks are generally state-sponsored, and the perpetrators are highly skilled. The goal is to steal information without getting caught.
How to protect your organization against APT attacks?
Maintain a secure network perimeter by implementing two-factor authentication, requiring strong passwords, patching systems regularly and monitoring network activity.
Harden endpoints, such as personal computers and mobile devices, by requiring strong passwords, patching systems regularly, and monitoring activity.
Keep your operating systems, applications, and tools up to date. This is critical for staying protected against known security threats and vulnerabilities.
Restrict network and user access to only what is needed and regularly review access to ensure it still makes sense.
Use endpoint protection that has advanced threat protection and automatic updates to protect against threats that may evade other security controls.
Use encryption on all sensitive information, even if you are storing it in the cloud.
Regularly audit your systems to identify any unusual activity and close any open doors that may be giving the attacker a foothold.
Keep your staff trained on APTs, how to recognize an APT attack and what to do if they see something suspicious.
Find and remove dormant and active malware
Discover and remove harmful code, backdoors, scripts, command and control channels, botnets, and other malicious software from your networks. Running a network-wide investigation will help you discover and get rid of any harmful software or code that is already on your systems.
You can find out whether PCs are running dangerous software and what it is doing through analysis. Utilize the following techniques to discover and eliminate harmful code from networks:
- Network traffic analysis - Network traffic analysis looks at network traffic to find computers communicating with known command and control servers.
- Honeypots - Honeypots are decoy computers on the network designed to attract, trap and analyze malicious activity.
- Host-based intrusion detection systems - Host-based intrusion detection systems (HIDS) monitor activity on individual computers or servers to identify malicious software that may have breached the system.
- Automated host-based analysis tools - Automated host-based analysis tools (HBATs) use a method similar to HIDS but scan multiple systems at one time, making the process more efficient.
Block unauthorized access to your network
Block unauthorized access to your network by using a firewall, an authentication and access control system, and network segmentation.
Firewalls - Firewalls block access to your network from the outside and are an essential part of any cybersecurity strategy.
Authentication and access control system - An authentication and access control system is software designed to manage access to your network and data.
Network segmentation - Network segmentation is the process of separating your network into different pieces and controlling the communication between those pieces.
Use a cybersecurity provider that offers network segmentation as part of its service to help protect your data against network attacks. You can also use network segmentation tools and techniques to help protect your data and network.
Manage privileged user access and use the least privilege
Establish a tiered access control system, implement two-factor authentication, and audit access frequently to control privileged user access. An authentication and access control system with a tiered authorization system offers different levels of authorization depending on the job function and the information being accessed.
With two-factor authentication, you must have two pieces of identification - something you know, such as a password, and something you have, such as your cell phone. Make sure only those who need to know have access to sensitive information by auditing access on a regular basis.
Employing the best security measures available will help organizations prepare for the security risks posed by APTs. These include segmenting your network to safeguard important assets, implementing two-factor authentication across all platforms, putting an incident response plan in place, and maintaining software updates.
You can defend your business against APT assaults and other online dangers by employing the finest cybersecurity strategies and tools.