Network Security Monitoring
July 22, 2022
Cyberattacks have become very sophisticated recently, with many organizations wondering how to prevent advanced persistent threat attacks. Hackers carry out these attacks stealthily over a long period of time, so they can be difficult to detect and remediate.
Therefore, since human threats are involved, in addition to typical defense software, specialized persistence detection uses the human element to combat hackers continuously hiding in a network.
These hunters look for anomalies and respond to mitigate damage.
This blog will show you the different steps of an advanced persistent threat attack and which tools you can use to prevent one.
An advanced persistent threat attack (APT) is a long-term cyberattack in which a hacker or bad actor gains access into a network and continuously hides undetected in order to steal valuable data.
These intruders bypass traditional preventative measures such as anti-malware and firewalls. They dwell in a network for days or even months, using sophisticated hacking techniques to analyze the environment, move laterally, and look for the desired information.
Attackers often leave multiple back doors open, so that they can maintain access despite interruptions such as restarts or changed credentials. This is why these attacks are advanced and persistent.
Keep in mind that due to the nature of APTs, it is not possible to completely prevent all threats. Just like despite having a fire alarm, an escape program, and a local fire station, a fire can happen, the human element of APT attacks also makes them unpredictable.
APT attacks affect mainly larger organizations and businesses because targeting individuals often leads to wasted resources and no monetary gains for cybercriminals.
A more lucrative method is infiltrating and moving across a business network because the more information stolen and the greater the number of machines affected, the more likely bad actors are to receive payment.
Targeting intellectual property, regulated data, or customer personal data gives cybercriminals stronger methods to bargain for payment.
Related Infographic: Explaining the Evolution of Cybersecurity Solutions and Threats
There is a process for how criminals execute APT attacks. From intrusion to exploitation, the graph below summarizes the MITRE ATT&CK Framework to some of its most salient parts, beginning with Reconnaissance and ending with Impact.
Read on below to see how specialized persistence detection acts during the Persistence stage to discover and neutralize attackers.
There are measures you can take to protect your business’s valuable data and prevent advanced persistent threats. At a foundational level, any organization should begin by implementing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
In short, the NIST cybersecurity network asks you to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover your assets. Let’s take a look at each of these steps.
You cannot protect the assets that you have not identified. Take stock of the important assets of your company, such as devices, data, accounts, applications, and vendors.
Your organization will also need to determine risks, vulnerabilities, and any compliance standards they need to follow.
This way, you can focus your resources on protecting what’s valuable and not waste them on safeguarding every single asset.
Related Blog: 5 Identity and Access Management Best Practices
The function of protect is to set up defenses around the assets you have identified above. For this, you will need identity and access management, employee cybersecurity training, applying protective technologies, maintenance, and data security.
Some basic tools to achieve protection are firewalls, antivirus software, installing patches and upgrades, email security, and data encryption.
Consider also implementing security around your physical access, such as managing key access in your building and securing any physical devices to prevent hacking or theft.
This step demands alertness to timely note and identify a cybersecurity event. A cybersecurity event is not necessarily an attack, but it refers to any event that may have an impact on an organization’s operations.
For example, noting failed login attempts, new account creation, new endpoints or software, etc. These events could alert you to an attempted cyberattack so that you can take the appropriate action.
This step attempts to contain the damage from a cyberattack as much as possible. It involves response planning, communication, mitigation, and improvement.
Ensuring your security team members know their roles in resolving a cyberattack allows the response step to be done efficiently. Also if an incident happens, looking back and studying it can help your cybersecurity team respond more effectively in the future.
Does your business have backups for important assets and data? These are paramount in case of data theft since the criminals would have less to leverage against you. Establish also a priority hierarchy for data, devices, and accounts in case recovery is necessary.
Ongoing backup tests and cybersecurity exercises to prepare your team for a cyberattack should also be performed.
As you can see, hackers use sophisticated, covert, and persistent techniques to breach into a network.
Traditional prevention software can identify and protect against known malware, however, when people are involved, the best response is, understandably, a team of human threat hunters.
Human threat hunters can detect anomalies that a computer might let through. To illustrate this, imagine hackers masking malware to look like an accepted file. To anti-malware software, the file would have the characteristics, size, and even content of a usual safe file.
However, when you add the human factor, people would be able to see the anomalies that would otherwise make it through into a network.
Of course, it is necessary to rely in prevention software, but once an intrusion has taken place, it is up to humans to offensively hunt and intercept any bad actors lurking in the background.
Specialized persistence detection uses a team of cybersecurity personnel who analyze and look for things out of the ordinary to detect an intrusion and alert users.
If a break in is detected, specialized persistence detection gives users an alert and report of the activity, also an easy-to-use “Remediation” and “Approve” buttons to quickly act to remediate threats before assets are exploited.
Advanced persistent threat attacks are complex and long-term cyberattacks in which a hacker enters and lurks in a network to learn about its environment, establish a foothold, and execute criminal activity.
To prevent APT attacks, use the NIST cybersecurity framework and develop a program which takes into account your organization’s priorities and resources.
Software is very good at catching known threats, but when the human element is involved, the best answer is a team of human threat hunters who can offensively catch bad actors in a network.
An active specialized persistence detection team acts during a persistent attack, looks for anomalies, reports incidents, and resolves any damage.
To cover the Protect phase of your cybersecurity plan, head over to our Cybersecurity Checklist: How Covered is Your Business? and begin developing your business security strategy.