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Cyber Threat Intelligence

How an APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) Works

Why is it important to know how an APT works?

In order to combat, prevent, and be prepared in the event of a possible attack by an APT, it is important to know how they work. What process do their devices follow to successfully carry out an attack? Cyber criminals invest large amounts of money to develop devices that successfully evade traditional and advanced security measures. These groups mainly seek personal financial information and intellectual property (patents) to steal. State sponsored cyber attacks are designed to steal data and compromise infrastructures. Advanced persistent threats (APTs) can bypass cyber security efforts and cause serious damage to your organization.

What are the attack phases of an APT?

APTs have well-defined characteristics that can be categorized and explained. The rThreat team has identified the primary steps that an attack consists of. The threat packages that are made available to clients have the following steps described below.

Understanding (Advanced Persistent Threats) Attacks

how an APT works

The cybercriminal, or threat actor, infiltrates a network through a known or unknown vulnerability. They can also generate said vulnerability using forced methods, which can be done through an email, a network, files or applications. The malware is then inserted into an endpoint on the network of an organization. The network is now compromised.

Advanced malware with a well-defined target is capable of disguising itself as a zero-day and accessing the corporate network or injecting additional vulnerabilities. It is normal that they make communications with command and control (CnC) servers to receive additional instructions and/or malicious code.

Some malware are orchestrated attacks which require additional pieces to complete and release the malicious payload.

At this point, malware establishes additional compromised points to ensure that the cyber attack can continue if one point is closed. This is what is called persistence: not of the artifact, but of the threat itself.

Once the callback, killswitch, or specific request has been received through the network, the attack group or threat actor determines whether or not reliable access to the network has been successfully established. They also determine if the collection of important data, names, accounts, and passwords has been carried out. Although passwords are often encrypted, they can be decrypted using traditional methods. Once that happens, the threat actor can identify and access the data.

The associated malware or artifact created for this purpose collects data on a staging server, extracts it from the network, and steals it. At this point, the network is considered breached

Evidence of the APT attack is removed, but the network remains compromised. The cybercriminal can return at any time to resume the data breach.

Traditional and Advanced Security

There are different levels of traditional cyber security such as firewalls, antivirus, and defense in depth (IPS, IDS), which can hardly protect against an attack by an APT. Advanced security consisting of network devices with sandboxing systems, new generation SIEM, EDR, and subscriptions to cyber intelligence services that, in theory, detect and respond to attacks of this magnitude. However, how can you objectively validate whether or not these types of solutions truly work? This is where rThreat can help your organization. By utilizing our packages that contain threats that follow APT standards, you can effectively validate your organization’s cyber security infrastructure. You can also validate the processes that professionals in this field should follow in the event of a possible breach.

rThreat Artifacts Intelligence