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In this blog post, we will be discussing what is an advanced persistent threat or an APT attack and preventive measures against an APT attack. So, let’s get started!

Advanced Persistent Threat: Brief Definition

An advanced persistent threat or an APT attack is a cyberattack wherein a threat actor obtains access to a system or network and stays there for an extended time duration without being discovered or stay undetected. APT attacks are quite dangerous especially for enterprises because hackers can illegally obtain access to a company’s confidential data. Generally, APT doesn’t cause harm to the company networks or local systems. However, the aim of this type of cyberattack is most likely data theft.

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While APT attacks are executed, it’s always in a sequence:

  • Develop Specific Strategy. Planned execution for performing data theft
  • Gain illegitimate Access. APT attacks are usually executed with the means of social engineering techniques that look for vulnerable targets. Spear phishing emails or malware from commonly utilized sites are later used to obtain access to credentials and the network. Attackers basically try to establish command and take control over the network once they successfully enter it.
  • Establish a Foothold and Probe. On establishing a presence in the network, attackers then move laterally and freely all over the environment exploring and planning the most suitable attack approach/strategy for the targeted data.
  • Stage the attack. The succeeding step is to develop the targeted data for exfiltration by centralizing, encrypting, and compressing it.
  • Take the data. At this stage, the data or information can easily be exfiltrated and moved across the world stealthily, unnoticed.
  • Persist until detected. This method is iterated for long durations through the attackers’ hidden stronghold till it is eventually identified.

Indicators For APT Attacks

As the main goal of the advanced persistent threat is to exfiltrate data, attackers don’t leave any trace of their malicious activity. Below are some of the most obvious indicators for APT attacks:

  • A sudden surge in logins at odd hours (logins at late night).
  • Identification of backdoor Trojan programs.
  • Huge unexplained data streams
  • Unexpected packets of aggregated data
  • The discovery of pass-the-hash hacking tools
  • Focused spear-phishing campaigns utilizing Adobe Acrobat PDF files

APT Attack Prevention Tips

Below we have provided few tips to protect against APTs:

Educate All Employees About the Phishing Scams

Several APTs begin with a fraudulent email that obtains access to your system/machine. Deploy a training program that educates employees on what to search for, what to do, and whom to ignore when they observe something fishy. Preventing an attack before it starts is an ideal way to eliminate risks.

Ensure that All Security Patches Are Installed

APT hackers are always in the search to identify any weakness in your system. This is why it is vital to run updates on all cybersecurity programs. If you restrain from installing updates or make delays in installing updates and patches then, you are leaving your company/organization exposed to attacks.

Better Secure Your Most Sensitive Data

Be more careful with your most confidential data. So, consider taking additional safety measures with your most confidential data. Don’t simply assign the admin rights to those accounts which don’t need it. Restrict the access to and editing abilities for data to minimize the possibility of accidental changes. Take security measures to safeguard your confidential data and keep them at a place where is difficult to find and copy.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you know what an advanced persistent threat is and how to prevent an APT attack.

Additionally, we at ByteNAP offer SiteLock Packages that are efficient in finding and fixing malware and also detecting suspicious activities (if present) on your website.

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