How to Identify an Advanced Persistent Threat
Your business carries sensitive data, whether you know it or not. Hackers know this, too. Cyberattacks focusing on data breaches are a profitable criminal field. These attacks hit companies of all sizes and can leak critical information. In many cases, an attacker is unaware he has infected a computer as the malware acts passively. In other cases, however, the threat persists. This is an advanced persistent threat, or APT.
What is an APT?
The APT is an attack that occurs over a long period of time. Often these attacks are driven toward a single target. These attacks give a hacker long-term access to your systems. This allows them to watch your users, data, and routines. During this time, they collect passwords, sensitive information, and look for further vulnerabilities. With this information, they can carry out larger attacks without you noticing. As you might be able to tell, an APT is a huge issue. To make matters worse, they’re sometimes undetectable.
This is because the APT is planned months or even years in advance. Hackers do their homework and target organizations with extremely valuable data. This includes things like patents, financial data, and even military data. These may be hackers working for large companies or foreign governments – Who, unfortunately, have resources to spend. Because the APT is so clandestine, it can often be impossible to find out who is responsible.
A successful APT depends on you not noticing, however.
What are the Signs of an APT?
Because hackers are moving data, there will be signs of activity, no matter how sneaky they are. These are some of the most common signs of APT attacks.
1) An Increase in Targeted Phishing Emails
“Spear Phishing” is when a hacker uses personal idenification to seem trustworthy. For example, they may pose as an old friend or a trusted contact with a new email address. Make sure to verify the email by sharing it with colleagues or upper management. Unprompted emails or emails that rapidly pivot to encouraging users to download attachments raise red flags. This is especially true if they target executive users. Finally, be sure not to download attachments from unknown sources.
2) Strange Data Behaviors
Are employees logging on in the middle of the night? Are files being accessed from new computers? Is there an irregular flow of data? Irregular data flows look like large or unusual amounts of traffic between computers on your network. They may also be sending large amounts of data outside of your network. You should know what your regular traffic looks like to detect this activity. Be sure to investigate activities like this, especially late at night. Thieves come out when it’s dark, and there are fewer eyes to see them.
3) New Data Collections
One of the goals of the APT is to ship off a large amount of data. This is data in the gigabytes, if not more. If you notice large archived files such as a .zip or .bin in a place they shouldn’t be, somebody may be collecting your data. If the file format of the clumped data is in a strange format, you need to verify what it is. Many hackers will use proprietary formats to prevent you from knowing what they took.
How to Prevent APT Attacks
The most important thing you can do is train your employees. Teach them about phishing scams, and make sure they only use authorized programs. Update every workstation you have. Ensure the OS, security programs, and even work programs are updated.
Lastly, work with a cybersecurity company. Arruda Group provides cutting-edge support for training your employees against cybersecurity risks and securing your business. You have sensitive data, whether you’re a large company or a small family business. Let Arruda Group help you protect it.