The Hidden Dangers of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

A person in a hooded sweatshirt with their face hidden, representing a faceless hacker or criminal APTs

No matter what business you’re in, you know you need to protect your computing environment from cyberthreats. Yet unfortunately, threat actors become more sophisticated by the day, launching hard-to-detect, advanced phishing attacks.

In fact, ransomware has evolved to the point where cybercriminals don’t just encrypt and hold your data – they exfiltrate it, stealing it to sell to others, or further extortion down the line.

That means implementing strong cybersecurity remains essential for any organization relying on, and storing, valuable information in its IT systems.

Today, one of the biggest risks facing companies comes from advanced persistent threats (APTs).

APTs are difficult to detect with traditional cybersecurity methods and can have substantial long-term effects on victimized organizations.

So, what are they, and how can you protect against them? Let’s break it down.

What Is an Advanced Persistent Threat?

An advanced persistent threat is enacted by sophisticated entities with extensive technical expertise and available resources.

As their name implies, APTs represent an advanced type of threat that does not act like the majority of successful malware attacks. Even further, one of their defining characteristics is the persistence in reaching their goals.

You see, unlike ransomware, which immediately attacks targeted systems upon gaining access, an APT bides its time, collects data, and waits for the most opportune moment to spring into action.

APTs are often initiated by a nation-state or a state-sponsored cybercriminal group.

While an APT is present in an IT environment, it can cause significant damage to infrastructure components, or steal valuable personal and organizational data.

Additionally, an APT may cause sporadic outages by activating its payload at random time intervals. This makes prevention quite difficult.

Many APTs are designed to steal valuable data from their victim’s environment.

They stealthily gather data, and periodically transmit it to the threat actors behind the attack.

Typically, they try to remain undetected for as long as possible while they carry out their malicious activities.

How to find issues with your security through penetration tests. Here is an image of a man looking at the words "Cyber Security"
Related: Here's How to Find Security Issues Before Criminals Do (click image to learn more)

Why APTs are Hard to Detect

APTs remain difficult to detect for several reasons, all of which contribute to the danger posed to affected environments.

  • Flying under the radar – The sophisticated threat actors behind APTs go to great lengths to avoid detection from traditional cybersecurity measures. They refrain from using known malware variants or viruses that can be detected by antivirus tools due to their known signature.

  • Stealth – After gaining access to a company’s infrastructure, an APT exercises stealth as it performs reconnaissance, identifying valuable targets such as intellectual capital or personally identifying information. The malware moves laterally through the environment looking for the right opportunity to cause havoc.

  • Patience – Once an APT  gains a foothold in a computing environment, it may remain dormant for an extended time before carrying out its malicious instructions. From the attacker’s point of view, the hope is that even if suspicions were raised concerning the initial intrusion of rogue software, it appears harmless and will not be removed by an organization’s security team.
A person in a suit pointing to the word "ransomware"
Related: The Frightening Evolution of Ransomware (click image to learn more)

Defending Against APTs

Detecting APTs requires comprehensive and effective monitoring to identify the weak signals they generate.

These signals are subtle, and can easily be missed by casual or ineffective monitoring. For example, an APT may collect valuable data every day, but only transmit the information out of the environment very rarely, with the hope of going unnoticed.

That means to find and detect this sneaky forms of attack, you need constant vigilance and the right set of tools.

Fortunately, it’s not a task you need to take on alone. Blue Bastion, along with the assistance of our networking division, Ideal Integrations, can help.

Our managed detection and response cybersecurity offering can prove instrumental in identifying APTs, so they can be safely removed from your environment.

Detecting APTs requires identifying anomalous patterns of behavior, which may indicate their presence. This requires the 24/7 monitoring, traffic visibility, and unified security management platform we can help provide.

Ready to learn more?

Simply contact us at 412-349-6680, or fill out the form below, for a no-obligation consultation, and discover what the right security measures can do for your business.

And, as always, stay vigilant!

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