Increasing connectivity in every aspect of our daily lives brings with it a new slew of threats. As businesses continue to embrace new technology and digitisation, they must also be aware of the various hazards of operating in an online world. One such threat is an APT or Advanced Persistent Threat. These attacks cause havoc in businesses and result in significant financial, economic, and security issues.
What is an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)?
An APT is a cyber attack which enables an unauthorised user is able to gain access to a network. Once in, they stay in place for an extended period of time without being discovered. These threats are dangerous because the hacker is able to access sensitive information and data without any limitations. In general, such practices don’t cause damage to machines but are generally carried out with the intent to steal data.
How does APT work?
The APT takes place in three phases.
First, the hacker gains access to the network; secondly, they map data and construct a plan of attack; and lastly, they gather and extract the information. Attacks of these kinds have been the cause of several high-profile data breaches. They are particularly dangerous because they tend to go ‘under the radar’ and are undetectable via conventional security measures.
APTs are usually planned carefully in advance, with the goal of targeting a specific organisation. They are customised and sophisticated, designed to pass traditional security measures within a company. Traditionally, they use employee credentials obtained via phishing to gain access to the system.
Such attacks are becoming increasingly common as cybercrime enlists more sophisticated ways of attacking unwitting victims.
How do I know if I’ve been targeted?
APTs are by definition difficult to detect. In fact, their success relies on their ability to carry out the attack without being detected. There are, however, some ways you can confirm if you have been the victim of such an attack.
- Increased late-night logins or when employees would not usually be accessing the network;
- Discovery of a backdoor trojan;
- Large flows of data from internal to external sources;
- The discovery of data bundles.
How to prevent APTs
Installing a firewall is the first layer of defence companies have against APTs. The most common types of firewall – software, hardware, and cloud – will all help provide a network of any size with protection. You should also consider a web application firewall, which can prevent and detect any attacks that come via web applications.
To combat the increase in APT attacks, some companies have designed software that offers protection and detection. SolarWinds advanced persistent threats (APT) software is an easy-to-use program that detects such threats across a number of different environments. It takes just a few moments to download, install, and configure, and it provides reports and alerts periodically. It also offers a high-speed search function that can detect and disrupt threats in moments. This kind of software is suited for businesses that are at a high risk of being targeted by APTs.
Using an unsecured WiFi network can increase the risk of APT. A VPN allows the creation of a specially encrypted ‘tunnel’ which can be used to access the network without any nefarious actors being able to see what you are doing. Ensuring said VPN is secure and comes from a reputable provider is, of course, a must.
While total protection from APTs might be tough to achieve, there are a number of steps that can be taken to increase protection. Business owners must also be sure they stay up to date with evolving digital threats and are prepared to put customer safety and security first.