Security should now be at the top of your organization’s priorities given how rampant cyberattacks have become. Threats come in all forms – viruses, ransomware, denial-of-service, and data breaches. Attacks have also become more targeted, methodical, and deliberate.
Recently, there has been a steady rise in the prevalence of advanced persistent threats (APTs) that look to prey on vulnerable infrastructures. APTs is a sophisticated long-term malicious attack who look to play the long game, snooping around their targets’ infrastructures for extended periods of time after they successfully breach networks.
For instance, Avast’s recent breaches to its CCleaner applications have been likely committed by such actors. Despite the recent disclosure of the hack, audits revealed that the latest breach may have already been going on since May. The attack was only detected in September, showing that there was a gap between intrusion detection and disclosure. Hackers apparently already had access to the infrastructure for several months.
It’s possible that APTs may already be targeting your organization. As such, you must formulate comprehensive cybersecurity strategies, implement robust and stringent security measures, and test your defenses to ensure that you’re protected.
Rise of APTs
Attackers now have access to sophisticated tools and methods for hacking targets. They can get access to botnets, remote access tools, and other hacking “essentials” through the black market. Some tools even come with full technical support from their creators making it easy for just about anyone to use them.
These hacking efforts are even aided by the nature of software development. As it is impossible to ship “perfect” software, applications and platforms will most often contain bugs which can become security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, many developers fail to address these bugs in a timely manner, leaving their technologies open to exploits. Even if they do come out with fixes, users can also be remiss in applying updates that should patch these bugs.
The combination of these factors enable actors with enough time or motivation to become persistent threats. There is even a financial motivation for them to do so. Stolen financial information can be sold in the black market. They can profit from corporate espionage and extortion. They can also make their services available for hire.
APTs are now actively targeting individuals and smaller businesses. Since these users often have meager investments in security solutions, their networks and devices are easily hacked. And considering how just about any businesses today use digital tools to keep track of customer information, small business databases have become a goldmine for APTs.
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Consequences of getting hacked
For organizations, getting hacked can have dire consequences. The recent string of high-profile data breaches have shown how even large institutions can be greatly affected. For example, credit bureau Equifax will have to pay more than $650 million for the damage caused by the data breach in 2017.
Apart from costly legal fees, getting hacked may cause downtime and other business losses. Responding to attacks can also be a time-consuming and costly affair. In addition, a security breach can severely damage a company’s reputation and can result in loss of customer trust and revenue.
The fallout from attacks can be devastating to most companies and it can even cause small businesses to close up shop entirely. 58% of small to medium business leaders are more afraid of a major data breach than natural disasters such as fire and floods.
Measures to take
Needless to say, you must consider taking all proactive measures to thwart all forms of attacks, especially those coming from APTs. This involves having a comprehensive security strategy that balances achieving your business goals, keeping data protected, and mitigating potential attacks. You must also have in place response and damage control protocols to guide you on how to react in case the worst happens.
Security measures such as strong authentication and access controls and adopting other enterprise-grade solutions like firewalls and anti-malware can help neutralize the common methods used by APTs to gain access to your system. Using IT management platforms that help deploy patches and fixes to all endpoints within your network also helps.
But aside from these, it’s also important to test if these measures actually work. Fortunately, you can now use solutions such as breach and attack simulation (BAS) platforms to run automatic attack simulations across all vectors, evaluate the vulnerabilities of your infrastructure, and identify remediation activities to address the weaknesses.
You can also provide sufficient training to all your users so that they can develop the right behaviors and attitudes towards cybersecurity.
Vigilance for all organizations
As the internet continues to expand and become more profitable by the day, there’s no doubt that hackers will double their efforts in finding exploits that will enable them to prey on users. Every network and digital device is now fair game to APTs that you should consider that getting targeted is more of a guarantee than a mere possibility.
You must implement rigorous security measures, conduct periodic cyber risk assessments, and rethink your security strategies if necessary. Security practices must be constantly tested as threats are always evolving. Ultimately, your vigilance will be key in safeguarding yourself from APTs.