Articles & Analysis

Mitigating Enterprise based APTs

Globally, dealing with Advanced Persistent Threats have become an integral part of every CISOs. Unlike conventional cyber threats, APTs are extremely complex to detect and mitigate. In this context, let’s take a look at some the rising challenges of APTs.

As organizations become more digital and IT centric, the potential threats to Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) is quite obvious. What’s alarming is the fact that the rising cases of APTs are more complex and unproductive that it has become a huge challenge to every organization to deal with them. The cyber threats that organizations face today are rapidly evolving and require sophisticated responses to detect and mitigate them.

As present day APTs use encrypted communication channels, kernel-level root kits and zero-day vulnerabilities, and other range of techniques to avoid network and device defenses — it becomes a huge challenge for organizations to overcome them. Organizations all over the world has experienced the fatal effects of these new and rapidly evolving APTs..

Solutions, Techniques and Components
The solutions to mitigate APTs should offer comprehensive protections against initial attack vectors, spear phishing, online Social Networking based attacks, Search engine poisoning, insider threats and other various cyber threats and attacks. As a security analyst, one should anticipate attack from all aspects and secure every channel such as end points, networks and emails. So, the comprehensive APT protection should include end point protection — in some instances, the solutions include deployment of end point agents. But again, some solutions exist that are agentless in nature. Another key channel for protection against APT based attacks is network based protection solution. Network based protection in APTs are deployed as appliances within their network infrastructure or perimeter and include additional solutions for malware detection, response system and digital forensics for cyber espionage investigation. According to security experts, one of the main cause for Advanced Targeted Attacks is through Spear Phishing emails and hence the solution should include scanning, detection and removal of malicious emails.

Functionally, any APT security solution provider such include the functions that perform Static Code Analysis, Embedded URL Analysis, IOC Detection, Sandboxing, Application Containerization, and Security Analytics.

As organization should allocate huge resources to investigate the threats, an intelligent solution system for APT based attacks should assess false positive rate and minimize it. Any multiple APT Security system which offers solution should have key capabilities in dealing with threats in terms of Prevention, Detection, Response and Prediction..

Strategic Malware Detection
With the rise of sophisticated malwares, the age old signature-based malware detection system that has been widely used is no longer effective. On the contrary, strategic malware detection or advanced malware detection is the need of the hour. Even though the traditional Antivirus and intrusion prevention systems are still necessary, the fact is that they should be supplemented with new set of Advanced Persistent Threat detection tools. To explain it further, the new set of APT tools should include the key functionality of sandbox which is capable of full system emulation and have the ability to analyze multiple file types. But again, one has to think and implement additional and advanced types of malware detection and prevention systems rather than depending solely on sandbox. The advanced malware detection system should also have the capability to proactively take action and block malicious activity when threats are detected.

Organizations should deploy sophisticated and powerful APT detection and prevention tools and effectively secure their networks to minimize the possibility of being targeted by APT based attack. To sum it up, advanced malware detection and prevention system is one of the key factor to keep APT based attacks at bay..

Skilled Personnel
Technically, APT protection systems are very complex and require some extra workforce along with highly IT security skilled personnel. Therefore, the CISO/CIO/CTO, should evaluate their workforce expertise before the actual deployment of APT Security system and also they need to convince the board of directors for the financial approval of this extra workforce.

Additionally, a CISO/CIO/CTO should also depute the threat research team to evaluate and understand how to achieve maximum security in terms of various functional protection mechanisms of APT. This is a crucial process because the threat research team with strong threat research experience plays a critical role in selecting a vendor offering required solutions covering all aspects of APT security protection. The threat research team should also evaluate and understand how to achieve maximum security in terms of key functional capabilities of APT security in terms of Prevention, Detection, Response and Prediction..

A Brief Conclusion
Hacking techniques and strategies will continue to evolve and the threats being faced by organizations will become ever more complex. Obviously, the old security strategies that have been used are insufficient and new threats require new approach.

As APT based attacks and mitigation are a cat and mouse game, the strategy of the game for every organizations is to stay ahead of the hackers and minimize the time in detection and prevention.

Related posts

When Symantec’s SEP Update Crashed Internet Explorer

R. Manoj

1 Million Devices Infected in India in 2015


A Guide to Identify and Avoid Counterfeit Software