Advanced Persistent Threat Protection: An Indispensable Tool for Secure Networks
Advanced persistent threat protection refers to development of security protocols or using such software programs that help in preventing the advanced persistent threats (APT). Since APT attacks progress in multiples stages, ideal advanced persistent threat protection should ensure safety and security of the network at each of these stages, in case one of the security protocol fails. The huge amount of financial and strategic loss incurred due to some the recent infamous APT attacks underlines the importance of advanced persistent threat protection systems.
One of the most pressing challenges faced by the world today, along with climate change, economic recession, and pandemics, is cyber security. The global internet penetration is around 60% which means majority of the businesses, governments, financial institutions, and the common populace use internet for their daily needs, communication, and transactions. With advanced technologies like 5G and Internet of Things, this penetration is sure to become even more fast paced. In such a scenario, it becomes imperative to address the issues related to cyber security and advanced persistent threats
What is Advanced Persistent Threat Protection?
For understanding advanced persistent threat protection, understanding what exactly constitutes advanced persistent threat is necessary. First things first, advanced persistent threats (APTs) are one of the most dangerous and potent threats in the realm of cyber security. APT is basically a specialized attack wherein an unauthorized user gains access to a secure network using stealth methods. Due to the nature of the attack, APT generally tends to be subtle and remains undetected for a long time; and till it gets detected, most of the damage is done anyway. The primary aim of APTs is to gain continuous access to a secure network and to exfiltrate crucial data; Cozy Bear, Ocean Buffalo, Helix Kitten, etc. are some examples of such infamous APT attacks which have caused considerable damage to secure network protocols. Naturally, advanced persistent threat protection refers to development of security protocols and systems so as to prevent APT attacks.
Ways to Ensure Advanced Persistent Threat Protection
APT attacks have a certain pattern whose understanding becomes vital in order to develop ways and means to prevent these attacks. The three basic stages of APT attacks are infiltration, escalation, and exfiltration. In the first stage, advanced persistent threats gain access to the secure network through means of social engineering techniques such as phishing emails, malicious attachments, etc. This helps in introducing a malware in the network system which provides the unauthorized user with access to the network. In the next stage called escalation, the whole network is mapped and vital information and data is gathered from the network. This data can be anything ranging from username and passwords, or financial transaction credentials, or even confidential files and archives of government organizations. In the last stage, all the collected data and information is extracted and stored at a different location; also, an “exit plan” is formulated in case the attack on the network is detected.
Advanced persistent threat protection system is developed in order to prevent, detect, and eliminate the threats emanating from the above-mentioned three stages. Currently, there are multiple ways to ensure advanced persistent threat protection for the network systems, some of which are given below:
Firewall- be it software, hardware, or cloud-based- offers basic protection to a system and network and thus acts as the first line of defense against APT attacks. Web application firewalls are especially helpful against APT attacks as they help in preventing attacks coming from internet applications by detecting their https protocols.
- Intrusion Prevention Systems and Sandboxing
Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) are network security protocols that help in monitoring harmful malicious codes and alerts the system administrators about them. Another way to prevent network systems from getting infected and attacked is to create a secure environment which helps in detecting, opening, and executing untrusted and suspicious programs. This is known as sandboxing, which works on the principle of detecting, isolating, and removing infections.
- Installing VPN and E-mail Protection Software
APT attacks generally tend to use unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots and similar pathways. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) provide an alternative “encrypted” tunnel for system administrators and employees to access the network which helps in preventing cybercriminals to snoop around and exfiltrate the data. Along with this, since e-mails are the most common way to infiltrate the system, installing reliable e-mail protection software helps in identifying malicious e-mails.
The Bottom Line
Advanced persistent threat protection systems are a must in today’s vulnerable cyber environments. Various APT attacks against prominent governmental organizations have caused considerable damages to the networks and have resulted in a loss of millions of dollars thus underlining the importance of APT protection systems. Also, since these attacks are bound to increase in the coming period due to growing internet penetration and digitization of services, advanced persistent threat protection has become indispensable in today’s world.
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