The 5 Different Stages of an Advanced Persistent Threat Attack (APT)

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko:

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are multistaged attacks that employ multiple phases and various attack techniques. APTs are carefully planned attacks that are carried out over a prolonged period. Attackers have to go through each phase in order to compromise and successfully gain access to the targeted system.

Here are the 5 stages:

1. Initial access

The first step in an APT attack is for the cybercriminals to access the target network and collect information about the organization. As a first step, spear phishing often targets workers with privileged accounts by focusing on the organization’s employees and their workstations to exploit application vulnerabilities, security tool flaws, and malicious uploads. Infecting the target with malicious software is an attempt to take command of it.

 2. First infiltration and malware deployment

At this stage of an APT attack, hackers and nation-states dig deep to uncover weak spots in the target company’s network infrastructure. The next step is for them to try to use these openings as a backdoor into the system, where they may access sensitive information or systems. Attackers get access to networks and take control of infected systems by installing backdoor shells and trojans disguised as legitimate applications. Attackers using APTs may hide their tracks using sophisticated malware tactics, including encrypting, obfuscating, and rewriting code.

 3. Increase access and advance laterally

During an APT attack, the hackers often installed malicious malware onto endpoints during the extended access phase. The installation procedure might change depending on the circumstances. With the use of brute force assaults and other weaknesses, they want to obtain access to and control additional crucial systems. An attacker may easily circumvent firewalls, construct tunnels, and install additional backdoors by convincing a worker to open an infected attachment.

 4. Plan the assault

At this point, hackers strive to avoid detection by network defenses. At this point, hackers and nation-states use strategies like watering down activities to reduce their exposure.

Since data encryption and compression are popular tactics used by attackers, this phase may be time-consuming. At this point, it’s most important to maintain a low profile while letting the APT attacks take place.

 5. Exfiltration or harm infliction

In an APT attack, the cybercriminals’ goal during the exfiltration or damage infliction phase is to damage or destroy as many resources as possible. A hacker may control a system by exploiting its flaws from inside the system.

When sending data outside a network’s perimeter, hackers often utilize a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assault to divert the attention of security professionals.

Once hackers have accomplished their purpose, they may leave or keep on with the procedure forever. It’s typical practice for hackers to keep a backdoor open so they may get access to the system again at a later date.