Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced Persistent Threats
Written by Nilima PaulJanuary 13, 2022
14 min read
Nilima Paul

Technology Security Analyst

In this blog, We will discuss Advanced Persistent Threats.

Introduction to Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)

An Advanced Persistent Threats is designated assaults that are long haul activities completed by its creators(hackers) by conveying the assault payload through modern methods(i.e., bypassing customary endpoint assurance arrangements), which then, at that point, subtly does its planned actions(like data taking) without being identified.

Typically, the objective of such assaults is painstakingly picked, and cautious observation is done first. The objective of such assaults is generally enormous endeavors, government associations, frequently between government, which make adversaries and send off such assaults on one another and mine exceptionally touchy data.

Some of the examples of advanced persistent threats are:

  • Titan rain (2003)
  • GhostNet (2009)-Stuxnet(2010), which almost took down Iran’s nuclear program
  • Hydra
  • Deep Panda (2015)

Characteristics and Progression of Advanced Persistent Threats

The APT differ from traditional threats in many different ways:

  • They use sophisticated and complex methods to penetrate the network.
  • They remain undetected for a much longer duration of time. At the same time, a traditional threat might just get detected at the network or the endpoint protection level, or even if they get lucky and pass by endpoint solutions, a regular vulnerability check and continuous monitoring will catch the threat. In contrast, the advanced persistent threats just pass by all layers of security and finally make their way to hosts, and they stay there for a longer time and carry out their operation.
  • The APTs are targeted attacks, while traditional attacks may/may not be targeted.
  • They also aim to infiltrate the entire network.

Progression of Advanced Persistent Threats

Following are the progression of advanced persistent threats.

  1. Selecting and Defining Target– An objective ought to be characterized, for example, which association ought to be the survivor of an assailant. For this, the assailant first assembles however much data as could reasonably be expected through footprinting and observation.
  2. Find and Organize Accomplices– The APT includes progressed as modern methods that are utilized for assaulting, and more often than not, the assailant behind ATP isn't the only one. The second is seen as the "sidekick" that has that ability level to foster complex methods for doing APT assaults.
  3. Build And/or Acquire Tolls– To carry out the APT attacks, the right tools need to be selected. The tools can be built as well to create an APT.
  4. Reconnaissance and Information Gathering– Before doing an APT assault, the aggressor attempts to assemble as much data theas y can to outline the current IT framework. An illustration of data social event could be the geography of the organization, DNS and DHCP servers, DMZ (zones), Internal IP ranges, web servers, and so forth It is beneficial to take note that characterizing an objective may take some time, given the size of an association. The bigger an association is, the additional time it will take to set up a diagram.
  5. Test for Detection– In this phase, we look for vulnerabilities and weak spots and try to deploy a smaller version of reconnaissance software.
  6. Point of Entry and Deployment– Here comes the day when the full suite is deployed through an entry point chosen among many other weak spots after careful inspection.
  7. Initial Intrusion– Now, the attacker is finally inside the targeted network. From here, he needs to decide where to go and find the first target.
  8. Outbound Connection Initiated– Once the APT goes to target, sets itself, it then tries to create a tunnel through which data exfiltration will take place.
  9. Expansion of Access and Credentials Hunt– In this phase, the APT tries to spread itself in the network and tries to gain as much access as possible without being detected.
  10. Strengthen Foothold– Here, we attempt to search for and take advantage of different weaknesses. By doing this, a programmer expands the shot at gaining admittance to other raised admittance areas. Programmers likewise increment the shot at building up more zombies. A zombie is a PC on the web that a programmer has compromised.
  11. Exfiltration of Data– This is the most common way of sending the information to the programmer's base. Programmers by and large attempt to utilize the organization's assets to encode the information and afterward send it to their base. Regularly to occupy, the programmers exploit clamor strategies to divert the security group so the delicate data can be moved out without being identified.
  12. Cover the Traces and Remain Undetected– The hackers make sure to clear all the traces during the attack process and once they exit. They try to remain as stealthy as possible.

Detecting and Preventing Apt attacks

Let us first try to see the preventive measures:

  • Awareness and required security training– The associations are very much aware that a large portion of the security penetrates that are occurring nowadays, happen because clients have accomplished something which ought not to have been done, perhaps they have been attracted, or they have not followed legitimate safety efforts while doing anything at workplaces, for example, downloading programming from terrible destinations, visiting locales which have a pernicious aim, turned into a survivor of phishing and some more! In this way, an association should continue to run security mindfulness meetings and make their representatives how to take care of business in a safe climate about the dangers and effects of safety breaks.
  • Access Controls (NAC and IAM)- The NAC or the organization's access controls have an assortment of access strategies that can be carried out to hinder the assaults. If a gadget flops any of the security checks, it will be obstructed by NAC. Character and access the executives (IAM) can assist with fending the programmers off who attempt to take our secret word attempts to break a secret word.
  • Penetration Testing– This is one extraordinary method for testing your organization against the entrance. Thus, here the association individuals themselves become programmers who are regularly called moral programmers. They need to take on a similar mindset as a programmer to enter inside the hierarchical organization, and they do! It uncovered the current controls and weaknesses that are set up. In Givenenness, the association puts the necessary security controls.
  • Administrative Controls– The managerial and security controls ought to be unblemished. This includes ordinary fixing of frameworks and programming, having interruption recognition frameworks set up joined by firewalls. The association's public-confronting IPS (like intermediary, web servers) ought to be put in DMZ (Demilitarized zone) to isolate from the inner organization. By doing this, regardless of whether a programmer oversees a server in DMZ, he can not get to interior servers since they lie on the opposite side and are a piece of a different organization.

Now, we will talk about Detective Measures.

  • Network Monitoring– Order and Control (C&C) foci are the wings for Advanced Persistent Threats to complete in and payloads and secret information, separately. The tainted host depends on the order and control focus to execute the following series of activities, and they for the most part impart intermittently. Assuming we attempt to recognize the projects, space name questions that are occurring in an occasional cycle, it would merit examining those cases.
  • User Behavior Analytics– This includes utilizing the utilization of Artificial Intelligence and arrangements that will watch out for the client's movement. The assumption is - the arrangement ought to have the option to recognize any abnormality in exercises that a host is doing.
  • Use of Deception Technology- This fills in as a twofold advantage for the association. From the get-go, the aggressors are tricked into counterfeit servers and different assets, in this way ensuring the first resources of an association. Presently, the association likewise utilizes those phony servers to gain proficiency with the strategies which aggressors use while they assault the association; they get familiar with their digital kill chain.


In this article, we have perceived how APT assault functions and how we can forestall, distinguish and react to such dangers. One ought to get an essential thought regarding a common digital kill chain that is associated with APT assaults. I genuinely want to believe that you partook in the instructional exercise.

Ethical Hacking
Cyber Security
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Nilima Paul
Technology Security Analyst
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