APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) are the staple attack method used by organized crime, NGOs (non-government organizations, including hacktivists and terrorists) and nation-states conducting cyberwar.
In the old days, say 10-15 years ago, network attacks were essentially drive-bys, where the bad guys easily and quickly exploited the simple, obvious and often wide-open vulnerabilities.
Today, things have changed. Our global focus on national security, advancing technologies, international finance, and war-like business ethics running rampant in many countries, means that we are currently playing by different rules. Cyberspace (or the internet, or whatever trendy buzzword you’d like to use) has indeed become an unregulated, lawless game board for worldwide conflict. Ever-changing rules and unpredictable behavior means that, at any given time, new adversaries appear. And those same adversaries are always developing their arsenals to include very effective weapons: APTs.
Most people hear APT and think that it’s a cyber attack so complex they could never understand it. But APTs are actually rather simple. Instead of a single cyber attack, an APT includes multiple attacks from all three domains: physical, human, and cyber. An APT can last for weeks, months, or years (yes, years)! Unlike the single-shot drive-by method of the old network attacks, modern day APTs are well coordinated, organized, and methodical.
The attackers exhibit extreme patience. Some APTs last several years because the target information is so incredibly valuable! As you will see later in this issue, the designs for America’s Next Generation Fighter and other weapons systems were stolen in mere minutes from an attack that probably took several years to coordinate and execute.