The untimely death of the advanced persistent threat?

The term advanced persistent threat has become a buzzword that many security pros prefer to avoid, but it remains a useful description of a serious threat.

:That is a shame, because although it has been overused and misunderstood, it is a useful descriptive term for some of the more sophisticated attacks in today’s threat landscape.This is not a particularly recent development. from March 2011, Mandiant described APT as a “loaded term." “Over the last year, many marketing and sales folks have tried to own the threat, promising nonexistent silver bullets, the holy grail and even ponies,” the post reads in part. “All of the hype has created a spectrum that ranges from ignorance to apathy.”What, exactly, is an advanced persistent threat? Mandiant in its corporate literature describes it as “a sophisticated and organized cyberattack to access and steal information from compromised computers.”Maybe the closest thing to an “official” definition comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is updating its on security and privacy controls to include APTs. In its glossary, the term applies not to the attack but to the attacker: “An adversary that possesses sophisticated levels of expertise and significant resources which allow it to create opportunities to achieve its objectives by using multiple attack vectors (e.g., cyber, physical, and deception).”These objectives typically include establishing footholds within the IT infrastructure of the targeted organizations in order to steal information, undermine a mission, or to position itself to carry out future exploits, the glossary says.APT has fallen into disfavor largely because it has become shorthand for a nonexistent type of undetectable super exploit using a zero-day vulnerability to autonomously penetrate the most secret recesses of an enterprise.In reality it is a descriptive term for a broad effort to compromise a system. One of its most important attributes is the use of multiple vectors cited by NIST. An APT might be sophisticated in its concept, execution or goal, but its parts are likely to be mundane. Attackers will use any workable means to deliver their payload, including the most routine Trojans, viruses or other malware exploiting well-known vulnerabilities. They will use social engineering and phishing. If the mundane does not work, they might up the game with more exotic exploits.Ultimately, in order to be persistent the threat will have to be sophisticated enough to hide itself after it has been delivered. But once it is inside the target, this is not necessarily a difficult job. Most security resources are outward looking, not inward.Ultimately, it is the result that identifies the advanced persistent threat. If it has made its way past your defenses to hide in your system, it is an APT. Whatever it is called it should not be despised because you should have known better and been able to stop it.

Advanced persistent threats were notable by their absence in a recent discussion of new cyberattacks.

Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer of the security firm Mandiant Corp., and RSA’s Amit Yoran, former director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cyber Security Division, discussed critical new threats during an April 4 session at the FOSE security conference in Washington, and the familiar term “APT” never came up. They talked about innovative attacks designed to circumvent traditional IT security tools and about long-term campaigns against targeted systems. And they concluded that compromise is inevitable for any organization that has been targeted by a focused adversary.

It certainly sounded as if they were talking about advanced persistent threats, but the term seems to have fallen into disfavor with security professionals as an overhyped buzzword.


Related coverage

FISMA guide updated to reflect APT, mobile threats

Advanced threats: The enemy is already within





In a company blog post



FISMA guidelines












X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.