Understanding the cybersecurity threat lifecycle basics can help companies and organizations manage their resources to prepare and plan for digital attacks and any aftermath they can cause. It helps reduce detection time to be more alert in preventing and responding to significant data breaches.
Threat lifecycle management is the close coordination of security capabilities in an organization to serve as a shield for cybersecurity dangers. This process starts with a thorough analysis of the IT environment and eventually progresses to the rapid and rigorous handling of an incident.
The Anatomy of a Cybersecurity Threat Lifecycle
Conceptualized by Lockheed Martin as “the kill chain,” the cybersecurity threat lifecycle describes the various phases of a cyber attack from start to finish. Awareness of these phases can help defenses eliminate threats and risks as early as possible before they can cause any further damage.
Cyber-criminals start by gathering information. Reconnaissance work entails careful planning to get more information about the potential victims. Common tactics include phishing or extracting public data from a social media profile.
These digital attackers also look for vulnerabilities within networks, services, and applications. They are trying to find any potential point of access they can infiltrate without triggering the alarm of the corporate cybersecurity defense.
Critical strategies to stop reconnaissance dead on its tracks prevent social engineering and implement URL filtering to thwart pre-identified malicious URLs. Security officers should also routinely inspect the network traffic flows for intrusions and port scans.
2. Weaponization and Delivery.
When the cyber-criminals have sufficient information, they proceed to turn it into a weapon. They choose the best method of attack to cause the most damage to the company.
Typical attack modes include intruder code within harmless-looking files such as emails, PDF, or Word documents. Advanced methodologies include deliverables that can catch the specific interests of targets.
Complete visibility of all network traffic, including SSL, is an excellent way to prevent the delivery of these digital attacks. The use of next-generation firewalls to block high-risk applications can also extend protections to mobile devices.
URL filtering and perimeter defense can protect against breaches by blocking identifiable exploits, malware, and command-and-control communications. Multiple threat prevention disciplines such as anti-malware, IPS, DNS monitoring, and sinkholing can detect unknown threats.
Cyber-criminals commence with the exploitation phase by executing the initial attack. Upon infiltration, they activate an attack code on the victim’s host and then control the target network or gadget.
Threat lifecycle management can block exploits by using endpoint protection. This technology can also provide detailed forensics about the nature of ongoing attacks, making it a helpful resource for anticipating future follow-up attacks.
Unwanted applications and unknown malware should also be the subject of stringent and thorough block sweeps. The absence of malware will be a significant roadblock to the attempts of cybercriminals to do exploitation.
The exploitation is just the tip of the iceberg. Cybercriminals will keep coming back for more once they successfully hack the system. Installation is the next phase to establish more privileged operations, persistence, and escalate privileges. This is their back door as they try to enter and exit the victim network without detection.
The initial exploitation must not happen in the first place to break this phase of the cyberattack lifecycle. Malware defense should be robust to avoid opening OS functions to vulnerability.
A good defense is to have protective software that will send samples of unidentified malware to a reputable database to craft additional protections. Firewalls with next-generation configurations should help limit user access control and hence establish secure zones.
There must also be granular control of applications to limit the authorized access of individuals on the enterprise, severely hampering the ability of cybercriminals to move laterally with the use of unknown scripts and tools.
5. Command and Control
When cyber-criminals are done with exploitation and installation, they move on to the next vicious phase of the threat lifecycle. They deploy means to command and control the digital infrastructure over the long term.
Attackers will attempt to create a command channel online that leads to a specific server, facilitating the two-way communication of data from infected servers to their home database.
When the threat is on this level, the countermeasures are more advanced. Here are some defenses for command and control infiltration within the system:
- Use anti-CnC signatures to block outbound command and control communications, and data pattern uploads.
- Block outbound communication with URL filtering.
- Identify malicious applications on any port with novel attack techniques.
- Create internal honeypots to find and block compromised hosts and divert malicious agents.
- Establish a database of malicious domains for analysis and foresight.
After establishing control, cybercriminals leverage various techniques to execute their endgame. Most malicious agents aim for profit via blackmail, data exfiltration, critical infrastructure destruction, or web vandalism.
The granular application of user control in the enterprise can enforce file transfer application policies, eliminating archiving tactics to help cyber-criminals execute their plan.
Expert awareness of the cyber attack lifecycle is integral to crafting a defense that can counter threats. Knowing the enemy is half the battle. The cybersecurity threat lifecycle will help create opportunities to improve the integrity of the network.
Countermeasures for Defense
A good understanding of the cybersecurity threat lifecycle can yield significant insights into the best ways to protect a company’s digital infrastructure.
Diversion and Negation
A solid defense can discourage and deter cyber-criminals from stopping or suspending their activities. It can also misdirect adversaries to reveal their purpose, capabilities, strategy, and targets without accomplishing their intended damage.
The best-case scenario is when the cybersecurity threat lifecycle management of the organization can preclude and negate the efforts of cyber-criminals from having any effect at all. This will ultimately defeat the attempts of the attackers.
Delay and Degradation
A cybercrime delayed is a cybercrime denied. The defense can impede the attackers’ advances by making it hard for them to accomplish their mission with the present resources they have on hand, thus delaying their criminal goals.
If the cybersecurity defense is not successful in completely negating the attack, they can still prevent the cyber-criminals from achieving their goals within their intended period. Another victorious scenario is when cyber-criminals have to take additional actions to carry out their intended effects. It buys time for the organization to help bolster further its defenses.
Exposing the stealthy nature of cyber-criminals can strip them of their advantages. Without the element of surprise, there is a significant reduction in the damage they can cause. They can no longer instill fear and uncertainty as much as they want. Revealing their nature can decisively defeat their attempts to breach your system.
The Overall Situation of Cybersecurity
Hacking and other variations of digital threats are no laughing matter. Companies should consider these incidents as severe and potentially damaging to their reputation and clientele when left unprotected.
High Profile Incidents
The laundry list of high-profile digital breaches is a lengthy one. The data breach of secret-sharing app Whisper and the compromise of 250 million Microsoft records uncovered the ugly head of the cybersecurity threat lifecycle for everyone to see this 2020.
Cyberattacks are not isolated cases. Global organizations experience regular attacks from hackers for financial gain, trade secret theft, and disruption of business operations.
The urgency to prioritize cybersecurity defense is more pressing than ever. The passive approach of decades past when it comes to cybersecurity should remain in the past.
Crunching the Numbers
Data breach research from SelfKey indicates that at least 16 billion personal information has become vulnerable to cybercriminals since 2019. These included home addresses, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and other identifiable personal data.
The first quarter of 2020 had the worst for data breaches, with a record of 8 billion cases of cybercrimes.
Many organizations and companies are still at the mercy of these cybercriminals because they don’t understand the cybersecurity threat lifecycle. Defense investments without sufficient defense and expert guidance can just lead to waste.
The old defenses that provide alerts when threats happen on a detection-focused approach are no longer effective during this time. Manual intervention or expensive incident response services are typically part of these legacy techniques, but they do not have the agility and ability to combat all threat vectors.
Work from Home
In this day and age of remote operations and work-from-home setups, it is increasingly difficult to protect the integrity of corporate networks because there are no platforms for intelligence sharing and coordination among various mobile devices.
An example of how legacy defenses are now obsolete is when sandboxing hardware detects an unknown threat; there is no automatic sharing of this information with endpoint agents and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS). Thus, the corporate system is vulnerable when multidimensional attacks happen.
Detection-focused systems cannot integrate IT systems that will instantly defend the organization. Companies with old systems that stopped receiving patches and updates are vulnerable to these gaps.
The introduction of newer technologies such as BYOD (Bring Your Device), cloud infrastructure, and IoT (Internet of Things) introduced several opportunities for attackers to infiltrate connected devices through online means. Companies cannot afford to overlook these emerging dangers because the future of their organization is at stake. Businesses cannot continue with detection-focused cybersecurity defenses because they can’t keep up with the cybersecurity threat lifecycle’s evolving landscape.
Expert Guidance of Threats
Persistent digital threats are not going away anytime soon. They are constantly evolving, requiring organizations to implement a cybersecurity threat lifecycle management for security and data protection.
It is essential to work with a reliable cybersecurity partner that can assist your organization in understanding the anatomy of the cybersecurity threat lifecycle. This will help empower the organization with all the vital phases from reconnaissance, weaponization, exploitation, installation, and command and control.
Foresight is a potent strategy to determine, investigate, and respond to security vulnerabilities. A comprehensive intelligence matrix must protect corporate data, assets, networks, applications, and software.
The Tall Task of Risk Reduction
The cybersecurity partner must complete the complicated task of risk reduction by identifying all available assets. No time should be wasted in assessing gaps and vulnerabilities in your system that cyber-criminals can exploit.
A database of existing threats under a comprehensive classification is crucial for future assessment efforts. Part of this measure identifies the organization’s most valuable assets, subject to the highest risk of exploitation.
It is vital to consider the attacker’s perspective when providing insights into defending an organization. This iterative process can be a baseline reference for your organization’s new policies, specifications, and standards to restrict authorized access and harden the system’s defense configurations.
Partner with RSI Security to bolster the IT infrastructure of your company against advanced persistent threats. We analyze risks and the cybersecurity threat lifecycle to reduce the impact of attacks on all your critical networks and applications.
Our dedicated staff will conduct round-the-clock security management and monitoring to anticipate and overcome cybersecurity threats. We want you to focus on your mission, vision, and business goals. Leave the handling of threat lifecycles to us.
With RSI Security as a valuable ally, you have the assurance of receiving high-value customer service, cost efficiency, and risk reduction.
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