Experts and studies concur that 2021 was one of the worst years for cyber security. The year saw a record number of attacks that compromised some of the most sophisticated systems in the world. Unless businesses take practical measures, these assaults are expected to grow.
A careful analysis reveals these attacks are not random. Regardless of the mode or method, all assaults follow a certain pattern, often known as the cyber attack lifecycle. The cyber attack lifecycle is split into several stages. Here is a look at those stages and some precautionary measures you can take.
Cyber Attack Lifecycle Stage 1: Identifying Potential Targets
In this initial stage, attackers size up your system. They conduct a reconnaissance of your network to identify potential weak links. After determining the target area/person, attackers unleash weapons, such as phishing, zero-day exploit, or ransomware. Once the gateway opens hackers have free reign inside your internal network or account and can cause havoc.
What you can do: Your business reputation and security rely on a secure end-point protection so preventative measures are generally better than reactionary ones. Continuing inspections of systems and networks to detect attack vectors and weeding them out is one way to ensure security. Since centralization of security is seldom possible, companies should consider educating their employees on potential security threats.
Cyber Attack Lifecycle Stage 2: Weaponization & exploitation
In the second stage, attackers devise the methodologies to deliver malicious payloads. It could be a harmless-looking mail or an authoritative missive that prods a victim to click on it. Once the victim clicks the link, it’s time for the attackers to mount an attack and enter the system.
What you can do: Companies can prevent this by establishing secure zones across user access controls. Incorporating the Zero-trust model, which reiterates the principle of ‘do not trust by default’, and training employees to steer clear of suspicious links can also help in keeping attackers at bay.
Cyber Attack Lifecycle Stage 3: Command & Control
When attackers sneak past the first two stages undetected, they set into motion the third leg of their parasitic venture: the command-and-control problem. If the breach remains unnoticed for a long period, the attackers take control of the entire network. The attackers then obtain access to a network administrator's privileges and drain the system of critical and sensitive data. They will also establish a channel to communicate and direct data between your compromised devices and their infrastructure.
What you can do: Again, it’s only by continuous vigilance that organizations can keep the issue from escalating. The default countermeasure, or rather safeguard, is blocking the tools used for outbound command-and-control communication and observing data pattern uploads. You can also use URL filtering to block outbound communication attempts. On a higher level, maintaining a database of malicious domains, along with DNS monitoring, would also beef up the security apparatus. Businesses can also rely on granular control of applications to limit attackers ’ ability to move across the network.
Cyber Attack Lifecycle Stage 4: Data Robbery, Destruction of Infrastructure & Extortion
After gaining higher privileges as a network administrator, the attackers can now work on their objective, which is data robbery, destruction of infrastructure, or extortion. The repercussions of a full takeover on a company are far-reaching. In addition to regaining control, they will need to account for any data loss, not to mention the enormous blow to their reputation that a takeover would imply.
An analysis draws ominous conclusions for small businesses in the aftermath of a severe attack. The research says 60 percent of small businesses fail within six months of a cyber attack.
What you can do: Business leaders should always be on the lookout for indicators of network compromise using threat intelligence tools developed by cyber security experts like Packetlabs. The continual monitoring of traffic to set up secure zones should be standard procedure. To have the appropriate prevention-based controls, enterprises should also establish links between the security operations center (SOC) and the network operations center.
Your organization’s security is as strong as the weakest link which in most cases, is the people within the organization. Investing in education around potential threats, what to look for and what to do if something seems suspicious may help prevent or catch an attack early on.
In addition, speak with the cyber security experts at Packetlabs to uncover vulnerabilities residing in your IT and network systems and provide a tailored approach to each environment.