5 tips for defending against advanced persistent threats (APT)

APTs are increasing in occurrence and severity, as are the costs associated with protecting businesses adequately from. Is your organization prepared to do battle against an APT? You better be.

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The aptly named advanced persistent threat (APT) is a type of network attack in which an attacker selects a specific target, uses social engineering and advanced technologies to break into a network and then focuses on that target for weeks, months or years until the attack has successfully played out (or been thwarted). Once inside a network, the attacker's goal is to remain undetected while using some type of malware to capture confidential information, which is ultimately sent to a different location for analysis and then sold on the black market.

APTs are highly organized, sometimes with a complete staff, and have plenty of monetary and technological resources. Although APTs may use common hacker tools, they more often employ sophisticated, customized software that's less likely to be picked up by a security protection system. Types of APTs or delivery mechanisms include zero-day attacks, phishing, advanced malware and a variety of Web compromises.

This article looks at five ways to protect an organization's assets from APTs. All are important.

1. Implement defense in depth

Security experts emphasize the need for layered security (aka, defense in depth) as part of a regular network security strategy, and defense in depth is also one of the best approaches to stopping an APT before it infiltrates a network. This means controlling network entry and exit points, using next-generation firewalls, deploying intrusion detection/prevention systems and security information and event management (SIEM) systems, implementing a vulnerability management system, using strong authentication and identity management, keeping security patches up to date and implementing endpoint protection.

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