Advanced Persistent Threat: The Frightening Process of APTs

  • By Emmett
  • Jun 10, 2022

what is an apt

When we ask the question “What is an APT,” there is no simple or succinct answer. The world of cybersecurity is complex, with many layers interacting to create the safety nets we all enjoy online. With advanced cybersecurity comes advanced cybercriminals, and APTs are one of the many ways information can be stolen online. Learning to identify these attacks is the best way to mitigate the damage they bring and help keep vital information safe. 

What is an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)?

An advanced persistent threat, or APT, is a cybersecurity term referring to coordinated and continuous attacks on a single system or network. These cyberattacks usually involve the use of advanced hacking techniques and malicious malware and tend to focus on government organizations or large corporations. The motivation for these attackers can range from financial to political, and any data they find could be used as a bargaining chip with their target organization. 

APT attacks are highly sophisticated and tend to involve the cooperation of several different hackers or cybercriminal groups. These cybercriminals will use a variety of advanced tactics to gain access to the systems they target, exploiting the zero-day vulnerabilities of networks and using techniques like social engineering and spear phishing. APT attackers will even rewrite entire sections of a system's code to hide their tracks, establishing access points for repeated intrusions into a network. 

How Do APTs Work?

An APT attack usually follows a series of steps, each designed to facilitate repeated access to a supposedly secure network. Once inside, hackers use this technique to continually attack that network until they get the data they require. 

  1. Get in the Door

    These criminals may even use a combination of multiple different methods to get in, and once there, they move to step 2. 

    • False Links
    • Malware
    • App Vulnerabilities
    • Insider Information
    • Phishing Programs

    There are a number of ways hackers gain access to a secure network, including:

  2. Establish Backdoor Access

    Once hackers have their way in, they expand their areas of network operation by establishing a series of backdoors. That way, if one entry point is discovered or destroyed, they can utilize the many others at their disposal to regain access. This is often done by installing malware within the system that rewrites code and helps disguise the backdoors as organic parts of the network. 

  3. Dive Further Into the System

    Using similar techniques to their initial access phase, hackers engaging in an APT attack will find ways into the more protected areas of a network. This includes those sections guarded by administrator restrictions. The more defenses up around a section of the system, the more likely it contains sensitive information. 

  4. Expand to All Corners

    Once administrative rights have been granted (or, in this case, stolen) to the hackers, they’ll be able to expand into every nook and cranny of the network. Once the attack has become widespread enough, it will even begin to affect any servers connected to that central network. This could mean access to employee or client devices if they share a connection with your system. 

  5. Proliferate, Then Wait

    After multiplying and creating an embedded web within their target, hackers will often remain within a system for long periods of time. This is to observe the inflow and outflow of information, receive advanced warning of any backdoor detections, and create more points of access for future attacks. Hackers may leave once they get the information they seek or stay to gather more data if the need arises. 

Who is Targeted by APTs?

advanced persistent threat

While any system can be targeted by an advanced persistent threat, the usual victims are networks within the government, large companies, or high-value individuals. Unfortunately, more small and medium-sized businesses have been experiencing these attacks, as cyber criminals know these companies have less capital to spend on advanced cybersecurity.

Hackers can even use companies you partner with, who may have subpar cybersecurity measures, to slowly access your network over time. Once inside, they can steal any data stored within your network, even the personal information of you and your employees. 

What Should I Do If My Data is Stolen?

If you’ve been the victim of an APT attack, or any other type of cybercrime, your information could be leaked or sold. If sold on the black market, this data could lead to a number of financial and personal issues, including identity theft and fraud. If you think your information may have been stolen, it's always best to run an identity threat scan, which is found for free through services like IDStrong.

 Even if you believe your data to be safe, keep an eye out; advanced persistent attacks and other hacking techniques are becoming more common, and cybercriminals are relentless in their pursuit of valuable data. Learning the signs to look out for can keep you safe, and if you act quickly, you may be able to avoid the damage this dangerous hacking technique can cause.

About the Author
IDStrong Logo

Related Articles

What is Mail Theft and How to Prevent It in 3 Simple Steps

One of the many ways that identity thieves get their hands on your personal information is through ... Read More

Credit Card Fraud: What Is It and How To Protect Yourself Against It

Credit card fraud is a fact of life, and most Americans have experienced it or know someone who ha ... Read More

Lost or Stolen Phone? Don’t Panic, Follow These Steps

Most of us are tethered to our smartphones like a lifeline. In these tiny little computers, we car ... Read More

Stolen or Lost Wallet: What to Do?

Anyone who has ever lost their wallet or purse, or had it stolen, knows that instant spark of pani ... Read More

7 Most Common Types of Identity Theft That Can Happen to You

Identity theft is a major concern for many Americans these days with data breaches, ransomware att ... Read More

Latest Articles

Regal Medical Group Data Breach Affects Patients of At Least Four Healthcare Providers

Regal Medical Group Data Breach Affects Patients of At Least Four Healthcare Providers

It's been less than a week since February 2023 started, yet we are, reading about a new medical breach. Over 90% of hospitals have admitted to being victims of data breaches.

Weekly Cybersecurity Recap February 3

Weekly Cybersecurity Recap February 3

Well, the last month has passed incredibly quickly and without much stir, which gives us hope for the next year. However, this month has been incredibly eventful in the world of cybersecurity.

Bell-Carter Foods Announced A Data Breach

Bell-Carter Foods Announced A Data Breach

Any large-scale company is at heightened risk of becoming the victim of a data breach. It doesn't always seem like the most obvious target; whether it's a power company, a grocer, or a chain restaurant, there is actually a lot of desirable information available from these companies' databases.

Featured Articles

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

Buying your own home is the American Dream, but it might seem out of reach to those with bad credit. However, the good news is, if your credit is less than perfect, you do still have options and in most cases, can still buy a home.

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

Any good IT article on computers and network security will address the importance of strong, secure passwords. However, the challenge of good passwords is that most people have a hard time remembering them, so they use simple or obvious ones that pose a security risk.

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Senior scams are becoming a major epidemic for two reasons. First, seniors often have a lot of money in the bank from a life of working hard and saving.

Free Identity Threat Scan
Instantly Check if Your Personal Information is Exposed
All fields below are required
Please enter first name
Please enter last name
Please enter a city
Please select a state
Please enter an email address
Close