Protecting Endpoints Against Advanced Persistent Threats


Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a network attack in which an attacker chooses a particular target, uses social engineering and advanced technologies to break into a network. Until the attack is successfully executed, they focus on that particular target for weeks, months, and years. Once inside a network, the objective of the attacker is to lay low, meanwhile using different malware to gain access to confidential information. Once they steal the information, it is sent to various locations and sold on the underground economy.

APTs have fiscal and technological assets and are highly organized. APTs are known to use sophisticated, and personalized software that mostly goes unnoticed by a security protection system. Phishing, zero-day attacks, advanced malware and a diversity of web compromises are the various delivery mechanisms or types of APTs.

APTs pose a risk to every organization. APTs can evade traditional signature-based anti-virus products leaving organizations exposed to threats. Instead of reacting to attacks after its occurrence, organizations must proactively control the endpoints by strengthening their security posture, and empowering the endpoints with an automated solution that provides visibility, prevention, detection and response. An endpoint threat detection and remediation (EDR) tool seals the void by providing insights into an APT attack and internal lateral movement of attackers.

Saner endpoint security solution combines endpoint vulnerability, patch and compliance management with endpoint threat detection and response into one easy to manage solution. Saner provides continuous visibility and control for all endpoints. It proactively remediates risks and detects and responds to threats.

How to protect organization’s resources from APTs:

  1. Enforce defense in depth

Defense in depth is one of the most effective methods to prevent an APT before it infiltrates a network and hence security specialists as part of a regular network security strategy, gives importance to the need for defense in depth. This includes:

  • Steering areas of entry and exit in network
  • Using next-generation firewalls
  • Deploying intrusion detection/prevention systems and security information and event management (SIEM) systems
  • Employing a vulnerability management system and ensuring security patches are up to date
  • Using strong authentication and identity management
  • Enforcing endpoint protection through Anti-malware and EDR solutions

The first layer of the network must be hard to penetrate but if that layer is compromised, every additional layer of security must then pose a further obstacle, either preventing the attack from spreading or slowing down so that it can be detected and handled by the security solution.

  1. Implement detection and monitoring modus operandi

Warning signs of APTs can be detected at an early stage with continuous monitoring. It is very important to monitor all incoming and outgoing network traffic, internal traffic, and every device that accesses your network. In order to foil attacker’s plan and for well-timed detection of potential invasions, the endpoints and network must be proactively and continuously monitored for any changes in the security posture. Continuous monitoring ensures that there are no deviations from established configuration settings and also makes sure that systems remain compliant all the time.

With Saner, it’s easy to know the security posture of all endpoints within seconds from one convenient dashboard. Saner provides real-time visibility into endpoint systems, including vulnerabilities, missing patches, processes, services, file information, security events, network connections, installed software, devices, privileged user accesses and rights. It is important to know policy deviations, behavioral changes etc. instantly to take a responsive action upon detecting such changes as malicious.

  1. Develop a strategy for incident response

In spite of implementing high-end technologies, breaches happen. Implementing a solid incident response plan can stop an attack, reduce damage and prevent data leakage all of which will diminish the reputation or brand damage that can follow.

The incident response plan should also comprise of steps for conserving forensic evidence of the breach to act against an attacker. With the help of forensics, the security team can detect security gaps to harden controls and prevent relapses.

Saner Business reduces the likelihood of an incident by preventing attacks from succeeding. Saner Business detects IoCs and provides a vast number of response options to contain the potential damage in case an incident does occur. If attacks recur using the same vulnerability, Saner Business helps identify the vulnerabilities and recommend ways to remediate such vulnerabilities.

  1. Bring a threat intelligence service into play

Threat intelligence services are offered by many security vendors in which raw data about evolving threats are collected from numerous sources, investigated and filtered to generate information which is useable and, actionable. The information is in the manner of data feeds for security control systems, and management reports for IT managers and C-level executives to assist them to comprehend the threat landscape for their industry.

It’s necessary to recognize signs of an APT at the earliest as they use different approaches to spread, and may emphasize on vulnerabilities unknown to security organizations. Threat intelligence acts as the missing link that brings together irregularities in network log data with a zero-day vulnerability.

Saner detects threats and includes remediation measures to instantaneously contain or block an attack. Threat Intelligence in the form of STIX/TAXII and OpenIOC can be fed to detect Indicators of Compromise and APT attacks in seconds in real-time.

  1. Educate employees on security awareness

Every organization understands that security begins from within the organization, i.e. the employees. Ensuring employees truly understand the risks involved in unreliable links in emails and understanding various social engineering techniques are steps towards protecting endpoints and network.

The organization’s security policy and potential consequences to each employee which arise from their actions must be communicated to them. Employees always strive to excel in what they do and does not want to be the reason for company losses curtailing from an attack. The best tactics in doing this will be by drawing attention to the positive during awareness training and proposing incentives for being security-minded.

– Rini Thomas

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