It is generally acknowledges that Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) represent the biggest concern for companies today when it comes to the use of cyber-space. No company can function without Internet access, and virtually all information is in digital format.
Like cancer, APTs tend to go for the proverbial jugular. You never hear of someone suffering from cancer of the big toe; it’s always a major organ that gets targeted. And how or where the seeds are sown is virtually impossible to detect. Certainly there are preventative measures that can be taken, but that will not guarantee that someone will not be infected.
APTs similarly are not about targeting irrelevant or invaluable data. For example I’m sure that those who breached Target and others could have stolen details that had little or no commercial value. It seems fairly obvious that if they can access the most confidential data, then they can probably access anything they wish.
APTs are advanced because they know what they are looking for. And this becomes the immediate root of the problem of trying to deal with them. APTs have changed the target from technology to humans. Attacks used to focus on trying to break into your server, firewall or application by trying to find a weakness.
Today’s attacks are targeted. They are not simply trying to cause some havoc, they are trying to steal valuable information, and fundamental to the success of APTs is their ability to identify the weak link in the human chain. That’s what makes them “advanced” – it is social engineering on a scale that we have never imagined.