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How and Why You Need to Protect Your Business Against APT Malware

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Protecting your business against APT malware is critical. Advanced persistent threats in the form of malware can be especially damaging to your business. While it’s important to have a firewall and other basic cybersecurity protocols in place, you need to take specific steps to protect against APT malware.

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Achieving 24×7 Threat Monitoring and Response

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What is APT malware?

APT malware is designed to execute malicious functions on a victim’s computer for a prolonged period of time. Rather than damaging a network or computer, APT malware seeks to continually steal an organization’s data over a lengthy period of time.

APT malware attacks are carefully orchestrated to remain undetected for as long as possible and often fly under the radar of standard antivirus software.

It seems hard to believe a threat can go undetected for a long time, but it happens. For example, five individual groups of threat actors infiltrated Linux servers with remote access trojans for almost ten years . That’s scary, considering a large number of webhosts use Linux.

How does APT malware work?

The complexity of APT malware attacks requires a full-time team to suppress the visibility of the threat. Unlike many cyberattacks, APTs aren’t automated. While some aspects of these attacks are automated, the execution is predominantly manual.

Cybercriminals execute APT malware in several ways, but the most common method is by weaponizing documents. Weaponized documents set the foundation for a multi-stage, automated attack that infects numerous computers inside an organization.

For example, a rich text document or a Microsoft Word document is programmed to download files or load content from a remote server. This initiates a long chain of executions that eventually create a backdoor on the infected machine. Once the backdoor exists, the data mining begins.

A backdoor allows hackers to run just about any command on the victim’s computer, including:

  • Delete or create files
  • Rename files
  • Take screenshots
  • Use Command Prompt (cmd.exe) to run read/write commands
  • Obtain registry keys
  • Obtain TCP and UDP tables
  • Terminate or create processes
  • Obtain information about the computer, including account usernames, the computer’s name, adapter data, the gateway address, and OS information
  • Restart or shut down the computer

While the malware is running on one device, additional attacks are set up through an ongoing spear-phishing campaign.

Since APT malware is designed to remain undetected, large amounts of data can be collected before anyone becomes suspicious.

How does APT malware hurt businesses?

APT malware has both short and long-term effects. The short-term effects include sabotaged infrastructure, network outages, site takeovers, and stolen data. The long-term effects involve how that stolen data is used and the impact of deploying massive recovery efforts.

Let’s start with the short-term effects: stolen data.

Successfully executed APT malware can mine sensitive data, including:

  • Your company’s proprietary information
  • Your company’s intellectual property
  • Private documents like contracts and NDAs
  • Personal details about you, your staff, customers, contractors, and clients
  • Credit card numbers, bank account information, and other bits of data that can be used for identity theft
  • Account credentials
  • Data that makes it possible for a competitor to get leverage in the marketplace

These consequences hurt all businesses, but organizations bound by data privacy laws are hurt the most.

Stolen data can bankrupt your business

If you’re bound by regulations like HIPAA, CJIS, or CCPA, you can’t afford to have your data stolen. Data privacy violations are taken seriously by governing agencies; you won’t get off the hook. If an APT malware attack creates a violation, your business can be fined, and you might lose your license to operate.

If you can’t afford to pay your fines, you might have no choice but to go out of business and/or file for bankruptcy. Depending on the severity of the violation, your reputation might become tarnished.

What are the long-term consequences of APT malware attacks?

The long-term effects of an APT malware attack can be complex.

  • Sabotaged infrastructure. When you’re dealing with sabotaged infrastructure, you’ll need to spend time and money repairing or replacing that infrastructure.
  • Network outages. Network outages are easy to recover from on the technical side of things, but outages can cause extensive damage. For example, you could lose an entire day or week’s worth of revenue if you don’t have a good business continuity and disaster plan.
  • Site takeovers. If an APT malware attack results in a website takeover, your website could be used to host phishing attacks. This can get you suspended or terminated by your webhost. A site takeover can also intercept customer input like personal details and credit card information.

What are the signs of APT malware?

Although these attacks are hard to spot, there are telltale signs to watch out for, including:

  • Unexpected logins. For example, employees logging in at odd hours or from unfamiliar IP addresses.
  • Regular antivirus software catching numerous backdoor trojans. Numerous backdoor trojans could be part of an APT malware attack.
  • Your employees are receiving spear-phishing emails. These emails are how hackers install APT malware.
  • Unusual database activity. If you see massive volumes of data being manipulated, it could be APT malware.
  • Data bundles in odd places. If you find copies of data in odd places, that’s a bad sign.

How to protect against APT malware

While you’ve probably taken basic security measures like using a firewall and antivirus software, that’s not enough to protect against advanced persistent threats (APTs). You need protection specifically designed to identify, isolate, and eliminate APT malware.

Get our Complete Guide for

Achieving 24×7 Threat Monitoring and Response

  • Why 24×7 threat monitoring should no longer be considered optional
  • How cybersecurity talent shortages can be overcome
  • How the two-pillar approach helps lean security teams achieve 24×7 threat monitoring

Cynet’s Managed Detection and Response service can help

Don’t risk your business by staying unprotected. Avoid APT malware attacks with managed security services from Cynet. Our services will provide the following critical protections:

  • High malware catch rates
  • Protection against known and unknown threats
  • Fast sandbox emulation time
  • Detailed and accurate forensics and reporting
  • Traffic monitoring to prevent backdoors, block data mining, and identify suspicious access
  • And more

Ready to get protected? Sign up for a demo to see how Cynet can protect your business from APT malware threats.

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