We have all heard about major targeted attacks. The attacks on Sony and Ashley Madison made international news and are still fresh on our minds.

When they’re targeted, they’re even more dangerous.

When hackers exposed the intimate details of over 30 million adults, many families broke apart. Even Former British PM Tony Blair’s email was in the breach.

A single DDoS attack can cost small and medium companies $120,000. This figure runs into millions for larger companies.

What is worse, attackers are often not brought to justice. They seem impossible to stop.

So, can you do anything to protect your organization from targeted attacks?

Learning About Targeted Attacks 

A cyberattack is said to be “targeted” when adversaries target specific organizations or people within the organizations.

Such attacks seek to infiltrate networks and are carried out over long periods of time, often with the target being unaware of what is going on.

After the adversary gains access to a network, they seek to gain further access. 

If successful, targeted attacks can result in the loss of your intellectual property, loss of reputation and resources, disruption to business, and theft of customer’s information.

How Do Targeted Attacks Even Happen?

We can divide an attack into six stages.

These attacks don’t take place in a clean-cut manner; once one stage is complete, it doesn’t mean that more activity won’t take place.

1. Intelligence Gathering –  As data is vast and helps increase the efficiency of a breach, this stage can continue through the entire duration of the attack.

2. Entry Points –Targeted attacks often use “spear-phishing” to infiltrate a targeted organization’s networks. 

Although this continues to be popular, attackers may carry out other steps, including “Watering Hole Attacks”, where websites visited by the organization are targeted.

3. Controlling Compromised Machines – Attackers must gain control over compromised machines to mount successful attacks. They use several methods to hide such command and control traffic.

4. Lateral Movement – Lateral movement is a repetitive step that uses system admin tools to mask its malicious activities. The goals of lateral movement include:

  • Enhancing privileges in the network
  • Carrying out additional information gathering activities
  • Conducting lateral movement to infiltrate more devices in the network

Other steps, like intelligence gathering, are also carried out during lateral movement.

4. Maintenance – Attackers must perform maintenance activities like adding backdoors and using command and control servers. They also introduce patches to ensure a criminal monopoly on the networks.

5. Data Exfiltration – Data Exfiltration is the end goal of any targeted attack. This step is delicate, and attackers often transfer data to machines within the organization itself to mask the process.

DoS and DDoS: Which Attack is More Dangerous?

Both DoS and DDoS are targeted attacks that seek to disable services to users. 

While a DoS (Denial-of-Service) attack uses a single machine…

A DDoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) attack uses a botnet of several computers or IoT devices.

DDoS attacks are generally more dangerous than simple DoS attacks as botnets are thrown on hordes of hundreds and thousand computers, flooding servers with malicious traffic.

Protecting Yourself From Targeted Attacks

Targeted attacks can be protected against with the help of a few simple precautions.

1. Classify Your Data – You should classify your data, to have better control over it. By categorizing data, you can choose who accesses it and know which assets need protection.

2. Network Structure Matters – Structure your network in such a way that confidential information is stored separately and needs high-security clearances.

A multi-tier access data storage is a great idea and can be placed in a disconnected or separate network for additional security.

3. Educate Employees – Next, you should educate all employees in basic cybersecurity. Doing this lessens human error and makes employees an asset to data protection. 

4. Secure User Accounts – User accounts must be configured to have the least access possible, and the number of high priority users should be as low as possible. 

5. Conduct Regular Log Analysis – You can hire a security event management group that can see lateral movement and create countermeasures.

Summary

Targeted attacks seem to be an unbeatable threat, but they are not.

They can cause significant damage to an organization, but with the correct precautions, you can avoid most of them.

That being said, you can trust the security parts to dedicated experts and guarantee protection.

At MyItGuy, our IT Security Services will give your company the best in cybersecurity protection so you can work at ease… Isn’t that what you want?