In general, an advanced persistent threat (APT) refers to a prolonged and targeted cyber assault in which attackers gain access to a corporate network for an extended period and remain undetected. Because of their high-value data, APT attacks are typically aimed at organizations in sectors such as national security, manufacturing, and the financial industry. As they secretly take control of the data of your organization, these cybercriminals work hard to remain undetected. Let’s look at how you can detect APT if you have one and the steps to tackle it.
While your organization may not be of the type that attracts the attention of well-funded and well-organized hacker groups or rogue nation-states, you need to remember that instead of causing network harm, the intruder’s primary objective is to steal data. That means an APT can be launched by a malicious outsider or an insider. The last thing these hackers want is for you to discover their presence and kick them out.
Signs of an Advanced Persistent Threat
While it is difficult to identify one, in the case of an advanced persistent threat, you will begin to find subtle changes that indicate something happening out of the ordinary. In the ERP system, let’s take a look at some spooky behavior that may indicate the presence of an APT.
Payroll fraud is the most common consequence of an APT
The payroll department might notice anomalies: multiple direct deposits are wired to the same account; employees who have opted for paper paychecks instead of direct deposit reports are no longer getting their mail. Or, during a routine security audit, you can find the sudden development of high-privileged user accounts, but the logs display no entries that indicate who requested or approved them.
Context of access could be a sign of an APT
In your ERP system, there are other signs of irregular behavior, such as frequent after-hours account activity, excessive login mistakes and suspicious access, and obscure IP addresses from overseas locations. Regardless of the signs, the next step is to launch an investigation. The advanced persistent threat counts on your inactivity to stay concealed.
Stave-off APTs with a multi-layered security strategy
When abnormal behavior reveals itself, companies using legacy ERP systems are frequently left in the dark. The granular visibility required to identify and remove malicious actors in data access and use is lacking in such systems.
There are data protection and analytics applications that allow businesses to adopt a layered security strategy that includes complex controls for authentication and authorization, along with real-time monitoring that provides insight into when and by whom data is accessed. These solutions add these extra layers of security into your ERP system to help ensure the data is still safe even if it is haunted by an APT (e.g., valid login credentials stolen by a phishing attack).
Apart from all the other cybersecurity threats that go bump in the night, every organization, irrespective of the industry, is susceptible to advanced persistent threats. The best defense against these cyber criminals accessing and stealing the data of your organization is prevention and early detection.