- The book “Advanced Persistent Threats” developed by Antonio Villalón, Director of Security of S2 Grupo, analyzes the keys to this type of cyber-attacks and cyberspace that today affects any type of organization whose information is worth money, that is, all.
- This type of threats are led by States, organized criminal groups, companies, etc., with a large amount of economic and human resources to undertake the attack and a great interest in the information that the victim has.
- As the author pointed out, the main mistake that is made when dealing with these types of threats is to consider them a type of malware.
Madrid, April 6, 2017.- The company S2 Grupo, specialized in cybersecurity and management of critical systems, presented this morning at its headquarters in Madrid the book “Advanced Persistent Threats” (APTs) developed by its Director of Security, Antonio Villalón. This meeting, in which the associate-directors of S2 Grupo, José Rosell and Miguel A. Juan, participated together with the author, focused on how APTs are currently one of the biggest cyber risks for any type of organization whose data are worth money , that is, all.
“Most of today’s cyberspace is mainly driven by economic issues, including between “friendly” countries. If we are negotiating the purchase of gas with a producing country, vital information for us would be to know how much our contact person is willing to lower the price, as it will give us a privileged position in our negotiations”, said Antonio Villalón.
As explained, an APT is a process initiated by a third party (usually an organization, a criminal group, a company, a state, etc.) with the ability and intention to attack in an advanced way (through multiple vectors) and continued over time, a specific objective (a competitor, another state, a sector, etc.).
Ultimately, APTs are organized groups of mafias or governments that seek money, steal information or sabotage an organization. What these have in common is that the attackers have a large amount of resources (human, financial, material, etc.), much knowledge and, what is more dangerous, a great interest in the information that their victim handles. In addition, this great ability coupled with their particular way of acting, which in a secretive way, seeks to continue stealing information as long as it can in an company, makes them a great threat.
In the book by Antonio Villalón, was been edited by Nau Llibres, from the main actors who play in information theft to the defense approaches against them are exposed, going through the tactics, techniques and procedures that are applied from the so-called cyber intelligence. In addition, there are also well-known cases of APTs, such as the so-called “Red October”, which spent years in silence and aimed to steal diplomatic information from the victims. In this case, a modular kit was designed to obtain information from different platforms, including mobile phones, and to recover deleted files.
“APTs are the way organized states and groups get into their target systems to take possession of information with economic, geopolitical or defense interests, among others. A feature that sets them apart from other types of cyber risk is that nothing is accidental in them, everything is planned to the millimeter. Orchestrating an attack of this type can cost thousands or millions of euros and, of course, is not launched against random victims, as can happen in the case of a banking phishing, for example“, said Miguel A. Juan.
An error and a problem: considering APTs as malware and the difficulty of whom attributing the crime to
One of the points which Antonio Villalón puts special emphasis on when talking about the management of this type of incidents is that the most common mistake should be avoided which is to consider these threats as malware.
“The APT is not a harmful code, neither advanced or non-advanced, but a capability. And as a capability we must face it and manage the incident associated with a compromise. The malware is eradicated, threat information needs are not, so we can be sure that the attacker will return and we must be prepared for that return“, said Villalón.
Another problem associated with this type of threats is the difficulty in attributing the authorship of the same. In this sense, José Rosell stressed that “the problem in assigning cyberattacks is in the evidence on which it is based on, since these may have been manipulated, since it is evidence that the attacker has somehow shown somewhere on a voluntary or involuntary basis. For example, we may believe that a cyberattack is produced from Russia because we see code in Cyrillic or a server is detected there, but that this is no more than a trick of manipulation and that the true origin is in any other country.” José Rosell
About the author: Antonio VillalónHe is the Director of Security of S2 Grupo, Engineer in Computer Science (Polytechnic University of Valencia), Director of Security (University of Valencia) authorized by the Ministry of Interior and CISA auditor (ISACA). He has more than 20 years of experience in the field of cybersecurity.In his professional career he has executed and directed analysis, defense, attack and exploitation projects, as well as set up and managed security and incident response centers. In addition, he accumulates extensive teaching experience, being habitual in courses and conferences in different congresses and universities.