A group of information security leaders convened by RSA Security has warned chief information security officers (CISOs) that defending against advanced persistent shreats (APTs) requires a new mindset based on the assumption that they have already been compromised.
The report, When Advanced Persistent Threats Go Mainstream, is the latest in a series from the Security for Business Innovation Council, which features CISOs from ABN Amro, eBay and EMC and others.
It sets out to chart how APTs have moved from mainly nation state authored attacks targeting the defence sector to represent a threat to all organisations from cyber criminals and even hacktivists.
According to the report, the term APT has come to mean a well researched and funded attack targeted at a specific organisation "employing multiple vectors and using 'low and slow' techniques to evade detection".
The Operation Aurora attacks on Google and other organisations in 2009, as well as the Night Dragon attacks discovered by McAfee, could both be described as APTs.
Given the nature of these threats and their intention to evade traditional security filters, the report warns that for most organisations it is a case of if and not when they will be targeted.
It makes seven key recommendations beginning with improving intelligence gathering and analysis, installing intelligent network monitoring tools, tightening user access controls and improving user education to ensure that staff can spot social engineering.
CISOs are also encouraged to share intelligence with their peers, and rearchitect their IT systems, isolating critical assets to make it harder for attackers to roam networks in search of key information.
The report is well-timed, coming out as McAfee revealed yet another large-scale, well funded and researched cyber attack, which lasted over five years, dubbed Operation Shady RAT.
However, many will question the suitability of RSA to publish research and recommendations on APTs, given that the firm itself succumbed to a high-profile attack on its systems in March forcing it to offer all its customers replacement SecurID tokens.
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