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Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Security

Breaking the kill chain: Protecting against the known and the unknown

 Breaking the kill chain

Data theft is big business. More than 1.3 billion records have been exposed in the last two years. The threat evolution is faster than ever – we are, on average, discovering more new threats every day than identifying already known malware.

Today’s most damaging attacks are Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). Cybercrime is no longer random or about brute force, it’s more subtle − aiming to infiltrate, stay hidden, and extract data without detection. If security controls cannot detect the malware during this period, then it’s a matter of time before you become a statistic.

Too many of these breaches occur because of a lack of focus across the spectrum of possible threats or attack vectors. Rapid innovation on the malware front, the exploitation of new zero-day vulnerabilities, and emerging evasion techniques can all render any single approach ineffective.

A deeper, more comprehensive approach is needed to counter these increasingly sophisticated attacks. Below is a simple framework for combating APTs.

Prevent – The known threats

Lots of malware is already known. The cybercriminal might be highly creative but they exhibit the same human flaw shared by us all: laziness. Last year, nearly a quarter of malware was more than 10 years old and almost 90% discovered before 2014.

Known threats should be blocked immediately through the use of next-generation firewalls, secure email gateways, endpoint security, and other similar products leveraging highly accurate security technologies.

It’s incredible how often network professionals don’t start with the basics. Doing simple things, like keeping security patches up-to-date, and continually testing and re-testing the security of your IT infrastructure, are the building blocks of a strong network.

Previously unknown malware and targeted attacks, however, can hide themselves from these measures. Traffic that can’t be swiftly dealt with here gets handed off to the next point of your multi-layered defence, which aims to detect unknown threats.

Detect – The unknown

Many new approaches can detect previously unknown threats and create actionable threat intelligence. Sandboxing allows potentially malicious software to be handed off to a sheltered environment so its full behaviour can be directly observed without affecting production networks.

Some quarters have lauded it as a perfect solution. While it's a critical component in the overall defensive scheme, don’t be fooled: sandboxing alone is no panacea. We know how attackers respond to new technologies: they figure out how they work, then find ways around them. We already have examples of how the cybercriminal is circumventing sandboxes. That’s why it’s important to stay updated: just as criminals evolve, your system needs to too.