Getting To Know The Phases of A Cyberattack

Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common every year—and each one is unique in who it strikes and what they’re after. But while there are variations between individual attacks, they typically follow a general pattern made up of seven distinct phases. Becoming familiar with these phases can help you detect potential threats and prevent an attack before it occurs.

Phase 1: Choosing a Target

Once an attacker has decided what company they will attack, they must choose who they will use to gain entry within that company. This is also known as reconnaissance. Attackers are looking for a vulnerable target, such as someone likely to be swayed by a phishing email or who frequently logs onto a public Wi-Fi network with their work account.

When looking for a vulnerable target, attackers will determine who is important within the company and who they contact regularly. They will also dig up as much public information as possible about that target and the company itself, including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN) web registry database.

Phase 2: Determining How to Get into the Network

Once they have gathered as much information as possible, attackers determine how to weaponize that information to get into the network. This is the point at which they create methods of attack, such as phishing emails that are convincing and appear to come from a trusted contact or a fake website that looks like the real one and will convince the target to enter their credentials.

Phase 3: Launching the Attack

The attack is launched once the delivery method has been determined and created. This includes the delivery of phishing emails and any attachments that may contain malware, as well as posting fake websites on the internet. Once this is done, the attacker only has to wait for the target to take the bait.

Phase 4: Taking Advantage of the Resulting Security Breach

At this point, the target has taken the bait. Perhaps they have clicked on the link and gone to the fake website, where they have provided their username and password, allowing the attacker to gain access to the network using those credentials. Or they may have downloaded the attachment that will infect the system with malware, allowing the attacker to gain remote access to the network.

Either way, once they have access to the network, the attacker will monitor it to get a feel for the environment. They want to know things like the flow of traffic and what systems are connected to the network. They will then use this information to determine how to exploit these systems for their gain.

Phase 5: Installing a Backdoor

Another thing attackers do when they gain access to a network is make sure they can get back in whenever they want and for as long as they need. To do this, they will install what is known as a persistent backdoor. Essentially, they use malicious software to connect the target network with their home device.

They will then create their own administrative accounts on the target network and disable the firewall security for unfettered access. They will also lock other users out and might activate remote desktop access to the network.

Phase 6: Executing Command and Control

The attacker can now achieve their goals by accessing any data on the network, locking users out of the system, demanding a ransom to restore access, or impersonating users—even C-level executives.

Phase 7: Achieving Their Objectives

Once the entire command and control of phase six is achieved, the attacker can do what they came there to do, whether that is steal information or disrupt operations. They can gain access to sensitive employee, customer, and company data. They can also do things like:

  • Hacking online ordering to shut the system down, cancel customer orders, or create false orders for customers.
  • Taking control of industrial control systems to shut systems down and disable alarms.

The threat of a cyberattack affecting your organization is more significant than ever. You must prepare before an attacker strikes, enhancing your security to protect your company.

While you must take all possible precautions to protect your business, such as strong password security, Identity Access Management, and using the principle of zero trust, on their own, they are not enough. Each phase of a cyberattack can take down your security, leaving you vulnerable despite the firewalls and other precautions you have in place.

Platinum Technologies offers state-of-the-art security services to help protect against cyberattacks. Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your organization from each phase of a cyberattack.

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