What is a Targeted Attack, and How Can You Protect Yourself Against It?



Targeted attacks are a severe threat to your company’s security. They are often carried out by hackers who want access to your valuable information.

Targeted attacks typically have multiple stages, including reconnaissance, initial compromise, and malware insertion. Understanding the different types of attacks and the steps they follow will help you better defend yourself against them.

What Is a Targeted Attack?

The first question you may ask is, what is a targeted attack? A targeted attack is a security breach that targets a specific organization. The aims of these attacks may be purely financial, such as theft of bank accounts or customer data, but they can also be political or espionage.

Targeted attacks differ from cybercriminal operations because they are deliberate, purposeful, and persistent. In contrast, a cybercriminal operation is opportunistic and often spreads malware indiscriminately.

One of the most common types of targeted attacks is cross-site scripting (XSS). This attack exploits vulnerabilities in websites to inject code and steal information. This is commonly used to gain access to user accounts and passwords.

Another type of targeted attack is social engineering. This attack exploits the psychology of users to gain access to their networks and systems. This can include tricking a user into answering a series of questions or clicking on a link.

These attacks often occur through email, as attackers can send malicious attachments to unsuspecting employees or use spear phishing to entice people to reveal personal information. This is why it’s essential to protect your email and take steps to ensure that you have the proper security in place.

Targeted attacks can be a threat to small and large organizations alike. Several methods, including malware, viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware, can cause these attacks.

What Are the Goals of a Targeted Attack?

A targeted attack differs from opportunistic attacks because they have specific aims and objectives. Targeted attackers don’t look for vulnerabilities or distribute malware indiscriminately but instead focus on a particular system or person they want to gain access.

Targeted attacks threaten critical infrastructure, government agencies, and big businesses. They are often nation-state sponsored and use zero-day exploits that can compromise the networks of large companies to steal data and information.

Once an organization has been compromised, the attacker uses various tools to maintain their hold on the environment. This includes installing persistent backdoors, gaining access to network file shares, and remote execution of commands.

They also may escalate privileges through credential harvesting, keystroke logging, or subversion of authentication systems. This allows the attacker to move laterally throughout the organization’s network and environment, gaining access to additional procedures and data.

These lateral movement techniques aim to gain access to other parts of the environment that aren’t protected by corporate security policies and to continue stealing confidential information. These techniques are designed to be persistent and go undetected by antivirus engines.

As targeted threats continue to evolve, organizations must invest in specific defensive technologies, techniques, and skills to buy down risks efficiently. This means establishing a plan to understand the steps that attackers take, analyzing risk, and determining the most effective defenses for your specific environment.

How Can You Protect Yourself Against a Targeted Attack?

A targeted attack is one of the most dangerous forms of cyber-attack today. It can cost a company millions in lost revenue, fines, and legal fees.

To protect yourself against a targeted attack, you need to make sure you’re using the latest security technology and have a foolproof plan to detect and respond to any malicious activity. The best way to do this is by implementing a security strategy based on your business’s specific threat model.

Targeted attacks can take many forms, from phishing to spear phishing. The latter is an attack that tries to trick you into giving out personal or sensitive information by sending you legitimate emails.

Another common form of a targeted attack is a malware infection that infects your computer and steals your data. The best way to prevent this attack is by installing the latest anti-malware software and monitoring your network for signs of an intruder.

The most obvious solution is to create strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts. You can also add an extra layer of security by using two-factor authentication (FA) to access your accounts.

The biggest challenge is keeping your information secure while staying afloat in a sea of online threats. You should check out what’s available about you on social media and public databases and remove any details that you are uncomfortable with or that could put your family at risk.

What Can You Do to Prevent a Targeted Attack?

Targeted attacks target specific businesses or organizations to gain access to their networks. They differ from opportunistic and general attack methods that look for vulnerabilities and distribute malware indiscriminately.

The aims of targeted attackers vary from national security espionage to intellectual property theft, political or economic espionage, competitive disruption, or even embarrassment. They are also evolving into hybrid attacks with a combination of aims.

These threats are often difficult to detect and stop without a layered defense that includes real-time protection and threat intelligence. Early detection is crucial to preventing these threats from exfiltrating confidential company data and damaging your reputation.

Cybercriminals will use social engineering and spear phishing to infiltrate your network. They will manipulate users and get them to open malicious attachments or click on links that contain malware.

They may then install a malicious application that can track their users’ activity on the web and steal data. This could include their name, email address, and phone number.

It can also lead to a compromised user account that allows them to take over other systems, including yours. They can use this access to build a persistent presence (consolidation) and install automated scanning tools to discover more of your network.

Training your employees to use their computers and mobile devices can help keep them safe. You can also install software that scans apps on their devices to prevent them from leaking personal information to attackers.

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