While these TTPs continually change in what Mandiant likens to “a game of cat and mouse,” some things about APTs remain the same:
- APTs target a specific entity (usually a government organization or business).
- They are orchestrated by humans who use social engineering and/or malware to exploit the target system.
- They are difficult to detect and persist in the targeted system over a long period of time.
- They generally employ an external command and control system that continuously monitors and extracts data.
- Once the APT is inside a target system, it exploits other vulnerabilities to move laterally through the system and gain access to potentially the entire system.
Motives for Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
What the APT does varies on the intent of the attack. Mandiant’s M-Trends® 2015 Report offers the following motives:
- Nuisance (access and propagation)
- Data theft (economic, political advantage)
- Cyber crime (financial gain)
- Hacktivism (defamation, press and policy)
- Destructive attack (disrupt operations, delete data)
The Growing Number of Doors to Data Access
According to the 2016 Vormetric Data Threat Report:
Many of the most pernicious attacks we’ve seen in the recent past have come … from an assortment of external actors—including cybercriminals, nation-states, hacktivists and cyberterrorists—that frequently masquerade as insiders by using stolen or compromised credentials to access all types of valuable data, including personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), financial data and intellectual property. In addition to “bad guys” acting like insiders, firms are also relying on a growing list of third-parties to handle both non-core and increasingly core business functions. … Traditional outsourcing relationships, public cloud services, big-data applications and the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) have collectively expanded the data supply chain and contributed to an exponential increase in the number of external parties with some level of access to our networks and sensitive data. Prior work by 451 Research has indicated that, in the case of some large global firms, the number of third-party data relationships can easily number in the tens of thousands. Thus, … the line between insider and outsider continues to blur....
Protect the Data
Because those who want to steal your data have so many ways to get to it, Thales's approach is to protect the data itself through Vormetric Transparent Encryption with integrated Key Management for data at rest, Application Encryption, Tokenization with Dynamic Masking and more. These techniques make the data meaningless and worthless without the tools to decrypt it.
Limit Access to the Data
However, encryption would fall short when defending against APTs, if cyber criminals were to gain access to the tools for decrypting the data. So the next step is to tightly control user access.
- Separation of privileged access users and sensitive user data. With the Vormetric Data Security Platform from Thales, administrators can create a strong separation of duties between privileged administrators and data owners. The Vormetric Data Security Platform encrypts files, while leaving their metadata in the clear. In this way, IT administrators—including hypervisor, cloud, storage, and server administrators—can perform their system administration tasks, without being able to gain privileged access to the sensitive data residing on the systems they manage.
- Separation of administrative duties. Strong separation-of-duties policies can be enforced to ensure one administrator does not have complete control over data security activities, encryption keys, or administration. In addition, the Vormetric Data Security Manager supports two-factor authentication for administrative access.
- Granular privileged access controls. Thaless solution can enforce very granular, least-privileged user access management policies, enabling protection of data from misuse by privileged users and APT attacks. Granular privileged user access management policies can be applied by user, process, file type, time of day, and other parameters. Enforcement options are very granular; they can be used to control not only permission to access clear-text data, but what file-system commands are available to a user.
Monitor Access to the Data
Thales enables the enterprise to monitor and identify extraordinary data access. Vormetric Security Intelligence provides detailed management logs that specify which processes and users have accessed protected data. The detailed management logs specify when users and processes accessed data, under which policies, and if access requests were allowed or denied. The management logs will even expose when a privileged user submits a command like 'switch users' in order to attempt to imitate, and potentially exploit, the credentials of another user. Sharing these logs with a security information and event management (SIEM) platform helps uncover anomalous patterns in processes and user access, which can prompt further investigation. For example, an administrator or process may suddenly access much larger volumes of data than normal, or attempt to do an unauthorized download of files. These events could point to an APT attack or malicious insider activities.
Quick and Easy to Install No Matter what your OS
Thales can work with you to install Vormetric Data Security solutions in weeks rather than months. Thales solutions work with most major operating systems, including Linux, UNIX and Windows servers in physical, virtual, cloud and big data Cardholder Data Environments (CDE).
Easy to Use
Vormetric solutions from Thales make it simple to solve security and compliance concerns by simultaneously defending data in databases, files and Big Data nodes across public, private, hybrid clouds and traditional infrastructures. Central management of the entire data security platform makes it easy to extend data security protection and satisfy compliance requirements across the entire enterprise, growing as required, without adding new hardware or increasing operational burdens. Thales today is helping a major retail bank protect 10,000 servers and a major retailer protect over 15,000 servers.
Won’t Hurt System Performance
Customers typically report no perceptible impact to end-user experience when using Vormetric solutions from Thales. They perform encryption and decryption operations at the optimal location of the files system or volume manager taking advantage of hardware cryptographic acceleration, such as Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard-New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) and SPARC Niagara Crypto, to speed the encryption and decryption of data.