Understanding the Cyber Attack Lifecycle

CEI News | Data Threats

The cyber attack lifecycle is the process that describes how an attacker would develop or move through a series of activities to effectively enter an organization’s network and steal data or classified information.

At CEI – The Digital Office, we are committed to supplying top-quality managed network security. We’re sharing an extensive guide about the cyber attack lifecycle.

How to Spot a Cyber Attack

An effective cyber security plan is imperative for every business. The first step to safeguarding your company or business is being aware of how to spot a cyber attack. These are some ways in which you can detect a cyber attack:

Unusual Password Activity

If an employee gets locked out of their system or receives an email claiming that their password has been changed without their knowledge, it can be an indication password has been hacked.

Suspicious Emails

Email phishing is a technique used by cyber attackers to get access to critical business information by impersonating a trustworthy institution or website.

Phishing attempts via email are on the rise, therefore staff must follow secure email procedures. When reading email attachments or clicking on web links from unfamiliar sources, be cautious.

Mysterious Pop-Ups

Increased security knowledge in the workplace also translates to safer web usage. Mysterious and suspicious pop-ups can be a way to identify a cyber attack. Employees should avoid even closing browser pop-up windows by clicking on them. Unknown pop-ups may include malware or spyware, putting the network at risk.

Slow Network

A hacking effort or virus outbreak frequently causes surges in network traffic, which can slow internet speed.

If you notice an unusually slow network, it could be an indication of a cyber attack.

What Are the 5 Phases of a Cyber Attack?

Understanding and learning to recognize the multiple stages of the attack lifecycle are imperative to actively combat it.

Let’s review the 5 stages of a cyber attack lifecycle:

Step 1: Reconnaissance

The first stage of a web attack lifecycle is called reconnaissance and revolves around the preparation that precedes a cyber attack. During this stage, a possible cyber adversary acquires intelligence and information to organize their attack.

These cyber attackers frequently get information from prominent and widely-used websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Cyber attackers might potentially acquire intelligence on specific target websites or collect communications to and from workers. The reconnaissance phase comprises network investigation and information collection, data security, and coding into key apps or websites.

The reconnaissance stage of the attack lifecycle is the most crucial since it can take a long time, ranging from weeks to months. Any information the infiltrator can obtain about the organization, such as staff names, phone numbers, and email addresses, will be extremely valuable.

Attackers will have generated a thorough map of the network, identified the system’s flaws, and then proceed with their goal by the end of this pre-attack phase.

Step 2: Initial Compromise

The first breach is generally caused by hackers circumventing perimeter defenses and obtaining access to the inside network via a compromised machine or user account.

The methods for doing so differ substantially. Their decision is mostly determined by the hacker’s ability and the facts obtained during the reconnaissance phase.

Step 3: Establish Foothold

Following the initial compromise, the hacker’s next step in the attack lifecycle is to establish a foothold. 

At this stage of the attack, the cyber attackers have gained access to the system and are working to expand their presence.

Typically, the attacker gains a foothold on the target machine by installing a persistent backdoor or downloading other programs or malware.

Step 4: Escalate Privileges

Once an attacker has established a foothold in a system, he or she has two goals: increase privileges and keep access.

Escalated privileges enable the hacker to make modifications to the system that would typically be prohibited for the average user or application.

Once they have gained access to a system, hackers employ a variety of tactics to increase their privileges. These can include password hash dumping, manipulating access tokens, and leveraging Windows UAC System. 

This stage of  the cyber attack lifecycle includes 3 inner processes:

Internal Reconnaissance

During this process, the attacker investigates the victim’s surroundings to obtain a deeper grasp of the environment, important personnel’ roles and duties, and where an organization maintains information of interest.

Move Laterally

Because cybercriminals seldom land in the exact location of their target, they must go laterally to obtain the crucial elements needed to accomplish their operation.

Maintain Presence

During this stage, the hacker wants to ensure continued access and a constant presence. Installing several kinds of malware backdoors or acquiring access to remote access services such as the company’s VPN are common means of establishing a presence.

Step 5: Complete Mission

This stage of the attack lifecycle occurs once a cyber attacker has completed their objectives. This is when the attacker completes their purpose by stealing intellectual property or other sensitive data, damaging mission-critical systems, and overall disrupting a system or business’ operations.

How to Prevent a Cyber Attack?

In today’s age of enhanced technology, a cyber attack seems both frightening and inevitable. However, with proper cyber security training and proper preventative actions, you can safeguard your data and protect yourself from cyber-attacks.

Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication

This may seem like a simple step, but it is a necessary one. Implementing multi-factor authentication on your devices and email accounts reduces the likelihood of your data being breached or stolen. 

Use Strong Passwords

Using an easy or common password puts you at the risk of a cyber attack. 

When selecting a password, keep in mind that the longer it is, the more secure it is. A good password has at least 12 characters and is difficult to guess.

Having distinct passwords set up for each program you use is a huge advantage to your security, and changing them frequently will keep you safe from both external and internal dangers.

Update Software

Cyber attacks frequently occur because your systems or software are out of the current, exposing vulnerabilities.

Ensure that your software and systems are frequently updated to tighten up security.

Back-Up Your Data

One of the most important ways to mitigate the threat of a cyber attack is to regularly back up your data. This creates an additional copy of your information that can be used in the event that your primary data is compromised.

Backing up data also helps to ensure that you can continue to access your information in the event of a technical issue. For businesses, it is essential to have a robust backup plan in place to minimize the impact of a cyber-attack.

By taking steps such as backing up data, you can help to protect yourself from the potentially devastating consequences of a cyber attack.

Be Cautious

No amount of caution is too much. Always think twice before you click on a mysterious-looking email or suspicious pop-up. 

If you don’t recognize a certain email address or link, refrain from clicking on it. Trust your instincts to maintain your security!

Get a Quote on Our Managed Network Security Services

At CEI, we understand that managing your network security can be complicated. We offer a wide variety of cyber security services that promise to keep your business well-protected and your data safe. Contact us today to get a quote.

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