How Do Targeted Attacks Differ From Common Opportunistic Attacks

How Do Targeted Attacks Differ From Common Opportunistic Attacks – For me, one of the best aspects of working in computer science is that, given the vast amount of knowledge it encompasses, there is a constant stream of opportunities to expand our “internal map of the world” – a concept introduced by NLP practitioners.

For computer science, my world map consists of hierarchical containerized concepts that allow me to understand all the particulars of technologies, tools and standards and use them as a whole in my work and personal projects.

How Do Targeted Attacks Differ From Common Opportunistic Attacks

For example, when designing an application, splitting front-end and back-end development allows developers to direct their thinking to specific problem areas, thereby improving team effectiveness by leveraging each individual’s expertise, maintaining the ecosystem of features. in mind and the interfaces between application layers.

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I recently attended a meeting in Paris on security practices in API development, maintenance, and deployment. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the speakers, a consultant for a security company that mainly does penetration tests for large companies.

I told him that security issues are a hard sell to ourselves (developers) and even more so to people with money who see them more as a “bonus” than a core aspect of the software. We then discussed how to prioritize security measures to invest time in, and he walked me through the different types of attacks he had to think about when testing an application for bugs.

One of the broadest ways to think about application hacks is to divide them into 2: targeted attacks and opportunistic attacks.

Targeted attacks target a specific application or system. Often, the attacker will take all the time necessary to find an exploit to break your system, studying your technology stack and trying different methods beyond the common ones. This probably means that breaching your system will bring high value to the attacker in some way.

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On the other hand, opportunistic attacks target as many users as possible, using known loopholes in popular technologies and products (eg WordPress) to find as many easy targets as possible.

As a developer without the skills and knowledge of a security expert, this way of sorting security risks and issues into separate concerns and the attacker mindset allows me to think about it more consciously during development.

Personal projects and small websites are likely to be affected by an opportunistic attack, as site content and performance are likely not important enough for most attackers to spend a lot of time. An often overlooked way to protect an application from these attacks is to hide as much information as possible (web server name and version, web structure, database type, …). We as developers often think of “hiding” information as a hack (no pun intended) and not a real security measure, but actually it can stop most opportunistic attackers who won’t try to break into your site if they don’t. . know which common hacking tool to use.

Also, as the consultant told me, taking these steps is usually very little effort, much less than making sure all business logic has no errors in its ACL (which is harder to exploit).

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From now on, I’ll go the extra mile and make sure my stack and infrastructure information isn’t overly explicit to hackers and bots.

Edit: There are many other ways to map system security such as software security (against NTUI, SQL injection, XSS,…) versus server security (user restrictions, firewalls, packet inspection,…), defensive programming, and offensive, …

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Ransomware has clearly changed since the days of indiscriminate fire-and-forget attacks, but post-intrusion ransomware remains a crime of opportunity. However, much of the language used about ransomware today portrays organizations as passive victims of carefully planned and targeted attacks. It also fundamentally misrepresents what happens in the early stages of a ransomware attack.

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I have a problem with the popular but incorrect idea that most attacks today are targeted. It paints a terrifying picture of an eagle-eyed predator that locates and selects particularly juicy and tasty victims, then doggedly pursues them until it brings them down.

So when BlackMatter, GOLD WATERFALL’s successor to DarkSide and a recent entrant to the ransomware scene, says it’s “targeting” organizations with revenues of $100M or more, SMBs might consider themselves out of the woods because they don’t offer rich harvests. enough.

Many ransomware attackers use the services of specialists known as early access brokers, or IABs. Access brokerage offers on underground forums became widespread. Both ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) groups and their affiliates and private ransomware groups use brokers.

It is the IAB’s job to keep an eye on poorly protected organizations. They often use publicly available scanning tools to identify vulnerabilities and then indiscriminately exploit those flaws. They then perform basic discovery once inside the system.

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When a ransomware group decides to buy access to an organization from a broker, they will likely know the victim’s industry and country. It will know the original access vector offered, for example RDP or VPN. You can have an income idea. He won’t necessarily know the specific organization before he agrees to buy.

It is only after purchase and after having explored the initial access that a ransomware group will decide whether to infect the organization, based on the perceived maturity of the organization’s controls, revenue, and sometimes industry. Groups can select victims based on initial detection, but do not target them.

However, a Google search for “targeted ransomware attacks” yields thousands of hits, many from cybersecurity organizations who should know better. Organizations are not targeted because of their industry, revenue or profile. They are targeted because opportunistic early access groups have the ability to find inadequately protected systems.

Organizations are taken over because their defenses are weak. And just because the leaner, fatter vulture doesn’t want to enjoy the prey, that doesn’t mean another smaller, less fussy vulture won’t.

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So the small or medium business may not be targeted by BlackMatter, but their access will still be up for sale, likely for a few hundred dollars, and will likely be bought by another, less selective ransomware group. It may not have been “targeted” by BlackMatter, or indeed anyone else, but its unpatched server open to the Internet, or its failure to implement multi-factor authentication, or its lack of network traffic and endpoint monitoring means it’s open. to attacks.

However, if the organization actively chooses to strengthen its defenses, the vultures will stay away because the initial access agent cannot carry out the attack or it will be detected in the early stages of the attack.

It’s no coincidence that industries with multiple overlapping security compliance regimes are less likely to fall victim to ransomware. For example, data from Fitch Ratings and Coveware show that the highly regulated financial services sector experienced just 4.4% of ransomware attacks in Q1 2020. In contrast, the three sectors most affected by ransomware attacks were professional services , health and the public sector. Together, they accounted for almost 50% of the attacks.

That doesn’t mean targeted attacks don’t happen. Organizations of interest to hostile state-sponsored advanced persistent threat groups may well become victims of targeted cyber espionage attacks. These attacks are relatively rare. Ransomware attacks are not rare and are becoming more and more common.

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Any organization that does not take an active role in protecting itself as best it can against opportunistic attacks by improving

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