“The advanced persistent threat (APT) buzzword has become the most overused and misunderstood acronym in the IT security community” said Barry Hensley, director of the Counter Threat Unit/Research Group for Dell SecureWorks. “An APT is not characterized by the sophistication of an adversary’s malware. Rather, it pertains to the threat actor’s determination and the resources he is willing to expend to achieve his objectives. It’s not a what, but a who?”
“When a person or group has the required cognitive abilities and resources at their disposal, and applies them with the singular aim of obtaining intellectual property, intelligence or personally identifiable information, it changes the game,” said Hensley. “It means the threat can and will adapt to your security posture until its objectives are achieved or the cost of the operation outweighs the perceived value of the target.”
While governments are important targets for espionage and intelligence gathering, computer systems, corporations and critical infrastructure are also attractive, high-value targets. Some nation-state sponsored attacks are targeting corporations specifically for their intellectual property, sensitive business negotiations and national security designs and technology.
In the past year, we have witnessed cyber attacks of unprecedented sophistication and reach. These attacks demonstrate that malicious actors have the ability to compromise and control millions of computers that belong to governments, private enterprises and ordinary citizens. If we are going to prevent motivated adversaries from attacking our systems, stealing our data and harming our critical infrastructure, the broader community of security researchers — including academia, the private sector and government — must work together to understand emerging threats and to develop proactive security solutions to safeguard the Internet and physical infrastructure that relies on it.
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