The Most Famous Advanced Persistent Threats in History

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At the turn of the century, a widespread series of attacks on government sites was discovered by the U.S. government. The attacks, codenamed Moonlight Maze, had been going on undetected for nearly two years, penetrating systems at the Pentagon, NASA and U.S. Department of Energy, as well as universities and research labs involved in military research. Some experts point to these attacks as perhaps the first major example of an APT, although the term was not in common use at that time.

The attacks stole tens of thousands of files, including maps of military installations, troop configurations and military hardware designs, resulting in damage amounting to many millions of dollars. The attacks were traced back to a mainframe computer in the former Soviet Union, although the Russian government denied any involvement. It is possible that the stolen information might have been sold to the highest bidder.

Many of today’s most destructive advanced persistent threats (APTs) were conceived a decade ago, so enterprises that rely on most traditional approaches to cybersecurity are unlikely to succeed against the next generation of attacks. This is one of the cautions in a new book published by global IT association ISACA in cybersecurity awareness month.

Advanced Persistent Threats: How to Manage the Risk to Your Business advises that traditional defenses such as firewalls and anti-malware are not up to the challenge of today’s APTs and that organizations need to add skills, processes and technology to their cybersecurity arsenal.

While new tools are needed to combat ever changing security threats, it is helpful to examine the history of the APT, because it is possible to derive many important lessons for defending against them in the future. The earliest use of the term “advanced persistent threat” emerged from the U.S. government sector in 2005, describing a new, deceptive form of attack that targeted selected employees and tricked them into downloading a file or accessing a website infected with Trojan horse software. This slideshow summarizes known facts, anecdotal evidence and reported claims behind some of the most well known attacks experienced over the last 15 years.

 

Related Topics : Unisys, Stimulus Package, Security Breaches, Symantec, Electronic Surveillance

 
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