Cybersecurity and data breaches pose a constant threat to our digital lives. Many people don’t think about when a cyber attack will occur, but if it will. Today, businesses and individuals are discovering that they may have been the victims of a data breach. It may seem impossible to prevent a cyber attack from happening, even though it is a real possibility.
This can be true, even if it is not addressed in a proactive manner. It all comes down to the company’s cyber security procedures and policies. It can be a good first step to become more aware of the stages of a cyber attack and help you prevent a bad actor from accessing your network or systems.
Stories of successful cyber attacks, from the Colonial Pipeline to Solar Winds, seem to be appearing in our news outlets almost every day. The cyber attack lifecycle is a series of stages that the public does not see, despite the fact that they are only told about the incident after it has occurred.
According to Palo Alto Networks there are six stages in the cyber attack lifecycle. Each of these six stages must be completed by any bad actor or malicious entity who wants to carry out a successful cyberattack. Failure at any stage will result in a failed cyber attack. If a company is not aware that their network or system are under attack, it could be a reprieve for their adversaries.
Understanding the stages of a cyber attack is crucial to better understand them and how you can defeat them.
Six Stages of Cyber Attack Lifecycle
Here’s a quick overview of the cyber attack lifecycle and a real-world example.
1. Reconnaissance. Reconnaissance. This is where potential cyber adversaries gather intelligence and information to plan their attack. These bad actors often collect information from popular websites like Facebook and Linkedin. Cyber adversaries can also collect intelligence on specific websites or emails from employees. The reconnaissance phase includes intelligence gathering and research on a network, data security and within relevant apps or website coding.
2. Weaponization and delivery. The next stage is weaponization of the information once the potential adversaries have completed the reconnaissance stage. There are a few variations in the delivery phase of the weaponization step. The weaponization stage also includes the delivery method. This includes email phishing, malicious attachments, and links with viruses. It takes only one user to open a malicious link or download and install malware.
3. Exploitation. Once the exploit has been deployed in the system, network, or code, this phase of the cyber attack cycle enacts weaponization. This stage is the adversary’s first entry to the organization. It’s similar to gaining a foothold at a beach and turning it into an area for staging.
4. Installation. Installation is similar to the end of the exploit stage. This is where the delivery device and malicious malware accomplish their task of compromising the desired area. The installation stage is not designed to gain access to the data, but to provide a secure connection to a network or system that allows adversaries to launch attacks.
5. Command and Control. Command and Control are often separated, but are essential to each others, just like weaponization and delivery. This stage being called command and control can evoke military overtones. This stage does exactly what it’s called in its purest meaning. Now, the adversaries are in command on each side