A global cybersecurity survey of more than 1,500 security professionals found that more than one in five respondents said their enterprise has experienced an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack. According to the study by global IT association ISACA, 94 percent say APTs represent a credible threat to national security and economic stability, yet most enterprises are employing ineffective technologies to protect themselves.
APTs, an espionage tactic often intended to steal intellectual property, have made headlines in recent years for breaching major enterprise and government networks worldwide. Attacks such as the Google Aurora threat and the RSA breach make it clear that they pose a major threat to organizations in all industries, not just government. More than 60 percent of survey respondents say that it’s only a matter of time before their enterprise is targeted.
ISACA’s Advanced Persistent Threat Awareness: Study Results shows that 96 percent of respondents say they are at least somewhat familiar with APTs. While this is a positive finding, 53 percent of respondents say they do not believe APTs differ from traditional threats—indicating that many do not fully understand APTs.
The study also found that:
* Loss of enterprise intellectual property was cited as the biggest risk of an APT (by more than a quarter of respondents), followed closely by loss of customer or employee personally identifiable information (PII).
* 90 percent of respondents believe that the use of social networking sites increases the likelihood of a successful APT.
* 87 percent believe “bring your own device” (BYOD), combined with rooting or jailbreaking the device, makes a successful APT attack more likely.
* More than 80 percent say their enterprises have not updated their vendor agreements to protect against APTs.
“We are only in February and already we can declare 2013 as the year of the hack,” said Tom Kellermann, CISM, trusted advisor to the US government and vice president of cyber security for Trend Micro. “ISACA's research reveals that enterprises are under attack and they don’t even know it. Bringing this awareness into the curriculum of education for security professionals is necessary to enable them to build the custom defense they need to combat these targeted attacks.”
“APTs are sophisticated, stealthy and unrelenting,” said Christos Dimitriadis, Ph.D., CISA, CISM, CRISC, international vice president of ISACA and head of information security at INTRALOT GROUP. “Traditional cyberthreats often move right on if they cannot penetrate their initial target, but an APT will continually attempt to penetrate the desired target until it meets its objective—and once it does, it can disguise itself and morph when needed, making it difficult to identify or stop.”
More than 60 percent of survey respondents say they are ready to respond to APT attacks. However, antivirus and antimalware (95 percent) and network perimeter technologies such as firewalls (93 percent) top the list of controls their enterprises are using to stop APTs—a concerning finding, given that APTs are known to avoid being caught by these types of controls.
The study shows that mobile security controls, which can be quite effective, are used much less frequently.
“APTs call for many defensive approaches, from awareness training and amending third-party agreements to ensure vendors are well-protected, to implementing technical controls,” said Jo Stewart-Rattray, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, FACS CP, director of ISACA and director of information security and IT assurance at BRM Holdich.