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5 stages of a cyber-attack

Cyber-attacks are a serious threat to businesses and individuals, often leading to large financial losses, stolen data, and reputational damage.

To successfully protect yourself against a cybersecurity breach, it is necessary to have an understanding of the tactics malicious actors frequently use and what kind of data they target most often. This can be beneficial when deciding where to focus your security resources.

In this article, we look at the five stages of an attack, which will help you determine which areas of your cybersecurity plan require the most attention.

1. Research and reconnaissance

Footprinting, which is also referred to as research and reconnaissance, is an initial step in the hacking process. This phase involves the hacker gathering as much data as possible about the target to gain an understanding of who they are, where they are located, what type of data can be taken from them, when the attack will take place, and the defensive measures they have in place.

There are two types of footprinting:

  • Passive: collecting information about the target without actually accessing the target, such as from public websites such as job boards, social media, etc.
  • Active: interacting directly with the target to gather data, such as network and port scanning to analyse its network structure, firewalls, intrusion detection programs, operating systems, applications, and the services operating on its ports.

2. Planning

Once the reconnaissance phase is finished, the attacker will come up with strategies to breach the target’s security measures, granting the hacker entrance to the desired information. These techniques may include exploiting a zero-day vulnerability, social engineering such as phishing email attacks, or DDoS attacks.

3. Getting access

There are numerous possible points of access to a network. For example, an employee may be duped into opening a malicious attachment in an email that contains malware. Additionally, a staff member could be tricked into providing important details such as login credentials. Other weak points may include systems that have not been properly configured or updated, allowing an intruder to exploit known weaknesses to bypass security. Moreover, a hacker may manage to enter the network by discovering a login page through a sophisticated search engine query and utilising data obtained from social media and password-cracking software to figure out the username and password.

4. Exploitation and maintaining access

After a cybercriminal has infiltrated a system, they have two primary goals: to acquire greater privileges and to maintain their access. Elevated privileges offer the hacker the potential to make adjustments to the system that would usually be restricted for usual users or applications (such as putting in malicious software). Once a hacker has gained entry to a network, they will try to keep their access by exploiting a range of privileges, such as making new user accounts, changing firewall configurations, switching on remote desktop access, or inserting backdoors using rootkits and other malicious files.

5. Exfiltration or clearing tracks

After a hacker has reached the goal of their mission, they take steps to mask their presence – referred to as exfiltration. This is critical to avoid detection and the potential consequences of law enforcement getting involved. Usually, the hacker starts by uninstalling any programs used during the attack and getting rid of any folders they created. Then, they may alter, revise, damage, or erase audit logs that recorded any activity.

Protect your business from cyber-attacks

The best way to protect your business is to be aware of the cyber attack stages that can empower you to prevent vulnerabilities from allowing a threat actor access to your network and systems. Businesses are increasingly being targeted by malicious actors in today’s increasingly hostile threat landscape. Take advantage of INTELLIWORX cybersecurity expertise with a range of comprehensive solutions and services to ensure your business is one step ahead of cyber-attacks.

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