CISOs Can Combat APTs with a Bit of Preparation

Advanced persistent threats are on the rise. It is time for CISOs to move beyond the traditional security measures. 

It is too early to forget the story of the US retailer, Target and the massive data breach it encountered in December last year. With 100 million shoppers' personal information and credit card details stolen, Target puts its data breach cost at $148 million (about Rs 8,880 lakh as on August 5th). Target is also facing more than 140 lawsuits from banks and financial organizations in the US.

However, the Target breach helped other firms to learn their lesson. It was a wake-up call for organizations to prepare themselves against the relentless APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks.

The numbers are still a bit alarming. One in every five organizations have been hit by an APT attack, according to a recent global study released by ISACA. 66 out of every 100 enterprises believe that it's only a matter of time before they are attacked. Yet only 15 percent of enterprises say they are very well prepared for an APT attack!

As one of the fastest growing Internet-driven economies, India stands at a bigger risk of being a preferred target for persistent cyber threats. Are the Indian enterprises prepared? While detecting or defeating APTs may seem like a hopeless battle, many Indian CISOs have taken the first step toward the right direction. Organizations are concerned about the Zero Day vulnerabilities and outcomes of APT attacks like never before.

"In India, there has been a great shift of focus from prevention to pro-active approach.  Protection from APTs has been one of the top priorities of CISOs in the past few months. Organizations have become more sensitive to these threats to protect their "core assets", which is the data," says Mani Kant Singh R, head--IT and Security, Orbis Financial Corporation.

He has observed organizations putting up various controls and measures like real time monitoring and real time reporting of attacks with the help of advance next generation firewalls and UTM boxes. But Singh adds that increasing the perimeter security also brings new concerns around network slow down and the ability to meet customer expectations.

"The good news is that more enterprises are attempting to better prepare for the APT this year," said Robert Stroud, CGEIT, CRISC, international president of ISACA. However, Countering APTs demands renewed approaches to cybersecurity that businesses need to consider, according to Vittal Raj, International Vice President of ISACA.

Organizations thus have to start by thinking beyond the traditional security measures. Singh of Orbis says that many organizations are looking at home-grown technologies to combat such threats.

While there is no single systematic way to  handle  these APTs, next generation firewall, intrusion detection system /intrusion prevention system, URL content filter, advanced threat protection are few well-known methods, says Singh.

Many new vendors provide signatures on the fly to handle APTs, with auto intelligence that is gained from the inspections. But organizations can do more, like smart monitoring, for instance.

"Intelligence gathering and analysis along with effective user training can also help organizations in tackling APT attacks to some extent," says Singh.

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