In our previous last entry on Understanding Targeted Attacks, we tackled the impact on the targeted organizations as well as the customers that the organization serves (if any). This latest entry explores the motives behind targeted attacks, and why attacker groups spend so much time, effort, and resources to ensure a successful operation
Understanding the motives behind a targeted attack is important because it can determine what an attacker is after. Knowing the motives can help organizations pinpoint what to protect and how to protect it. It also provides an idea of what attackers are capable of, and what they’ll go after first once inside their target network.
What motivates targeted attacks?
While we can’t always know every attacker’s true intentions, we’ve managed to gather a few strong examples derived from how their attacks were carried out.
The RSA data breach is a notable example of an attack motivated by information theft, where data pertaining to their SecurID technology was stolen. The attackers managed to infiltrate the security company’s network through carefully-crafted spearphishing mail, which carried malware that exploited certain Adobe Flash Player vulnerabilities. From there the attackers stole all the data they can find.
Another example is the OPM data breach, where personally-identifiable information—such as names, dates and place of birth, addresses, medical history, even Social Security numbers and fingerprints—of more than 20 million US citizens were leaked. Considered to be one of the biggest data breaches of all time, the breach put the victims—those whose personal information got stolen—at risk of blackmail and fraud.
With these three motivations, we can see exactly why attackers can be so determined. Understanding what they’re after is one of the first key steps in being able to stop them in their tracks.
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