Phases of the Cyber Attack Lifecycle

Phases of the Cyber Attack Lifecycle JanBlog2

In today’s cyber security landscape, no business is ever completely safe from the threat of a cyber attack. That’s why mitigating the risk of a cyber attack is a critical aspect of any cyber security platform. But in order to effectively evade threats, you first have to understand how cyber criminals target and attack business networks.

Generally, cyber criminals will attack a network for one of two reasons:

  1. Because they can. If cyber criminals notice that your system is easily exploitable, they may infiltrate your network just to see if there’s anything of value they can access. They may treat it like practice or attempt to use your data against you to extort money with ransomware. This threat applies to organizations of all sizes, including small to medium-sized businesses in Los Angeles.
  2. Because they know your data is valuable. For high-profile organizations, cyber criminals will target networks because they know that network data is intrinsically valuable. Whether the cyber criminals try to leverage that data against an organization, sell it to competitors, or release it to the public, well-known organizations are often targeted for monetary gain.

Of course, cyber criminals may have other motivations for attacking a network. Still, to sidestep a potential threat before it becomes a full-scale attack, the most important thing is understanding why and how they target a system in the first place.

In this post, we’ll detail each phase of the cyber attack life cycle so you can gain a deeper understanding of how to keep your business’s network protected. At the same time, by gaining insight into how a cyber criminal thinks, you can proactively address vulnerabilities and improve your chances of averting a data breach in the first place.

Phase 1: Network Reconnaissance

The best time to avoid a cyber attack is before it starts. For organizations looking to proactively defend against network threats, you need to be keenly aware of what cyber criminals are looking for in potential targets. Generally speaking, when cyber criminals target small to medium-sized businesses, they’re looking for the low-hanging fruit. They want to gain access to networks that will allow them to turn a quick dollar with readily deployable tactics such as ransomware or phishing attacks.

During the network reconnaissance phase of a cyber attack, cyber criminals haven’t yet gained access to your network. Instead, they’re surveying viable networks to determine which are most vulnerable to specific types of attacks and which are worth attacking to begin with.

Common methods they may use to gain information on a business’s network include:

  • Researching your website and clients
  • Information collection through social engineering
  • Exploiting social media accounts and public information
  • Assessing the web services your team uses
  • Purchasing information on the dark web

Ultimately, during the first phase of a cyber attack, hackers are looking for potential areas of vulnerability they can use to gain access to your network. If cyber criminals survey your network and can’t pinpoint any readily exploitable vulnerabilities, they’ll often move onto a weaker network, thereby minimizing the threat of an attack on your system before it can begin.

Phase 2: Deployment and Delivery

Once cyber criminals have pinpointed which networks are worth targeting, they decide on the most effective way to gain entry and compromise data across a network.

Some of the most common cyber attacks include:

  • Ransomware: Businesses that retain high-value, mission-critical data on their network without deploying advanced backup systems are susceptible to a ransomware attack.
  • Phishing attacks: Businesses with inadequate cyber security awareness training programs are at a higher risk of falling prey to a phishing attack.
  • Password attacks: Businesses with weak policies for user password creation can fall victim to a password attack.

At this stage, your network can still be saved with minimal harm done. With the right systems in place, such as automated network monitoring, network administrators can potentially detect any network anomalies and deny access before a full network breach occurs.

Phase 3: Exploitation and Installation

After cyber criminals successfully gain entry to your network, they can start moving across the network to work toward their ultimate objective. Once they’ve gained a foothold, they can move laterally across your user base, exploit web services, install malware, encrypt data, redirect data and network traffic, and even lock users out of the network altogether.

At this stage of a cyber attack, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify and block malicious actors on your network. From here, your organization is forced to focus on damage control while preserving any mission-critical data as day-to-day jobs are affected across the organization—and that’s if you’re even able to detect malicious activity in the first place. After all, it took the average company in the U.S. 206 days to detect a data breach and even longer to do something about it. For cyber criminals, the longer they can remain undetected on a network, the more they can exploit.

Phase 4: Command and Control

If a data breach remains undetected or unresolved for long enough, cyber criminals will eventually be able to take over complete control of your network. Acting with the full privileges of a network administrator, they’ll drain your data for anything that may be of value to them, and they’ll leave your team to clean up the mess. At this stage, your network has become theirs, and it’s likely too late for damage control. Your business may be forced to shut down network operations altogether and start anew, as it may be impossible to detect how widespread the breach is.

Phase 5: Objective Point

As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, cyber criminals typically target a network with a specific objective in mind. That objective may be as simple as seeing if they can do it or as complex as exploiting data to sell to your organization’s competitors. Either way, after they’ve taken complete control of network operations, they will be able to use your data against you and complete their final objectives. In the aftermath, your team will have to deal with the negative repercussions while struggling to restore normal operations. That’s why it should come as no surprise that 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of a cyber attack.

The Los Angeles IT Support Experts

If you’re ready to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals throughout the cyber attack lifecycle, partner with Be Structured today. We specialize in developing robust cyber security platforms that keep your operations protected at every level, so your team can stay focused on productivity without having to worry about security.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.