Cyber War & Advanced Persistent Threats: Differences, Examples & Trends

Instructor: Erik Rodriguez

Erik has experience working in Cybersecurity and has a Master's of Science in Information Systems.

In this lesson, we will discuss what cyber warfare and advanced persistent threats are, as well as how they differ from one another. Additionally, we will briefly review examples for each as well as what we can expect in the foreseeable future.

War!

Your heart pounds. Sweat begins to bead around your forehead. You try to stay focused as chaos ensues around you. You know your enemy... or at least you hope you do. You've studied them extensively hoping to decipher what their next move will be. You and your team are the last line of defense and you will not back down without a fight. You are a cybersecurity analyst for the government and you have just experienced a network breach. As everyone in your department hurriedly attempts to contain the attack, you and a band of forensic investigators attempt to determine who is responsible and what they plan to do next.

Cyber Warfare

As technology has become ubiquitous and more powerful, wars are no longer only held on the front lines in foreign countries. Instead, we're seeing the emergence of cyber warfare. Cyber warfare refers to the act of using computers and other technology to attack the IT infrastructure of other governments and nations. Normally, cyber warfare attacks are launched using many of the same technologies and techniques employed by your typical hacker. The main difference is that cyber warfare attacks have the full backing of the attacking government. Recent examples of cyber warfare include the BlackEnergy attack that was launched by Russia against Ukraine's power grid which resulted in 700,000 Ukrainian homes losing power. Another example is HIDDEN COBRA, a North Korean hacking group. This group is thought to be responsible for Sony's 2014 data breach and an attack launched against a Bangladeshi bank in 2016.

Advanced Persistent Threats

APTs, or Advanced Persistent Threats, are attacks that are meant to give a hacker long-term access to a network's resources in order to obtain sensitive data. Large companies are typically the targets of APTs, but governments may also experience these types of attacks. However, there are some differences between cyber warfare and APTs when governmental bodies are involved. The main difference is that while APTs are normally tasked with mining sensitive data such as intellectual property and user data, cyber warfare is used to cripple a nation's IT infrastructure. By definition, APTs differ from cyber warfare in that they are designed to remain relatively undetectable by the target for as long as possible. Cyber warfare typically does not have this constraint as attacks can be launched to cause damage as quickly as possible. A notable example of an APT is the Operation Aurora campaign which targeted large U.S.-based companies such as Google, Adobe, and Rackspace. This attack resulted in a trojan called Hydraq being installed on the networks of these companies.

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