Cyber Kill Chain: How to Prepare for a Potential Cyber Attack

Cyber Kill Chain: How to Prepare for a Potential Cyber Attack

Do your business leaders know the ins and outs of a cyber attack? By understanding the cyber kill chain, companies and CISOs can better anticipate, thwart, and prevent potential cyber attacks.

The cyber kill chain helps businesses understand the cyber attack lifecycle. Much like a thief cases a potential burglary, cyber attackers have a process for a potential hack. By examining each stage of this multi-step process, businesses can identify vulnerabilities at each point in the cyber kill chain and ideally thwart any potential attacks. The earlier an attack is stopped, the less costly cleanup will be. 

“A ‘kill chain’ is a military term used to define steps an enemy uses to attack a target,” says Fred Cobb, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer at InfoSystems. Versions of this model have been used in the cybersecurity realm to better identify and stop attackers.

“We guide clients through strategies to neutralize attacks at each level of the cyber kill chain. By outlining existing and potential tools, such as simulations, specific tools and an overall culture of cybersecurity best practices, we give clients the blueprints for identifying and stopping these attacks at any part of the process.”

  • Reconnaissance: A reconnaissance attack is the efforts of threat actors to gain as much information about the network as possible before launching other, more serious types of attacks. Typically, the reconnaissance attack is implemented by using readily available network information. The attacker will focus on privileged individuals — either for system access to confidential data — or the network — focusing on architecture, devices and protocols, and critical infrastructure.
  • Weaponization: In this step, the intruder creates a malware weapon, like a virus, to exploit the vulnerabilities of the target. Depending on the target and purpose of the attacker, this malware can exploit new, undetected vulnerabilities, also known as the zero-day exploits.
  • Delivery: The attacker sends a malicious payload to the victim by means such as email, which is only one of the numerous methods the attacker can use. There are more than 100 delivery methods possible. Then an attacker will launch their intrusion.
  • Exploitation: Once attackers have identified a vulnerability, they exploit the weakness and carry out their attack.
  • Installation: This is similar to exploitation, though successful exploitation does not guarantee successful installation of the malicious payload. During this phase, the host machine is compromised by the attacker. Once a foothold is established inside the network, the attacker typically downloads additional tools, attempts privilege escalation, or extracts password hashes.
  • Command and Control (C2): Ransomware uses C2 connections to download encryption keys before hijacking your files. C2 of a compromised resource is usually accomplished via a beacon over an allowed path out of the network.
  • Actions on Objectives: This refers to how an attacker achieves their final goal, which could be anything from extracting a ransom in exchange for decrypting files to exfiltrating information out of the network to cause a disruption in the business.

“By guiding clients through this process, we’re enabling them to take proactive steps to minimize vulnerabilities,” Cobb says. “We identify multiple neutralization solutions — some of which exist already and some of which we recommend implementing — for every stage of the cyber kill chain. Our goal is to help clients be aware of risks and take the offense, not the defense, in preventing attacks.”

Learn more about InfoSystems’ in-depth cybersecurity services or request a free consultation today.

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