What is a Cyber Kill Chain?

What is a Cyber Kill Chain?

A cyber kill chain is a security concept that depicts the many stages of a cyberattack. From early planning and reconnaissance through the hacker’s aim, a kill chain encompasses all stages of a network attack.

Companies can prepare measures for preventing and detecting harmful intrusions by understanding the stages of an assault. A cyber kill chain aids in the preparation of all frequent online dangers, such as:

Ransomware attacks.

Network breaches.

Data thefts.

Advanced persistent attacks (APTs).

The terminology “kill chain” originates from the military. The initial proposal outlined the organization of an army operation, which comprised the following: target identification.

The force is being dispatched to the objective.

The command to attack the target.

The target’s annihilation.

1. Reconnaissance

During the reconnaissance phase, the attacker acquires essential information. Hackers pick a victim, do extensive research about the firm, and look for flaws in the target network.

Reconnaissance can be divided into two categories:

Passive Reconnaissance: A hacker doing passive reconnaissance looks for information without engaging with the target. The victim has no means of knowing what the attacker is up to or recording it.

Active Reconnaissance: When a hacker acquires illegal access to a network, he or she engages directly with the system to gather data.

Attackers evaluate the following elements of a system during this step:

Vulnerabilities and flaws in security

The potential of enlisting the help of an insider.

User hierarchy, tools, devices, and verification protocols

Obtaining staff email addresses and social media profiles is a popular method used during reconnaissance. This information is useful if the attacker tries to gain access to the network through social engineering.

For the reconnaissance stage, take the following defensive measures:

To improve perimeter security, install firewalls.

Suspicious conduct should be monitored at access points and in visitor records.

Ensure that suspect emails, phone calls, and social media communications are reported by workers.

Protect persons and systems that are prime targets for reconnaissance as a top priority.

Limit the quantity of information about your firm that is exposed to the public.

2. Weaponization

The attackers discovered a vulnerability in the system and knew how to exploit it. The criminal gang now creates a virus or worm to exploit the flaw. If an attacker discovers a zero-day exploit, they usually act quickly before the victim notices and patches the flaw.

Once malware is ready, hackers generally embed it in common documents such as PDFs or Office documents.

For the weaponization stage, defensive measures include:

To assist personnel in recognizing weaponization testing, provide security awareness training.

Examine malware artefacts for any strange timeframes or parallels.

Create detecting software for weaponized code (automated tools that couple malicious software with exploits).

3. Packaging

The attack was launched into the target area by criminals. Infection methods vary, but the following are the most common:

Attacks through phishing

USB drives that have been infected.

Taking advantage of a hardware or software weakness.

User accounts that have been compromised.

A drive-by download in which malware is installed alongside legitimate software.

Hacking directly via an open port or other external access points.

The purpose of this stage is to break into the system and get a foothold invisibly. To confuse the defenders and infect the network without disturbing security safeguards, a common approach is to execute a simultaneous DDoS assault.

For the delivery stage, take the following precautions:

Protect yourself against phishing scams.

Make use of patch management software.

With file integrity monitoring, you can detect and evaluate changes to files and folders (FIM).

Keep an eye out for unusual user activity, such as unusual login times or places.

Conduct penetration testing to proactively identify threats and weak areas.

4. Installation

Malicious spyware has infiltrated the system, and administrators are completely oblivious to the danger. The malware’s installation on the network is the fourth stage in the cyber death chain.

Intruders get access to the network once the virus is installed (a.k.a. a backdoor). Intruders can now: Install the appropriate tools since they have open access.

Change the security certificates.

Make a script file.

Look for more flaws to gain a stronger footing before launching major attacks.

For attackers, keeping their presence hidden is crucial. To stay undiscovered, intruders frequently erase files and metadata, rewrite data with bogus timestamps, and change documents.

For the installation stage, take the following precautions:

Keep all your gadgets up to date.

Anti-virus software should be used.

Install a host-based intrusion detection system to identify and prevent common installation pathways.

Scan for vulnerabilities regularly.

5. Lateral Movement

Once the virus is implanted, intruders have access to the network (a.k.a. a backdoor).

Intruders can now do the following:

Because they have open access, install the relevant tools.

Replace the security certificates if necessary.

To begin, create a script file.

To build a solid foundation before launching the primary strike, look for more faults.

Attackers must remain undetected. Intruders regularly delete files and information, rewrite data with phony timestamps, and modify documents to remain undetected.

Take the following precautions during the installation stage:

Keep all your electronic devices up to date.

It is recommended that antivirus software be used.

To discover and prevent common installation paths, implement a host-based intrusion detection system.

Frequently, scan for vulnerabilities.

6. Command and Control (C2)

Since APT-level malware necessitates manual engagement, attackers require keyboard access to the target environment. Establishing a command-and-control channel (C2) with an external server is the final step before the execution phase.

C2 is often obtained by using a beacon over an external network path. Beacons are generally HTTP or HTTPS-based and owing to forged HTTP headers, they seem like normal traffic.

Intruders begin arranging target data into bundles during the C2 phase if data exfiltration is the aim of the assault. A typical data bundle location is a network segment with little to no activity or traffic.

For the command-and-control stage, use the following defensive measures:

When examining malware, look for C2 infrastructures.

For all forms of traffic, demand proxies are available (HTTP, DNS).

Keep an eye out for any hazards.

Set intrusion detection systems to notify you whenever a new software attempts to connect to the network.

7. Put it into action

Intruders behave to complete the attack’s goal. The most prevalent purposes are data encryption and data security.

Exfiltration of data.

Destruction of data.

Intruders mask their traces by generating confusion across the network just before an assault begins. By clearing logs to disguise activities, the purpose is to confuse and slow down security and forensics teams.

Files and information are deleted.

Data is overwritten with erroneous timestamps and deceptive information.

Even if there is an assault, essential data is altered to make it look normal.

While extracting data, some hackers start another DDoS attempt to distract security controls.

For the execution step, take the following precautions:

In case of an attack, create an incident response playbook that provides a clear communications strategy and a damage assessment.

Use tools to look for evidence of continuous data theft.

Respond to all alarms with timely analyst answers.

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