An advanced persistent threat (APT) is a sustained and sophisticated cyberattack where a malicious actor sets up an undetected presence within a network, with the aim of stealing confidential or sensitive information over an extended period. APT attacks are meticulously planned and cleverly designed to penetrate and infiltrate a specific enterprise or institution. They are also engineered to evade any security measures in place and to operate under the radar.

Unleashing a successful APT attack demands a higher degree of complexity and customisation than most traditional cyberattacks. Adversaries behind such attack campaigns are typically well-funded and include experienced teams of threat actors that specialise in targeting high-value enterprises and organisations. Teams have been known to spend substantial resources and time researching and assessing organisations and their networks, identifying any vulnerabilities present in order to develop an attack vector.

While email encryption is not designed to prevent APT attackers gaining initial access, it can be invaluable to protect company data and deter such cybercriminal activities. In this blog, we’ll examine APT attacks in greater depth and show how encryption for email accounts and other data stores which contain confidential information can keep companies safe from this threat.

Understanding the aims of APTs

To help prevent any cyberattack, it is vital to understand its goals and what steps are involved in an attack. APT attacks can be used in a diverse range of activities. These include cyber espionage involving theft of state secrets or intellectual property, eCrime with the aim of financial gain and destruction of data, among others.

There are three individual stages to most APT attacks and to mitigate, detect and successfully resolve an APT, firms must recognise their characteristics. APTs mostly adhere to a basic life cycle that starts with infiltrating a network and expanding access to it, followed by achieving the end goal of the cyberattack, which is typically stealing data by exfiltrating it from the victim’s network.

Email accounts are a popular target of APTs. Attackers can sit with secret access to company emails reading private communications and extracting confidential attachments that appear valuable. These documents may be sold on to other threat groups or employed by the same entity in a second attack phase. APT attacks are often the precursor to a ransomware strike that can cost companies dearly both in ransoms if they pay or in fines to regulators when they report the breach and are found negligent.

Email encryption vs APT

Using end-to-end email encryption can mitigate the risk of APT attacks. Unlike other types of encryption that only protect data when it is on the move, end-to-end encryption protects emails and their attachments even while they are at rest. As a result, if a threat operator sets up a silent presence on an inbox using encryption, they cannot view, copy or destroy any information retained within messages. This not only effectively prevents APT attacks, but also data breaches too.

If you would like to access cutting-edge encryption to reduce the risk of cyberattacks against your firm, contact our team today and start your free trial of our three-layer encryption.