Advanced persistent threat or APT: what is it and how to protect ourselves

How an advanced persistent threat works

Keep in mind that the cyber attacks they have evolved a lot in recent years. It is true that we can count on many programs and tools that help protect us, but it must also be noted that cybercriminals know how to get ahead on many occasions.

This makes them gradually perfect their attacks, find new vulnerabilities and ways to enter a computer, steal data or cause a malfunction. That is why we must know the different varieties of threats that may exist and one of them is what is known as APT.

An advanced persistent threat is basically a type of attack in which a hacker gains access to a computer. So far nothing out of the ordinary. However, its objective is not to infect and cause an immediate malfunction, to steal data as soon as it is accessed or to be detected soon. The mission is just the opposite: avoid detection and stay there for a while.

What are you looking for with this? Generally to spy. Personal information, as well as those of organizations and companies, has great value on the web. An attacker, through what is known as an advanced persistent threat, will access a computer or system and will remain there for a while without being detected. During this period, you will be able to collect all kinds of data, access other computers connected to the network, etc. Of course, the last thing we mentioned, the fact of being able to access other devices, is not usual; they usually have a single objective.

One of the main problems with an APT is that they are not easy to detect. The attacker does not usually leave an obvious trace and, at least in the short term, we do not know that he is really inside a system and that our data may be in danger.

How they can carry out these types of attacks

We have explained what an advanced persistent threat consists of and now we are going to see how they could carry out this type of attack. We are going to explain the most common techniques that cybercriminals have to achieve this.

Phishing attack

One of the most common methods is Phishing. It is certainly a strategy that is always present when we talk about threats of this type in the network. Cybercriminals send a bait to the victim, which is usually through email, an SMS or any message on social networks, and later steal the passwords.


Also keep in mind that malware is often very present in advanced persistent threats. They can especially make use of malicious software such as a keylogger, with which they can steal passwords and be able to enter the systems.

Another type of malware widely used are trojans. This type of threat will allow you to enter a computer through a back door and have total control. In many cases they are not detected by antivirus and can remain hidden for a long time.

Brute force attacks

Brute force attacks are still widely used on the network. Basically a hacker runs a lot of tests until they find the right password. If your password is weak, if you don’t have the proper security measures in place, this can be really easy with the necessary tools and knowledge.

Vulnerabilities in the system

Another issue to consider are the security flaws there may be in a system. Cybercriminals take advantage of these vulnerabilities in order to deploy their attacks. They can even make use of bots that crawl the computers connected to the network to find bugs to exploit.

What to do to protect ourselves from an APT

Without a doubt the most important thing of all is be protected. It is useful to know how to defend ourselves against an advanced persistent threat, but also from any other security problems that may appear. That is why we are going to give a series of important recommendations that we can take into account.

Keep computers protected

Something basic is to have all the devices properly protected. It is essential to have a good antivirus, as well as other tools such as a firewall capable of blocking insecure connections.

We have a wide range of possibilities to install security software. Hence, we must always choose correctly which one best suits our needs. We have both free and paid options, as well as for any type of operating system.

Always have the latest updates

Of course we must always have the latest versions available. It is very important to have everything updated to correct possible vulnerabilities that may exist. Otherwise, we could be leaving hackers on our computers.

Download only from official sources

It is also necessary to indicate the importance of downloading only from reliable sites and make use of official software. Otherwise we could be adding programs that have been modified by third parties and that could serve to steal information and compromise privacy.

Avoid insecure public networks

Today it is very common to find a Wi-Fi network almost anywhere. They are very present in public spaces, airports, shopping centers … Now, you have to be aware that they are not always safe. They could have been created solely to steal user data and could be used to carry out an APT attack. It is important to avoid insecure networks and use VPN programs if necessary.

Common sense

But if there is something essential, it is common sense. Attackers, in most cases, will need the victim to make a mistake in order to access the computer. This makes us always avoid making mistakes, such as opening a malicious email, downloading a dangerous file, etc.

Therefore, an advanced persistent threat is a significant security problem that could affect our security. It could allow an attacker to enter our system and stay there for a long time. It is very important to take into account the tips that we have mentioned to be protected and not make any mistakes.

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