Advanced Persistent Threat Research Paper

Pages: 20 (5786 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

¶ … Persistent Threat

Historical Background of APT

Today, APT, or Advanced Persistent Threat, describes cyber attacks, which are produced by organized teams of individuals, whom have extremely in-depth resources. These teams of individuals have highly advanced technological and database penetration skills and they target specific profiles. Attack tactics are very precise and deliberate and they remain consistent in their attacks. The attackers evaluate the attacked profile's defense and what their likely response will be to the attack in an attempt to anticipate what techniques will need to be implemented.

According to a 2010 CSO Cyber Security Watch Survey, threats posed to organizations by cyber crimes have increased faster than potential victims over the last few years. Cyber threats are becoming significantly more common throughout the world today. Throughout this report, I'll discuss how cyber threats are currently an APT, particularly from the Chinese government. I'll also provide a brief history of the Internet.

Internet history can be traced back to 1858. This is when the Atlantic cable was established in order to carry communications across the ocean. Some believe this to be the first steps to "online" communications. Unfortunately, the cable did not last even a few days, and was considered to be a failure due to technical difficulties. By 1866, more cables had been laid out and success was discovered in those cables. The successful cables were used for nearly 100 years.

The first artificial satellite was launched in 1957 and by 1958, the U.S. Department of Defense issued directive 5105.15, which established ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency). ARPA was doing research to improve the military's use of computer technology by the early 1960s. The timeline thus far are considered to be milestones in Internet pre-history. We have come a long way since the 1960s in both communications and in technology.

The Internet can best be described as hundreds of millions of computers connected with a global network throughout the world. These computers are connected so that they can communicate with each other. Today, many individuals use the Internet to act out many parts of their everyday lives. Families throughout the world pay bills online, look up information, book flights and buy and sell products. A lot of an individual's personal data can very easily be sought out via the Internet. Data from important government entities and the military can also sometimes be accessed, which is where an advanced persistent threat comes into play. Cyber war is becoming an increasingly popular theme throughout the world, but these types of advanced threats have been seen throughout history, even before computers and the coming of age technology.

The history of computers is really thousands of years old. People rarely understand or realize this. The abacus was the first documented and proven source archeologically. This was an artificial tool used for calculations and was documented 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Some countries still utilize the abacus today and early merchants utilized the abacas for trading transactions.

By 1642, Blaise Pascal, who was the 18-year-old son of a French tax collector, invented the numerical wheel calculator in order to help his father in his collections and duties. Jumping ahead to 1880, American inventor Herman Hollerith invented the first large scale computer, which was used to compile census information. Previously, this information had taken ten full years to compile, but with Hollerith's machine, it only took six weeks. This was a rapid improvement. By 1944, Harvard engineer Howard H. Aiken, was working closely with IBM and successfully produced an all-electronic calculator. The purpose of this computer was to create ballistic charts for the U.S. Navy. By 1976, Steve Wozinak and Steve Jobs completed their work on the first computer circuit board. They called this circuit board Apple I. After this, the Apple Computer Company was formed. Not long after Apple I was created and the Apple Computer Company was formed, Bill Gates and Paul Allen signed a partnership agreement, officially creating the Microsoft Company.

In June of 1980, Seagate Technology announced the first Winchester 5.25-inch hard disk drive. This hard disk drive cost $600 and held 5 MB. The Seatgate's product hit the market and caused a huge growth in technology and development. From there, the world of technology and computers took off and by 2003; storage capacity for the worldwide hard disk had reached 30,200 terabytes.

The history of communications plays a significant role in APT. In an older history of communications over any type of distance, hand signals, fire beacons, flags and telegraphs were used. These types of communication methods can be traced back for thousands of years. The Internet has caused APT to develop into a more real and common problem, however, APT can be seen throughout history in country to country wars and inner country conflicts.

Terrorism and APT

Terrorism attacks have been prevalent for hundreds of years. The use of terror by governments and those that contents their power is still considered to be somewhat misunderstood. From the French revolutionary governments instituting terror against the population of France in the 1790s, to the past 20 years of terrorists committing violently threatening acts for political or religious reasons throughout the world, terrorism is probably the most common example of APT.

Terrorism can be dated back as early as the 1st Century AD. The earliest known organization was the Zealots of Judea, who carried an underground campaign of assassination of Roman occupational forces. By the 19th century, the world was seeing a vast improvement in weapons and technology and the act of terrorism was becoming even more common. The Cold War changed perceptions of conflict throughout the world and the age of modern terrorism began in the 1960s. The history and development of terrorism, which is a prime example of APT, can be directly linked to the development of communications and technology.

Using China as an Example

In using China as a prime example of APT, we'll discuss an assessment of their capability in conducting computer network operations (CNO) during times of peace and during periods of conflict. We'll discuss their strategies for network operations and talk about their planning efforts. We'll also cover possible targets against the United States as well as examples of Chinese intrusions into the U.S. government and industry networks.

Antecedent Intelligence Environment

The Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has utilized military intelligence to fight what can best be described as high tech wars. The Chinese use INEW (Integrated Network Electronic Warfare) as an offensive mission for a computer network attack electronic warfare. The highest organizational authority of the PLA is the General Staff Department. They are responsible for the daily administrative duties of the Chinese military.

Signal intelligence utilizes a strategy, which relies on the simultaneous application of electronic warfare and network computer operations against adversary command. In analyzing this strategy, CNO tools will be used in even the earliest phases of conflict. They also may be used to preemptively assess enemy information systems.

The PLA is training its force to use a variety of tools for intelligence gathering and in establishing information dominance against the enemy while in conflict. It is extremely important to gather and utilize information regarding the enemy and their technology in conflict early on. INEW is designed to specifically support this objective.

Antecedent Policy Positions

Today, the PLA is reaching out to civilian personnel in an attempt to meet personnel requirements for better program support. They are seeking people with specialized skills from many industries and areas of expertise, including the commercial sector, the academic world and may even reach as far as China's hacker community to reach their goals.

China has an exceedingly maturing computer network and they are using this network to support intelligence data collection against the U.S. Government. This involves conducting a long-term, sophisticated computer network exploitation campaign. This exploitation is well-organized, disciplined and uses standardized operations, as well as sophisticated techniques. Supporting evidence shows that the Chinese are utilizing individuals who support illegal hacking activities in order to customize applications and tools and to exploit vulnerabilities in software.

To sum it up in simple terms, individuals who support illegal hacking activities out of China who are being used to continually gather information illegally from the U.S., are participating in what is referred to as the zero-day exploit, meaning that the defenders have not yet begun counting the days since the release of vulnerability information.

This type of in-depth computer networking is used to target several different countries and this is a good example of an APT. It is ongoing and could be potentially damaging. Much of the information that is stolen is of no interest to the person that stole the information, but rather to third party buyers. This type of information hacking is even more dangerous to the person being attacked, because it can be very difficult to trace the attack to the third party buyer.

The main difference between computer exploitation and an actual attack is that computer… [END OF PREVIEW]

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