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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Defending Against Targeted Attacks Requires Human Touch, Speakers Say

Targeted attacks involve a human element that can be detected and stopped, speakers say at Dark Reading event

BOSTON -- SECURITY Conference 2014 -- Targeted attacks tend to be tailored individually, giving them an almost human quality that can be fingerprinted and prevented, according to speakers here on Thursday.

In a live event presented by Dark Reading and InformationWeek and sponsored by Trend Micro, keynote speakers and panelists offered a look at targeted attacks and how to defend against them.

While traditional cyberdefenses have generally focused on building a shield against mass-produced malware, targeted attacks are frequently unique and require a different sort of defense, the speakers said.

"We encourage enterprises to refocus their attention on who the attacker is, rather than just the methods they use," said keynote speaker George Kurtz, CEO and co-founder of CrowdStrike, which offers big data analysis and attribution services. "What we always say is that [enterprises] don't have a malware problem -- they have an adversary problem."

Trend Micro's J.D. Sherry pointed out that while targeted attacks tend to be tailored to the victim, they aren't always sophisticated. "In fact, most of these attacks are actually not very advanced," he said. "Many of them involve vulnerabilities that are years old and that could have been prevented if the victims had just stayed up-to-date with their patches."

Ninety-nine percent of targeted attacks are manually operated, which gives them an almost human quality that is quite different from mass-produced malware, said Harry Sverdlove, CTO of Bit9. "To detect this sort of attack usually means correlating several events on your network," he said.

Targeted attacks require a series of steps that can be stopped if they can be recognized, said Tim "TK" Keanini CTO at Lancope. "The bad guy has to pull off an entire process that may involve four to eight steps without being detected," he said. "And if they are detected, they have to start all over again. Interrupting this 'kill chain' is the key to increasing the attacker's cost and making it more difficult to complete the process."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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