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Targeted attacks

(also advanced persistent threats, APTs)

Targeted attacks definition

Targeted attacks refer to complex cyberattacks that concentrate on a particular person, organization, or system. Often orchestrated by cybercriminals, state-sponsored hackers, or hacktivist collectives, these attacks aim to achieve specific objectives such as exfiltrating confidential information, causing service disruptions, or engaging in espionage. Given their multistage nature and ability to unfold over a long duration, targeted attacks pose significant challenges in terms of detection and prevention.

See also: anti-malware, end-to-end encryption, angler phishing

Targeted attacks examples

  • Spear phishing: A highly targeted phishing attempt that uses social engineering and personalized information to trick victims into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware.
  • Watering hole attacks: Cybercriminals compromise legitimate websites frequented by their targets, infecting them with malware that can exploit vulnerabilities in the target's system.
  • Zero-day exploits: Attackers exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities in software, systems, or networks to gain unauthorized access or deliver malware.

Preventing targeted attacks

  • Stay vigilant and cautious about clicking on links and downloading attachments in emails.
  • Keep all software, operating systems, and antivirus programs up to date.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all accounts.
  • Employ a virtual private network (VPN) like NordVPN to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data.
  • Train employees in cybersecurity best practices and regularly update them on new threats.