SecurityBrief Australia logo
Australia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Why the biggest cyber-attacks go undetected

By Contributor
Fri 12 Nov 2021

Article by Radware product marketing manager Eyal Arazi.

We've all seen this movie or TV scene: A hacker sits in a shadowy room busily typing on his keyboard. The camera slowly pans around him, and within a few clicks — voilà! — the protagonist has deployed a cyber-attack into the highly secured target he was trying to penetrate. 'I'm in', he says.

This may make for great TV, but the reality of data breaches is not as exciting. In fact, the biggest and most damaging attacks don't happen in minutes. Rather, they include multiple steps that unfold over months. 

They aren't executed in a few clicks, but through a long process of exploration and exploitation. According to IBM's Cost of Data Breach Report, the average time to detect and contain a cyber-attack is 287 days. That's over nine months!

If a data breach is made of so many individual steps, why aren't the steps detected and the malicious exploit immediately identified? The answer is that they are detected, but the main problem of cloud security today is not detection. It's correlation.

Tracing the steps 

Data breaches and cyber-attacks are not singular events. They are an ongoing process with multiple steps.

The first step usually is infiltration, during which an attacker gains a foothold in the network. Infiltration can happen in many ways. It can come by way of targeted credential theft, exploiting vulnerable web applications, third party credential theft, malware, and more.

The next step is usually reconnaissance. This is where attackers try to understand what the network architecture is, what access they have via stolen credentials, and where sensitive data is stored.

Compare this to thieves breaking into a house in the middle of the night. The first thing they do is check the house's layout and determine where the valuables are being kept.

Once attackers are done with basic reconnaissance, usually they will attempt lateral expansion in the network. They move within the network into a higher tier with better access, perform privilege escalation to gain permissions with wider access, acquire sensitive data, and finally exfiltrate it outside the network.

These steps take weeks and months to progress, performed via a painstaking trial-and-error process by attackers, as they strive to identify sensitive resources and expand within the network.

Usually, in the case of a cyber-attack, we hear only of the first and last steps – infiltration into the network and data exfiltration. But during the steps in between, there is a whole world of activity that often goes unnoticed.

The importance of correlation

Modern security systems detect a lot; they probably detect too much. According to a study by IT security firm Bricata, the average security operation centre receives over 10,000 alerts each day from an ever-growing array of monitoring and detection products.

Despite these massive numbers of alerts, there are several reasons why malicious activity still goes undetected:

Too many logs

When you have too many logs, it's impossible to know which alerts matter, and which do not. Identifying a malicious event in a sea of false positives is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Low-risk alerts

While many events are detected, most of these are medium and low-risk alerts that are not worth investigating.

Lack of context 

Looking at an individual activity separately, it's impossible to tell whether that activity is legitimate or not. That administrator logging on in the middle of night — is it because he is sleepless, or did someone steal his user credentials?

Is that DevOps engineer invoking an API call she has never used before because she is working on something new or a hacker trying something shady? Without context, it is impossible to tell.

Duration of time

Going back to our original point — data breaches take a long time to unfold. This means that alerts related to it will be detected over an extended period. When events are detected in sequence, it is easy to tell they are related. But what happens when they are detected months apart?

Given these realities, it is unrealistic to expect security managers to connect a random event to another event they spotted weeks or months ago. The answer is to use automated tools that detect individual events and correlate them into a logical sequence that shows how they are related.

Cyber-attacks occur over extended periods. The bigger, more complex the network, the more time the attack will take. Over such a drawn-out period, it is impossible to keep track of individual events and connect them manually.

Rather, organisations need automated tools that will track separate activities over long periods and alert IT to the aggregate threat of the event sequence. 

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
Story image
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
APAC organisations fail to disclose ransomware breaches
85% of organisations in APAC were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 28% publicly disclosed the incident.
Story image
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
The most common online scams in Australia
No one is safe from online scammers, and many of these scammers have capitalised on the pandemic, using this confusing time to attack more people than ever.
Story image
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Remote Working
Australia’s remote workers face connectivity and security issues
SOTI's new report finds better video conferencing technology and improved security measures are top concerns for remote workers in Australia.
Story image
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Story image
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
9/10 Aussies to stop spending if personal data compromised
"Based on the patterns we are seeing among Australian consumers, it is evident that trust in a brand is exceptionally important."
Story image
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
BlackBerry offers Kaspersky replacement cybersecurity for the channel
BlackBerry advises that users of Kaspersky software in Australia and New Zealand undertake a rigorous risk analysis of their current security posture.
Story image
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
New Relic
New Relic launches vulnerability management platform
New Relic has introduced New Relic Vulnerability Management to help organisations find and address security risks faster and with greater precision.