- Apr 24, 2016
“Advanced persistent threat” is a term commonly used to describe a targeted cyber-attack that employs a complex set of methods and techniques to penetrate information system(s). Different aims of such attacks could be stealing/substituting/damaging confidential information, or establishing sabotage capabilities, the last of which could lead to financial and reputational damage of the targeted organisations. Such attacks are very purposeful, and usually involve highly specialised tools. The tools used are partly free and partly commercial, partly their payloads are based on non-evasive techniques such as using standard Windows APIs, and partly their payloads are based on evasive techniques such as direct syscalls, indirect syscalls, user-mode unhooking, shellcode obfuscation, API hashing, hardware breakpoints, etc.
To represent the targeted hosts, we use fully patched 64-bit Windows 10 systems, each with a different AV product installed. In the enterprise test, the target user has a standard user account. In the consumer test, an admin account is targeted, although every POC is executed using only a standard-user account, with medium integrity. Windows User Account Control is enabled and set to the default level in both tests. With regard to vendors whose products were tested in both the Consumer and Enterprise ATP Tests, please note that the products and their settings may differ. Hence, the results of the Consumer Test should not be compared with those of the Enterprise Test.
Once the payload is executed by the victim, a Command and Control Channel (C2) to the attacker’s system is opened. For this to happen, a listener has to be running on the attacker’s side. For example, this could be a Metasploit Listener on a Kali Linux system. Using the C2 channel, the attacker has full access to the compromised system. The functionality and stability of this established access is verified in each test-case. If a stable C2 connection is made, the system is considered to be compromised.
The test consists of 15 different attacks. It focuses on protection, not on detection, and is carried out entirely manually. Whilst the testing procedure is necessarily complex, we have used a fairly simple description of it in this report.