Visible to the public Dimensions of ‘Socio’ Vulnerabilities of Advanced Persistent Threats

TitleDimensions of ‘Socio’ Vulnerabilities of Advanced Persistent Threats
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsNicho, Mathew, McDermott, Christopher D.
Conference Name2019 International Conference on Software, Telecommunications and Computer Networks (SoftCOM)
Keywordsadvanced persistent threats, advanced persistent threats (apt), APT attacks, APT threats, composability, environmental factors, inadequate cyber defenses, internetworked computer users, invasive software, multistage attacks, near zero-day malware, nontechnical vulnerabilities, organisational aspects, organizational management, Predictive Metrics, pubcrawl, Resiliency, socio factors, socio vulnerabilities dimension, socio-technical countermeasures, socio-technical vulnerabilities, Spear-phishing, system weaknesses, technical security, user behavior, user vulnerabilities, Zero Day Attacks and Defense
AbstractAdvanced Persistent Threats (APT) are highly targeted and sophisticated multi-stage attacks, utilizing zero day or near zero-day malware. Directed at internetworked computer users in the workplace, their growth and prevalence can be attributed to both socio (human) and technical (system weaknesses and inadequate cyber defenses) vulnerabilities. While many APT attacks incorporate a blend of socio-technical vulnerabilities, academic research and reported incidents largely depict the user as the prominent contributing factor that can weaken the layers of technical security in an organization. In this paper, our objective is to explore multiple dimensions of socio factors (non-technical vulnerabilities) that contribute to the success of APT attacks in organizations. Expert interviews were conducted with senior managers, working in government and private organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a period of four years (2014 to 2017). Contrary to common belief that socio factors derive predominately from user behavior, our study revealed two new dimensions of socio vulnerabilities, namely the role of organizational management, and environmental factors which also contribute to the success of APT attacks. We show that the three dimensions postulated in this study can assist Managers and IT personnel in organizations to implement an appropriate mix of socio-technical countermeasures for APT threats.
Citation Keynicho_dimensions_2019