Threat Persistence: How Hackers Linger After Cyberattacks and Best Practices for Mitigation

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Threat persistence refers to malicious actors establishing means of retaining access to a company’s network after an initial attack is complete or has been remediated. This can take the form of malware leveraging a system vulnerability to reinstall itself or hackers maintaining a way to access a company’s files and devices. When a threat persists, attackers will usually use the opportunity to steal more data from the business or gather additional information needed to launch a subsequent attack in the future. Threat persistence can make it difficult for SMBs to recover from an attack, and removing persistent elements of a cyberattack can be a complex challenge that requires the expertise of an IT consultant.

Why Hackers Linger

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For hackers, establishing threat persistence provides an opportunity to launch further visible attacks on a company, quietly steal data, or gather information for future targets. Threat persistence means malicious actors can perform the reconnaissance they need to circumvent the security solutions a company puts in place after an initial attack has been remediated. For example, persistence allows the attacker to launch follow up ransomware attacks once they know a victim will pay. Additionally, some hacker groups will target smaller companies associated with a larger target and use persistent malware to steal information needed to execute an attack on their intended victim.

Common Persistence Methods

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Malicious actors have many tools they can use to maintain access to a company’s network after an attack takes place. They can misconfigure protections on an account to allow them to easily log in with compromised credentials in the future, or they can target vulnerable services. By replacing an executable or leaving behind malicious code that runs when the device boots, the attacker can make it extremely difficult for a business to find the malicious element that allows persistence. Along with this, many types of malware can introduce complex code that makes it appear the threat has been removed, which can trick businesses that do not have an IT team or consultant.

Mitigating Threat Persistence

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Mitigating threat persistence can be a challenge, but SMBs can implement security solutions that help detect and automatically remediate malicious activity on their network. End point protection or network monitoring and response tools can identify known forms of malware that linger on devices and help uproot them. Cybersecurity best practices, such as following the principle of least privilege and using a layered approach to security can also help prevent attackers from establishing persistence in the first place. Importantly, after a cybersecurity event has occurred, SMBs can work with an IT consultant to assess their network and find any lingering threats that can do damage to the business.

Summary

Having a threat persist on the network can be devastating for SMBs, so it is critical to understand how hackers establish persistence and why they continue to target businesses. Malware, misconfigurations, and unauthorized account access or some common ways hackers will try to maintain access to a businesses network. With these tools, they can launch further attacks on the business or gather information on a larger target, but SMBs can put security solutions in place to mitigate these threats. With network and endpoint protection solutions, SMBs can detect and remediate threats quickly, and an IT consultant can help assess the company network after an attack to better ensure nothing malicious remains behind!

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