Preventing the Cyber Attack Kill Chain by Understanding these 7 Steps

There is a common misconception that hackers are disorganised criminals who try a chaotic mix of tactics to achieve their intended purpose.

However, this couldn’t be more wrong. Cybercriminals are actually extremely methodical in their process. So much so that there is a clear, step-by-step process they use to gain control or access over a company.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the 7-Step Kill Chain so that, by understanding these tactics, your team can trace hacker activity and better defend your organisation and employees.

What is the “Attack Kill Chain”?

The 7-step  “Attack Kill Chain” describes a series of phases or steps of a highly-targeted cyber attack.

This concept was developed by Lockheed Martin, and it’s used to break down each stage so that potential targets have a better chance of identifying and disarming the attack.

Just like any goal that is achieved by a series of steps, it’s critical to stop the attack as early in the chain as possible.

Step 1: Reconnaissance

During this step, attackers “observe” an organisation to decide if it is a good target. This stage usually involves discovering any weaknesses in a company’s defence system as well as identifying the type of information or data available to steal.

Ultimately, this is where a hacker decides if a company is worth the risk. For companies you have undergone extensive cybersecurity training and installed the proper defences, hackers usually stop here.

Step 2: Weaponization

This is where the attacker creates their method and weapon of attack. As we’ve discussed in other blogs, hackers have a wide variety of tactics they use to gain access to valuable information. This is the stage where attackers plan a phishing attempt or other strategy to gain access or control.

Step 3: Delivery

Step 3 goes hand-in-hand with weaponization. Like the name suggests, this step involves the actual delivery or deployment of the weapon. For example, this is when an attacker may send a phishing email with the malware of choice.

Step 4: Exploit

Once successful, this is the stage where the cyber criminal runs their code or malware on a system to achieve their intended purpose.

Step 5: Installation

This step is pretty self-explanatory. While the exact malware differs case by case, this stage of the attack involves the actual installation of the malware on a given system.

Step 6: Command and Control

Now that a hacker is “in,” it’s at the stage where the attacker establishes remote control. From here, additional steps may take place. While it seems like this may be “the point of no return,” prepared companies with detection systems may still be able to stop the worst of the attack.

Step 7: Action

The seventh and final step is where the intended action takes place. Perhaps the plan is to extort the company for money by shutting down their system, or to leak valuable data. Whatever the goal, this is where the hackers have the control and ability to execute.

Using the Kill Chain to Stop Attacks

By understanding the step-by-step process, organisations can identify these crucial stages to disarm attacks before they happen. If a security team or company leader can identify one or more of these steps, they will have more success in preventing the worst of the attack.

The Bottom Line: Prevention is Key

Can you imagine how much less of a headache it would be if you stopped an attack at Stage 1 vs Stage 5? The difference could mean salvaging time, (a lot of) money, and your organisation’s reputation.

Deploying cybersecurity awareness training is the number one way to stop the chain at Stage 1 or Stage 2. By having the proper defences in place, a cyber criminal may decide that your company is just not worth the trouble of an attempt, thus ending the attack at Stage 1. Let’s say they do attempt to carry out the attack. Having a cyber aware culture and a team who is trained to identify phishing attempts will successfully stop the attack at Stage 2, long before a hacker has access to your network or data.

Stop Data breaches Before they Happen with PhishNet

The best way to protect against phishing attacks is to prevent them in the first place. This is most easily accomplished by cybersecurity awareness training. Staff who receive effective cybersecurity awareness training are better prepared to recognise and take the necessary steps to avoid a phishing attempt.

PhishNet delivers highly effective, engaging, and affordable cybersecurity awareness training to help businesses mitigate the risks of human error data breaches.

Talk to PhishNet today to learn more or check out our free Risk Assessment.