The term "advanced persistent threat" is the latest incarnation of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that plagues the security industry.

John Pironti, President, IP Architects, Contributor

August 27, 2014

3 Min Read

Use of the phrase advanced persistent threat (APT) in the security community is nothing more than a new angle for risk and security professionals to continue to use fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to try to force their own agendas upon their constituencies and the population at large.

Risk and security professionals often use FUD -- rather than actual data -- to persuade others to align with their point of view and take actions they prescribe, or to get budget.

Unfortunately, FUD also results in a lack of trust and confidence in security professionals by the business leaders, stakeholders, constituents, and customers they serve.

In recent years, the risk and security community has promoted the idea of limiting the broad and unchecked use of FUD in favor of a more data-driven and risk-balanced approach to communication and influence.

This data-driven, risk-balanced approach isn't sensational; it can be difficult and time-consuming, and it represents a journey rather than a quick fix. And yet until recently, it was starting to take hold. As a result, risk and security professionals were becoming more accepted rather than feared and shunned.

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Unfortunately, FUD still exists. Its latest incarnation is the APT buzzword. APT is widely used in the risk and security community and in media stories, and it is an element of many vendor marketing campaigns.

But APT doesn't represent a new, unique category of threats, or even an unexpected development in security and risk management.

The word "advanced" in APT implies new and never-before-encountered levels of threats, adversaries, and attacks. In fact, it's the defenders that have fallen behind.

The adversary community continues to evolve and refine its techniques and tactics. Attacks are more proficient and less obvious, and they employ multiple methods and mature rapidly.

In many cases, however, these attacks are considered advanced only because they have surpassed the abilities of the defenders to mitigate risks with traditional tools and techniques.

It would also be disingenuous for risk and security professionals to argue that they couldn't foresee such developments in the adversary community. So-called APTs are often permutations or derivatives of existing attack methods, tools, and techniques. In many cases, they have been postulated for some time by the risk and security community through threat and vulnerability research.

Threats to information and information infrastructure have always existed and will continue to exist as long as there are motivated and capable adversaries who can derive value from their activities.

Attack tools and tactics will evolve. So must our approach to security and risk management. The rise of the APT buzzword is no excuse for security professionals to fall back on bad FUD habits.

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About the Author(s)

John Pironti, President, IP Architects


John P. Pironti is the President of IP Architects LLC. He has designed and implemented enterprise-wide electronic business solutions, information security and risk management strategies and programs, enterprise resilience capabilities, and threat and vulnerability management solutions for key customers in a range of industries, including financial services, insurance, energy, government, hospitality, aerospace, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, media and entertainment, and information technology on a global scale for over 20 years. Mr. Pironti has a number of industry certifications including Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified in Risk and Information System Control (CRISC), Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP), and Information Systems Security Management Professional (ISSMP). He frequently provides briefings and acts as a trusted advisor to senior leaders of numerous organizations on information security and risk management and compliance topics and is also a member of a number of technical advisory boards for technology and services firms. He is also a published author and writer, highly quoted and often interviewed by global media, and an award-winning frequent speaker on electronic business and information security and risk management topics at domestic and international industry conferences.

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