What is Advanced Threat Protection? Definition and Examples
Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is a security solution designed to identify and protect against novel and sophisticated cybersecurity threats. These attacks — which often incorporate multiple stages and target sensitive data — are specifically designed to evade common defenses and threat detection and response solutions.
Table of Contents
Understanding Cyber Threats
Companies face a wide range of potential attacks, and the cyber threat landscape is continually evolving. Three of the leading threats to organizations today are malware, phishing, and ransomware.
Malware is malicious software that can be used to achieve various purposes. Infostealers are malware that collects sensitive data from an infected computer and exfiltrates it to an attacker. Remote access trojans (RATs) enable an attacker to remotely access and control an infected device, allowing them to perform follow-on attacks. Botnet malware uses an infected computer to perform automated attacks on behalf of the attacker.
Phishing is a form of social engineering attack designed to deceive or coerce the target into doing something that the attacker wants. The most common form of phishing uses emails with links to malicious sites or attachments infected by malware. Phishing attacks can be used to accomplish various goals, such as the theft of login credentials, sensitive data, or money. Business email compromise (BEC) attacks are a form of phishing designed to trick the target into sending money to the attacker.
Ransomware is a specific form of malware that encrypts or steals data from the target organization. Once the malware has done so, the attacker demands a ransom from the victim. This could be for the decryption key needed to restore access to the data or for the attacker to promise not to leak or sell the stolen data. Ransomware has proven to be a highly successful and profitable attack vector for cybercriminals, making it one of the biggest threats to organizations.
Key Components of Advanced Threat Protection
ATP solutions protect against threats designed to evade certain defenses. They do so by implementing various advanced capabilities, including the following.
Real-time Threat Detection
ATP solutions perform continuousmonitoring of an environment and analyze the data that they collect using various techniques. This data and the results of this analysis are available to security analysts, enabling them to more quickly understand and respond to identified threats. As a result, ATP solutions reduce the cost and impact of potential threats to an organization.
Behavioral Analytics and Anomaly Detection
Sophisticated cyber threat actors can evade signature-based detection schemes by varying the fingerprint of their malware and other tools for each attack campaign. ATP solutions analyze user and system behaviors and search for anomalous events or activities. By doing so, they can identify the deviations that potentially indicate zero-day and evolving threats to the organization.
Visibility, Analytics, and Security Automation
ATP solutions perform continuous monitoring and data analytics, enabling them to more quickly and accurately identify potential threats. If a potential security incident is detected, these solutions also incorporate support for automated workflows, enabling incident responders to rapidly perform remediation at scale.
Threat Intelligence Sharing
Threat intelligence provides invaluable information about new and evolving threat campaigns. ATP solutions can ingest threat intelligence from various sources and combine it with their analysis to more effectively identify potential threats to the organization. This use of threat intelligence enables more proactive management of potential threats by enabling an organization to develop specialized defenses and perform threat hunting within their environments.
Machine Learning and AI
Security teams commonly struggle to manage large volumes of alert data and accurately differentiate between true threats to the organization and false positives. ATP solutions leverage machine learning and AI to extract anomalies and patterns from these large datasets and translate these into the identification of potential threats. This approach enables these solutions to learn and evolve over time to more accurately identify and remediate threats to the organization.
ATP solutions commonly rely on cloud infrastructure for data processing. By leveraging the scalability of the cloud, these tools can ensure that they are able to perform in-depth analytics while maintaining their real-time performance. This reliance on the cloud also provides better support as corporate IT infrastructures grow more distributed.
Zero-Day Threat Detection
ATP solutions specialize in identifying zero-day threats, which are attack campaigns using novel malware or exploiting unknown vulnerabilities. By relying on behavioral analysis and anomaly detection, ATP solutions can identify potential attacks based on deviations from normal rather than looking for known threats.
Email and Web Security
Email and web are common attack vectors for cybercriminals. ATP solutions offer advanced threat detection capabilities for email and the web, including the ability to inspect attachments and the webpages pointed to by URLs embedded in emails or that a user attempt to visit. By doing so, they can identify and block phishing attacks and browsing to malicious webpages before they place the organization at risk.
ATP solutions offer converged security for an organization’s endpoints, including desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. ATP solutions build on traditional endpoint security capabilities — such as firewalls and antivirus — to provide more comprehensive protection against advanced and subtle cyberattacks.
How ATP Safeguards Data and Networks
ATP solutions provide protection against advanced and sophisticated cyber threats via the following capabilities.
Prevention and mitigation of known and unknown threats
Many traditional cybersecurity solutions offer protection against known threats by leveraging signature-based analysis. ATP solutions add behavioral analytics, anomaly detection, and AI/ML to identify trends, patterns, and anomalies. By doing so, they can identify both known and unknown threats based on the effects that these attacks have on infected systems.
Organizations can use these capabilities to both prevent and mitigate potential threats. For example, using threat intelligence, ATP solutions can identify and block novel threat campaigns. If a threat has already gained access to an organization’s systems, ATPs can support threat hunting and enable remediation at scale via automated playbooks.
Enhancing incident response and recovery
ATP solutions offer continuous data monitoring and analytics, enabling organizations to more quickly identify potential threats and alleviating alert overload. Incident responders have access to real-time, consolidated data about potential threats and can take advantage of automated playbooks to rapidly respond to identified threats. As a result, organizations can more quickly detect, investigate, and remediate a suspected cyberattack, dramatically reducing the potential impact of the threat to the organization.
Securing cloud-based environments
As companies adopt cloud-based infrastructure, securing the data and applications located in these environments becomes increasingly important. APT solutions support and protect cloud deployments, enabling organizations to effectively identify and block potential threats and the transmission of malware via SaaS solutions.
Implementation of Advanced Threat Protection
An ATP solution can dramatically enhance an organization’s threat detection and response capabilities, but deploying one can be a complex process. When selecting and implementing ATP capabilities, take the following steps.
#1. Define Objectives and Requirements
The first step in deploying any security solution is defining objectives and requirements. Every organization has its own IT environment and security policies, and security infrastructure must be tailored to those needs. Defining the purpose of the ATP solution and the requirements it should meet helps with selecting a solution and developing metrics for tracking efficacy and improvement over time.
#2. Security Assessment
After defining the goals for an ATP solution, the next step is to perform a security assessment. This assessment helps the organization to identify security gaps that the ATP solution can fill and provides additional visibility into the company’s existing security architecture.
#3. Research and Select ATP Solution
Based on this assessment, the organization can define its requirements for the ATP solution, which can then be used to inform the solution selection process. In addition to these core requirements, the organization should evaluate solutions based on the security that they provide and their ability to support the organization as it grows and evolves.
#4. Pilot Testing
After selecting an ATP solution, it’s wise to perform pilot testing before embarking on a full-scale rollout. By testing the solution in a realistic environment, the organization can identify and address potential pitfalls before the final deployment. This can also help to ensure that the solution actually meets the company’s needs before the buying process is complete.
#5. Plan for Deployment
Deploying a solution such as an ATP tool at scale is a major undertaking. It’s best to have a plan and, if possible to roll out the solution in stages. By taking a staged approach, the security team can develop and validate necessary configurations and ensure that each piece works before moving on to the next. Additionally, an incremental rollout reduces the impact on the organization if something goes wrong during deployment.
#6. Configure and Customize
Every organization has a unique infrastructure, and an ATP will need to be configured and customized to meet its needs. Since ATPs use behavioral analytics and anomaly detection to identify potential threats, there will likely be a learning phase during the deployment process when the tool is developing a baseline before it is able to start detecting true deviations and threats to the organization.
#7. Integrate with Existing Tools
An ATP should be part of an integrated security architecture. This not only reduces management load on security teams, it also provides the ATP with more data and context for making decisions and identifying threats. Integrating the ATP with an organization’s existing security solutions and ticket management processes enables the security team to more easily make use of the information provided by the ATP.
#8. User Training and Awareness
If the organization didn’t previously have an ATP solution in place, it’s best to plan training time for the security team to familiarize themselves with the tool. Training analysts on how the tool works and how to make use of its available functions increases the value to the organization and will streamline the threat detection and response process.
#9. Monitor and Fine-tune
It’s rare for a deployment to be perfect on the first try, and, as an organization evolves, so does its infrastructure and security requirements. After the ATP is deployed, the security team should perform regular monitoring and fine-tuning to ensure that the solution is offering optimal protection to the organization’s IT assets and is accurately identifying potential threats to the business.
#10. Continuous Improvement
ATP – as well as any security solution for that matter – should be managed with a mindet of continuous improvement. At the beginning of the deployment process, the security team should have defined requirements for the tool and performed a security assessment. Based on this information, the team can define metrics for measuring the success of the ATP and the corporate security program and use these metrics to ensure that the organization’s cybersecurity is continually improving.
Future Trends in Advanced Threat Protection
ATP solutions are designed to provide protection against the latest and most sophisticated cyber threats. Some future trends that will have a significant impact on ATP solutions include the following.
AI and ML
ATPs leverage AI and machine learning to identify potential threats to the organization and can use automated playbooks to respond to potential security incidents at scale. As AI becomes more mature, these solutions will become more effective at detecting threats and be able to adapt and respond to a greater range of situations without the need for predefined playbooks.
Zero Trust Security
Behavioral analytics is a critical component of how ATP solutions identify potential threats to the organization. As companies increasingly adopt zero-trust security models, the resulting changes in user behavior and access control enforcement will affect how ATPs identify potential threats.
Phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, and this trend will continue as cybercriminals leverage generative AI to develop more complex attacks. As a result, ATP solutions will need to adapt and evolve to more effectively identify and block subtle phishing attacks.
CATO and ATP Solutions
An ATP solution is designed to protect all of an organization’s IT environment against advanced cyber threats. To do so, it should be integrated into an organization’s security architecture, have the ability to perform in-depth behavioral analysis, and leverage cloud scalability to support real-time protection.
Cato SASE Cloud integrates advanced threat protection capabilities as part of a converged Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution. Cato SASE Cloud performs single-pass analysis of all of an organization’s WAN traffic and brings numerous threat detection and access control capabilities to bear to identify and block advanced threats. Learn more about how Cato’s managed network security can help protect your organization against advanced and sophisticated cyberattacks.