Many cyber security consultants are deploying a quiet revolution as they transition from managing the perimeter to extracting and analyzing any residue left by cyber thieves on every endpoint device, be it a laptop, desktop, or mobile device. When you reverse engineer an operating system, you can find “artifacts,” which convey every user and application that ever interacted with the system. You can find these artifacts deep in the OS system files, memory, file systems, and more. You can’t clear or modify artifacts as you might do with log files.
Concerning cyber security services, artifacts can provide significant clues about any unauthorized access by unauthorized entities. For instance, when the Office of Personnel Management’s systems were hacked, Remote Access Trojan artifacts helped serve as clues about the attackers and their malicious activities.
So, what is an artifact in cyber security? Artifacts are tracks that get left behind. You could associate them with the footprints of the end-user or hacker. However, end-users are often unaware that artifacts exist. Like permanent footprints, they are challenging to manipulate. As a result, artifacts help cyber security consultants in their role of uncovering the root causes of a data breach and the threat actors involved.
How are artifacts used?
Frequently, cyber security services must include investigative activities. When assessments are drawn, artifacts help to corroborate the findings. Moreover, artifacts can reveal evidence even when the perpetrators proclaim innocence. Artifacts can also show the cyber criminal’s intent by displaying their Internet searches and what websites were visited. To illustrate, digital artifacts might include the following:
- How to sell insider information
- How to cover your tracks on false insurance claims
- How much do black market medical records cost?
Usually, the root cause of a cyber-attack is never discovered, nor are the threat actors ever found. Unfortunately, many data breaches are never solved and are often not expected to be solved. Fortunately, today’s cyber security services come with the methods, processes, and tools to collect artifacts and, therefore, concrete evidence and attribution.
The traces left by cyber thieves, or their artifacts, can help identify more extensive data breach campaigns. But, cyber criminals can also carry out cyber false flags, which is a severe issue. Cyber false flags are associated with any tactic used to misdirect attempts to determine the hacker’s identity, movement, location, and methods. With misdirection comes misattribution. But, with artifacts, cyber security consultants can dig a little deeper to find the cyber criminal’s intent. While not an easy task, it is crucial. As a result, it is critical to get attribution right as a mistake can lead to disastrous consequences.
For companies with limited resources, it is challenging to determine the right tools to search for artifacts. It is also essential to ask the right questions and determine how reliable the conclusions are. Moreover, today’s systems are much more complex, many it difficult for many businesses to find relevant data without the help of a reputable vendor that offers cyber security services.
Engage cyber security experts
Artifacts aren’t sitting out on the open, readily available for any end-user to find. You need to partner with cyber security experts who have the right tools and knowledge about where to look, how to interpret the artifacts, understand if cyber false flags have been deployed, and corroborate the findings to present a reliable conclusion. If you want to increase your odds, you must partner with a vendor who understands where and how to find artifacts. If you’re ready to learn more, contact SSI today.