Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving discipline, with new risks and dangers emerging daily. To keep up with these trends, security experts require a framework that can assist them in handling and anticipating cyber intrusions.The answer to this is the well-respected MITRE Kill Chain model which gives a complete and comprehensive overview of the entire cyber attack process.

What is the Kill Chain of MITRE?

The MITRE Kill Chain is a seven-step framework that explains the standard attack process involved in a cyber attack. It was created by the nonprofit MITRE Corporation, which maintains several federally sponsored research and development institutes. The Kill Chain is based on actual attack scenarios and is widely regarded as one of the most essential models for cybersecurity experts.

Seven steps make up the Kill Chain:

1. Reconnaissance

The first phase in the MITRE Kill Chain is reconnaissance, which includes the attacker acquiring information about the victim. This may involve investigating the target’s network and systems, in as well as identifying possible vulnerabilities. The objective of this stage is to collect sufficient information to design an effective offensive strategy.

Examples of reconnaissance activities include:

  • Web-based reconnaissance is scanning the target’s websites and online resources for information. Using OSINT to gather has much publicly available knowledeg as ossible to build up a comprehensive profile of the target.
  • Reconnaissance of the target’s network in order to identify its systems and services.
  • Social engineering reconnaissance is the gathering of information by social engineering techniques such as phishing and baiting.

2. Weaponization

After gathering sufficient knowledge, the next stage is weaponization. In this stage, the attacker transforms this knowledge into an attack weapon. This may entail the development of an unique piece of malware or the use of existing tools and exploits to exploit vulnerabilities in the target’s systems.

The following are examples of weaponization activities:Malware development:

  • Malware development: the process of creating malware that exploits weaknesses in the target’s systems.
  • Exploit creation: is the building of customised exploits to exploit known vulnerabilities.
  • Tool selection: the choice of existing tools and exploits to utilize in the attack.

3. Delivery

The attacker delivers the weaponized attack tool to the victim during the Delivery stage. This may entail sending an email with a malicious attachment, uploading a malicious file to a website, or exploiting a system vulnerability to remotely instal an attack tool. This step’s objective is to instal the attack tool on the target’s systems so that it may be used to execute the attack.

The following are examples of Delivery activities:

  • Email delivery: Sending an email containing a malicious attachment or link.
  • Web-based delivery: Uploading a malicious file to a website or exploiting a vulnerability in a web application are examples of web-based delivery.
  • Remote delivery: Exploit a system’s vulnerability in order to remotely instal the attack tool.

4. Exploitation

In the Exploitation phase, the attacker utilises the attack tool to exploit the target’s system vulnerabilities. This may entail running malware, exploiting an application’s vulnerability, or seizing control of a machine. The purpose of this phase is to get access to the target’s systems so that the next steps of the attack may be executed.

The following are examples of Exploitation activities:

  • Malware execution: the execution of a malicious programme to take control of a system.
  • Vulnerability exploitation:  exploiting of a vulnerability in an application or system to obtain access.
  • Remote code execution: the execution of arbitrary code on a system in order to seize control.

5. Installation

The attacker instals persistent components on the target’s computers during the installation phase. This may entail installing a backdoor, a user account, or a rootkit. This stage aims to create a persistent presence on the target’s systems, enabling the attacker to keep access even if the target attempts to block the initial entry point.

The following are examples of Installation activities:

  • Installing a backdoor on a target’s systems to sustain access.
  • Adding a user account to the target’s systems in order to keep access.
  • Rootkit installation is the process of installing a rootkit on the target’s systems in order to conceal the attacker’s presence and maintain access.

6. Command & Control

The attacker creates a communication link with the target’s systems during the Command & Control phase. This may require utilising the persistent components installed in the previous stage to transmit instructions and receive data from the target’s systems. This stage aims to grant the attacker total control over the systems of the target.

The following are examples of Command and Control activities:

  • Accessing the target’s systems remotely using the persistent components deployed in the previous phase.
  • Exfiltration of data to the transfer of sensitive information from the target’s systems to the attacker.
  • Sending commands to the target’s systems to perform certain tasks via remote control.

7. Actions on Objectives

In the step Actions on Objectives, the attacker executes the last phase of the attack. This may include the theft of sensitive data, the disruption of the target’s systems, or the installation of new components to further breach the target. This step’s mission is to accomplish the attacker’s objectives, whatever they may be.

The following are examples of Actions on Objectives activities:

  • Theft of sensitive data from the target’s computer systems.
  • Interrupting the systems of a target in order to inflict harm or disruption.
  • Installation of extra components to further breach the systems of the target.

Each stage of the Kill Chain represents a critical element in the attack process, and security experts can utilise this framework to assess where an attack may originate, what type of threat it poses, and how to avoid it.

How important is the MITRE Kill Chain in cyber attacks?

There are several reasons why the MITRE Kill Chain is a major weapon in the fight against cyber attacks. Here are a few examples:

  • The Kill Chain gives a full picture of the attack process, enabling you to anticipate and prepare for each phase of an attack. This can help you protect your systems and data proactively from cyberattacks.
  • By understanding where an attack might originate and what type of threat it poses, you can concentrate your security efforts on the most vulnerable regions. This will assist you in enhancing your overall security posture and decreasing the likelihood of a successful attack.
  • If a cyber attack does occur, the Kill Chain can assist you in responding more effectively. By understanding the attack process, you could rapidly identify the attack’s origin and take the necessary measures to prevent further damage.
  • The Kill Chain is widely known and utilised in the cybersecurity field, providing security experts with a common vocabulary to discuss and understand cyber attacks. This can encourage collaboration and information exchange, resulting in enhanced security for everybody.

The Takeaway

The MITRE Kill Chain is a useful resource for anybody engaged in cybersecurity. Understanding this framework may help you predict, plan for, and respond to cyber attacks, whether you are a security expert, a business owner, or someone who just wants to keep updated about cyber risks. So, familiarise yourself with the Kill Chain; it may help preserve your digital assets one day.