Cyber Kill Chain: Protect your System by Understanding the Attackers' Methods

The concept of “kill chain” is used in the cybersecurity industry to describe how attackers get into a system and accomplish their goals. Cyber security professionals can implement countermeasures and defend their systems, by understanding how attackers can hack a system successfully.


There are several models that depict the “Kill Chain,” each with its own set of steps. Here is an example of typical stages:

1) Reconnaissance

This is the stage during which the attacker learns more about the target. This information can be obtained by open-source intelligence (OSINT) or by probing the target system for vulnerabilities.

2) Weaponization

This is the step at which the attacker develops a weapon, or payload, that may be utilized to exploit a vulnerability in the target system.

3) Delivery

The attacker delivers the malicious payload to the target system at this point. This can be accomplished through social engineering or by exploiting a flaw in the target system directly.

4) Exploitation

The exploitation stage of the kill chain is in which the attacker takes advantage of a vulnerability in the machine to gain access. This may be completed in some methods, which include social engineering, brute force attacks, or malicious code execution. Once the attacker has received access, they could then pass on to the following stage of the kill chain.

5) Installation

The attacker gains access to the targeted system and proceeds to install malicious software during the installation stage of the kill chain. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including exploiting software vulnerabilities, sending phishing emails to trick the user into clicking on a malicious link, or physically accessing the device and installing the malware. After the software has been installed, the attacker can begin their attack.

6) Command and Control (C2)

When an attacker gains access to a victim’s system and begins executing commands, this is known as the Command and Control stage of the kill chain. This is usually accomplished by infecting the victim’s computer with malware that enables the attacker remote access to it. The attacker will then attempt to steal sensitive data or launch additional attacks while using the granted privileges. Strong security measures, such as antivirus software and firewalls, can actually prevent this stage.

7) Actions on objectives

At this point, the attacker takes efforts to accomplish their objectives, which could involve data theft, destruction, encryption, or exfiltration.

Over time, several information security experts have added an eighth stage to the kill chain: monetization. In this phase, the cybercriminal focuses on making money from the incident, whether through a ransom demanded from the victim or the sale of sensitive data such as personal information or trade secrets on the dark web.

Final Words

As attackers improve their tactics and strategies, the cyber kill chain continues to evolve. The cyberattack lifecycle is significantly less predictable and clear today than it was a decade ago, despite the fact that using the Kill Chain to model an attack is still an effective instrument.

While the cyber kill chain is a popular and widely used methodology for developing a cybersecurity strategy, it has significant and potentially severe weaknesses. One of the most prominent comments directed at the cyber kill chain model is that it prioritizes perimeter security and malware prevention over other security controls.

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