Reading articles and updates from security and technology people can often be a bit of a mental exercise. Just recently I was reading about the Shady Rat exploits and asked my wife to read the article. By the way, my wife is not what you would call a computer/technology lover. She got about a paragraph in to the article, looked at me and asked “So, what is steganography? And why do they keep talking about APT….what is that?”
These are good questions. Steganography is actually a very old method of utilizing a picture, artwork or graphic medium to embed another message. Very simply, it is putting something into a picture. You can put symbols in a picture to send a message, right? Well, now we can embed whole scripts or small bits of code to be executed inside a picture or image. So, here is the deal, I send you an email and you download my program accidentally. That program forces you to go to a website or proxy that sends you an image as part of the web page, the program I sent you is looking for the new image and executes the code inside of the image to do new stuff. Pretty clever.
This allows me to update my program using steganography and a resident program. This gives me a persistent threat to your data. I am using an advanced method for this, hence APT (Advanced Persistent Threat).