APTs are categorized based on various criteria, from their origin and methods to the methods of infiltration or geographical focus.
While there is no perfect set of characteristics to define every Advanced Persistent Threat, the categories of APTs most commonly encountered and discussed are as follows:
· Nation-state APTs: With enormous budgets and access to the latest technology, along with legal cover, these threat actors carry out some of the most sophisticated missions. These include long-term espionage, data theft, public opinion manipulation, etc. They have well-established political or military objectives and target government organizations, military installations, key infrastructure, economic players, and essentially anyone or anything that can aid them in achieving their long-term goals.
· Criminal APTs: Some groups engaging in APT activities focus on stealing money or other valuable data such as intellectual property or compromising data for blackmail or extortion. Often, the final objective of these threat actors is deploying ransomware in high-value networks, committing banking fraud, stealing, and selling credit card information, or even mining cryptocurrency illegally using victims’ infrastructure.
· Hacktivist APTs: Some groups use their cyber capabilities to push political agendas, drive social change, or promote ideologies through targeted attacks aimed at shutting down critics, spreading propaganda, or destroying opposition. Their tactics include Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, website defacements, and leaking sensitive information. These groups seek publicity, often expressed through manifestos or public messages.
· Corporate/Business APTs: Employed or sponsored by business organizations, these APTs spy on competitors, usually at the large corporation level. With the emergence of APT-as-a-service, skilled cybercriminal groups now offer their services for industrial espionage. Threat actors in this category are motivated by gaining a competitive advantage, financial gain, or obtaining valuable information for corporate espionage.