From Ground to Cloud: APT29's Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape

Explore the strategic pivot of APT29 to cloud service attacks and learn how organizations can enhance their cloud security with expert insights and recommendations.

The Five Eyes intelligence alliance has recently issued a warning about the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service hacking group, APT29, and its strategic pivot towards targeting cloud services. This shift represents a significant evolution in cyber espionage tactics, underscoring the growing vulnerability of cloud infrastructures to sophisticated threats. This blog post delves into APT29's transition, the implications for cloud security, and effective defense strategies to mitigate these risks.

APT29's Evolution

Background on APT29

APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and The Dukes, has a history of high-profile cyberattacks, including the SolarWinds supply-chain attack. Their activities have primarily focused on espionage, targeting government agencies and critical infrastructure across Europe, the United States, and Asia.

Shift to Cloud Infrastructure

Recent advisories have highlighted APT29's adaptation to the increasing use of cloud services by organizations, marking a strategic shift in their approach to gaining access to sensitive information.

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The Threat to Cloud Services

Tactics and Techniques

APT29 has adapted their approach to target cloud services directly, using methods such as brute force attacks, exploiting service and dormant accounts, and leveraging stolen access tokens. These tactics allow them to bypass traditional security measures and gain unauthorized access to cloud-hosted networks.

The Implications for Cloud Security

The shift in APT29's focus towards cloud services highlights a broader trend of increased vulnerability in cloud infrastructure. Organizations must recognize the sophistication of these threats and the necessity of evolving their security strategies to protect against espionage and data breaches.

Defense Strategies

Recommendations from Five Eyes

To mitigate the risk of APT29's cloud-focused attacks, the Five Eyes intelligence alliance recommends enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), using strong passwords, and applying the principle of least privilege. Creating canary accounts and reducing session lifetimes are also advised to detect and block unauthorized access.

Implementing Strong Cloud Security Practices

Beyond the Five Eyes' recommendations, organizations should conduct regular security audits, engage in continuous monitoring for suspicious activities, and enforce device enrollment policies. Emphasizing security awareness and training among all users is critical for strengthening an organization's defense against sophisticated cyber threats.


APT29's pivot to targeting cloud services is a significant development in the landscape of cyber threats, demonstrating the necessity for robust, dynamic security measures in cloud infrastructures. By adhering to the recommendations of cybersecurity agencies and employing comprehensive security strategies, organizations can enhance their resilience against such advanced espionage tactics.

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What are APT29's main methods of attacking cloud services?

  • APT29 uses techniques like brute force and password spraying, exploiting service and dormant accounts, hijacking access tokens, and leveraging MFA fatigue to target cloud services.

Why is multi-factor authentication (MFA) crucial in defending against these attacks?

  • MFA adds an additional layer of security that requires not only a password and username but also something that only the user has on them, making unauthorized access significantly harder.

How can organizations detect and mitigate the use of stolen access tokens?

  • Organizations should monitor for unusual activity patterns, reduce session token lifetimes, and frequently refresh and revoke tokens to mitigate the risk of token theft.

How can ThreatKey help in defending against sophisticated cloud threats like those from APT29?

  • ThreatKey provides advanced security assessments and tailored strategies to protect cloud environments, helping organizations identify vulnerabilities and implement effective defenses against sophisticated threats.

What steps should be taken if suspicious activity is detected in a cloud environment?

  • Immediately revoke potentially compromised credentials, conduct a thorough investigation to understand the scope, implement necessary security measures to prevent further access, and notify affected users if any sensitive information was compromised.

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