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To simplify into a way that is quick to understand visualize the following layers from start to finish.
Reconnaissance-Studying the layout of a company’s security systems, employee behaviors and habits and potential weaknesses that exist. This is done by using publicly available resources as well as built in tools to gather and collect information on the target.
Exploitation-Hackers harvest employee credentials, install RAT (remote access Trojans), malicious software and leverage weaknesses found during the reconnaissance phase.
Lateral Movement-Once the initial foothold is achieved in the network, being able to laterally in the network is critical for the attackers in order to find / collect the data they are looking for. In the Target example, attackers were able to pivot from vendor access network to the internal network where the POS (points of sales) were located.
Mission Target-The phase whereas they steal the data/assets or do the damage that they set out to do.
Maintain Presence-With the potential to steal more data/assets and/or do damage to the system, the hackers leave “backdoors” embedded to be able to return whenever they so desire.