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Everything you need to know Cyber Kill Chain Phases

The Cyber Kill Chain architecture from Lockheed Martin describes how hackers take advantage of holes in networks. The model aids network defenders in understanding the phases of a cyberattack and preventing or intercepting each one. We will check out these phases in this blog.

What is a Cyber Kill Chain in simple terms?

Cyber security professionals employ the ‘kill chain’ idea, which originated in military operations, to strengthen an organization’s protection against advanced persistent threats (APTs). Malware, ransomware, Trojan horses, and phishing, are considered risks. Cyber death chains help businesses stay one step ahead of hackers over the whole attack lifecycle, from planning to carrying out.

Cyber kill chain vs MITRE ATT&CK

The MITRE ATT&CK methodology is frequently used to compare the cyber death chain. The stages of a cyberattack are also depicted by MITRE ATT&CK, many of which are comparable to the cyber death chain paradigm. The primary distinction between the MITRE ATT&CK and the cyber kill chain is that, in contrast to the kill chain’s specified stage grouping and linear structure, the MITRE methods are presented without any particular sequence. 

Another distinction is that, whereas MITRE ATT&CK investigates several approaches and methods related to the specifics of a cyberattack, the cyber death chain architecture handles the cyberattack process in seven steps at a high level. The death chain and ATT&CK components can both be included in a cybersecurity plan.

Phases of Cyber Kill Chain

It is divided down into seven phases:

1. Reconnaissance

Reconnaissance, or the research phase of the operation, is the first step in the cyber security kill chain. Attackers survey their target to find any weak places and possible points of entry. The process can range from collecting public email addresses to using sophisticated espionage tools and automated scanners to identify the kinds of security systems or third-party apps that are being utilized. Any comprehensive cyberattack must start with reconnaissance, which may be performed both online and offline. Attackers are more inclined to be successful in their tasks since they obtain more intelligence at this phase.

2. Weaponization

At the weaponization step of the cyber death chain, attackers plan how to take advantage of targets’ vulnerabilities. This includes developing dangerous payloads or malware itself, as well as designing new malware variants and altering already-existing programs to better fit the vulnerabilities they want to attack.

3. Delivery

The delivery step, which comes after weaponization, is when hackers attempt to breach the network or security system of their intended victim.

These attackers usually use phishing emails and other social engineering techniques to get malware onto the system. It may also entail breaking into a network and taking advantage of holes in the hardware or software of a company.

4. Exploitation

Exploiting the vulnerabilities found in the earlier stages of the cyber death chain comes next, following the successful distribution of malware or other hacking attempts. Now that they are inside a target’s network, attackers might discover vulnerabilities they were not aware of before breaking in. At this point, they frequently travel from one system to another laterally across a network, discovering more possible access ports along the way. If the network is devoid of deception measures, vulnerabilities are now considerably easier to find.

5. Installation

To obtain control over more systems, accounts, and data, attackers install malware and other cyberweapons during the installation step, which is also referred to as the privilege escalation phase. Techniques include backdoors, command-line interfaces, trojan horses, and access token manipulation. Attackers violently enter the target network as they grow more sophisticated, looking for security credentials that aren’t secured and manipulating account permissions.

6. Command and Control (C2)

An attacker takes control of a system or account at the critical C2 phase of the cyber security kill chain, which enables them to remotely monitor and direct their cyberweapons. This phase can be divided into two categories: denial of service (DoS), in which cybercriminals disrupt other systems to divert security teams’ attention from identifying the main goals of the attack; commonly, this is achieved through resource hijacking, network or endpoint denial of service, file deletion, and code signing.

7. Action

The last phase of the cyber kill chain is when cybercriminals execute their cyberattack goals after they have created cyberweapons, deployed them onto a target’s network, and gained control of that target’s network. The goals of cybercriminals differ based on the kind of cyberattack, but some examples include using ransomware as a tool for cyber extortion, deploying malware to steal sensitive data from a target organization, and weaponizing a botnet to disrupt services via Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

One additional phase you should know

Preventing Cyberattacks

Prevention is the best therapy for cyber assaults, and dealing with them early on can make recovery simpler. Stopping an assault during the command and control phase (Phase 6) sometimes necessitates sophisticated, expensive, and time-consuming activities, like machine repairs and forensic measures. To save risk and costs, companies should seek to detect and handle attacks early in the cyber kill chain.

Drawbacks of Cyber Kill Chain

  • Minimal attack detection profile. 
  • Does not identify insider threats.
  • The kill chain fails to be flexible. 
  • Innovative technologies speed up the advancement of cyber attacks.


The changing nature of cyberattacks creates concerns about the viability of the cyber kill chain. An agile kill chain, which combines MITRE ATT&CK with extended detection and response tactics, might detect, avert, and neutralize attacks. Addressing vulnerabilities and implementing a thorough cyber security plan is critical to corporate protection.

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