Today RSA's Art Coviello announced the following:
Recently, our security systems identified an extremely sophisticated cyber attack in progress being mounted against RSA...
Our investigation has led us to believe that the attack is in the category of an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT).
Our investigation also revealed that the attack resulted in certain information being extracted from RSA's systems. Some of that information is specifically related to RSA's SecurID two-factor authentication products.
While at this time we are confident that the information extracted does not enable a successful direct attack on any of our RSA SecurID customers, this information could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack...
This is one of the problems with debates over terminology. If we all accepted the actual definition of APT as created by the Air Force in 2006, we would know what Mr Coviello is describing. Without that clarity we're left wondering if he means any threat on the planet that he and RSA choose to describe as "APT."
Without knowing anything more than what is printed in the RSA announcement, I can offer the following opinion. It is not outside the realm of APT methodology and targeting to attack RSA in order to access internal details on their authentication technology. We know APT actors have attacked other technology companies to steal their intellectual property, ranging from software to algorithms to private keys, all to better infiltrate other targets.
As I Tweeted on March 10th, it's public knowledge that validated APT actors have targeted public key infrastructure for several years. Besides PKI, enterprises of all types rely heavily on two-factor systems such as those created by RSA. Stealing technology and examining it for weaknesses, or identifying ways to exploit the supply chain, or otherwise gain an advantage over RSA users are all valid APT interests.
Hopefully we will learn more about this issue as time passes.