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Why Businesses Need Zero-Day Attack Prevention & Threat Detection
Zero-day attack prevention does not always garner the attention it deserves. Infrequent zero-day threats pale by comparison to the seemingly unending barrage of phishing schemes, social engineering, and brute force attacks on digital networks. Hackers reportedly only conducted 55 zero-day exploits in 2022.
However, when hackers find this sort of vulnerability in popular software, there are global consequences. By knowing how this class of attacks works and how to prevent zero-day attacks, your digital assets will be far more secure.
What are Zero-Day Exploits, Attacks, and Vulnerabilities?
Today’s zero-day threats involve unaccounted-for vulnerabilities in computer hardware or software applications that can be leveraged by cyber criminals to infiltrate networks. The hacking scheme utilizes flaws in products exposed on the “zeroth” day of exposure. Zeroth speaks to the first day a vendor recognizes the defect but has zero time to patch it. When cyber security professionals talk about this sometimes devastating issue, they often use the following terms.
- Zero-Day Vulnerability: This is the software or hardware defect a hacker discovers ahead of vendor knowledge. Until fixed, hackers have an open pathway into business systems.
- Zero-Day Exploits: This involves the particular modus operandi that hackers employ to take advantage of the vulnerability.
- Zero-Day Attack: A zero-day attack brings together the vulnerability and exploit method as online criminals lay siege to companies and their digital assets.
Until the vulnerability has been resolved, hackers possess a zero-day threat advantage that allows them to infiltrate networks with relative impunity. However, effective cyber security monitoring can identify zero-day exploits and take proactive measures to expel threats.
What Unique Characteristics of Zero-Day Exploits Make Them So Dangerous?
If a single characteristic makes zero-day exploits inherently dangerous, it’s the element of surprise. Because zero-day attacks occur in the space between a hacker discovering the defect and a software engineer creating and deploying a patch, identifying the cyber security gap can be something of a mystery. Cybercriminals possess the keys to any network that uses the product and has yet to patch or uninstall it. Along with being taken off guard, these are other zero-day threat dangers.
- Limited awareness a vulnerability exists
- Challenge of finding the software and hardware flaw
- Weaponization of the zero-day vulnerability
- Expanding damage to vendors, clients, and industry partners
Along with financial losses from a zero-day attack, business leaders may also suffer a tarnished reputation. The people and peripheral organizations that take a hit after hackers discover ways to penetrate their systems lose trust and may end business relations.
Examples of Zero-Day Exploit Attacks
Zero-day exploit prevention has proven increasingly problematic because manufacturers are unaware of their product’s shortcomings. These examples demonstrate why zero-day threat prevention is crucial.
Code Red Worm
After hackers found a flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Information Services software, a bad actor launched a global zero-day attack that lasted one week. The Code Red Worm was designed to specifically exploit the Microsoft vulnerability, infecting upwards of 2 million computers while causing $2.75 billion in losses.
In 2014, a defect that impacted the OpenSSL cryptography library was discovered. Used in security and encryption for nearly two-thirds of all websites, some estimate it was leveraged for upward of a year. Because the Heartbleed zero-day vulnerability exposed sensitive and valuable information, it’s difficult to determine the extent of financial losses. Rough estimates peg losses north of $500 million.
Ranked among the most infamous hacking schemes, WannaCry exploited a vulnerability in a Microsoft Windows operating system. Using a ransomware zero-day exploit in 2017, hackers extorted wide-reaching organizations and caused more than $4 billion in damages. Microsoft released a patch on March 14, 2017, highlighting the need for risk assessments in conjunction with zero-day threat prevention. Two months later, wide-reaching businesses had not yet fixed the issue.
How to Prevent Zero-Day Attacks
In terms of zero-day exploit prevention, the value of working with a cybersecurity consultant cannot be understated. Even if you run enterprise-grade antivirus software programs, zero-day exploits remain hidden. Vigilant monitoring for cyber risks and the following best practices are ways to minimize zero-day exploits.
- Update all software promptly after patch alerts have been issued.
- Implement a company-wide policy that only select applications can be used.
- Mandate that IT staff members or your third-party cyber security partner approve applications.
- Upgrade and use only commercial-grade firewalls.
- Work with a cyber security firm to provide 24-7 monitoring.
Providing staff members with cyber security awareness training helps them identify threats like phishing schemes and social engineering ploys. A workforce that knows the telltale signs of a hacking threat becomes a front line of defense instead of a vulnerability.
Work with a Cybersecurity Consultant on Zero-Day Attack Prevention
At CyberTeam, our managed IT and cybersecurity consulting experts have the experience and technology to protect your company from zero-day attacks. We work diligently with industry leaders to harden defenses and develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Contact us today and let’s get the process started.