What Are Zero-Day Attacks & How Can You Prevent Them?
Zero-day attacks are becoming more prevalent and problematic for businesses. The term “zero day” is used to describe the threat of unknown or unresolved security vulnerabilities in software or applications. Thus, attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities often occur without the knowledge of users and can result in high costs to businesses in the form of lost productivity, data theft, system downtime, reputational damage and regulatory action.
When it comes to mitigating your risk of experiencing a zero-day attack, prevention is the best form of protection. Poorly secured email systems are one of the most common ways cybercriminals infiltrate organizational networks. It is therefore extremely important for businesses to ensure that their email system is not an open door to thieves! Implementing layered proactive email security defenses is the most effective method to combat zero-day attacks and other dangerous and costly attacks.
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How Do You Detect a Zero-Day Attack?
While zero-day attacks are, by definition, very difficult to detect, several strategies have emerged:
- Statistics-based detection uses machine learning to collect data from previously detected exploits and create a baseline for safe system behavior. Although this method has limited effectiveness and is prone to false positives / negatives, it can work well in a hybrid solution.
- Signature-based detection uses existing malware databases and their behavior as a benchmark when analyzing threats. After using machine learning to analyze and create signatures for existing malware, it is possible to use the signatures to detect previously unknown vulnerabilities or attacks.
- Behavior-based detection detects malware based on its interactions with the target system. Rather than looking at the code in incoming files, the solution analyzes its interactions with existing software to predict whether it is a malicious attack.
Hybrid detection combines the above three techniques to take advantage of their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses.
Zero day vulnerability vs exploit vs attack
There are three words – vulnerability, exploit, and attack – that you often see associated with zero days, and understanding the distinction will help you understand the zero day lifecycle.
A zero day vulnerability is a software or hardware flaw that has been discovered and for which no fix exists. The discovery part is the key to this – there are undoubtedly a number of flaws that literally no one knows, which raises philosophical questions like “What if a tree fell in the forest but no one heard it?” ? ”. But the question of who knows these flaws is crucial to the course of security incidents. White hat security researchers who discover a vulnerability can confidently contact the vendor so that a fix can be developed before the existence of the vulnerability is widely known. Some malicious hackers or state-sponsored hacking groups, on the other hand, may want to keep knowledge of the vulnerability secret so the vendor stays in the dark and the hole remains open.
In any case, a vulnerability in itself is a tempting target, but nothing more. In order to use this vulnerability to gain access to a system or its data, an attacker must create a zero day exploit – a penetration technique or malware that takes advantage of this weakness. While some attackers design these exploits for their own use, others sell them to the highest bidder rather than getting their hands dirty directly.
Once armed with an exploit, a malicious hacker can now conduct a zero day attack. In other words, a vulnerability is only one potential route of attack, and an exploit is a tool to perform that attack; it is the attack itself that is really dangerous. This can be a point of contention within the security research community, where vulnerabilities are often discovered – and sometimes published – with the aim of raising awareness and fixing them more quickly. However, vendors with exposed vulnerabilities sometimes view this exposure as an attack in itself.
Famous Zero-Day Exploits
Some of the more notorious attacks that have used zero-day exploits include:
Stuxnet: In this attack that targeted the Iranian uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, a virus / worm allegedly developed by the United States and Israel exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities to spread and gain access privileged to systems. Stuxnet was unintentionally released into the wild when engineers at an infected facility connected his work laptop to his home network. More than 15 Iranian facilities have been attacked and infiltrated by the Stuxnet worm, which has caused substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program.
Aurora: In 2010, Chinese threat actors used a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to hack Google, Adobe, and more than a dozen other companies. Criminals were targeting Google’s source code in hopes of uncovering more zero-day exploits.
RSA Hack: In this infamous 2011 attack, cybercriminals exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Adobe’s Flash Player to launch a spear-phishing campaign targeting RSA employees. The attackers stole information relating to the company’s SecurID two-factor authentication products.
How to Protect Against Zero Day Attacks
It is difficult to protect yourself from the possibility of a zero day attack, as they can take many forms. Almost any type of security hole could be exploited as a zero day if a fix is not produced on time. Additionally, many software developers intentionally try not to publicly reveal the vulnerability, in the hope that they can release a patch before hackers find out the vulnerability is present.
There are a few strategies that can help you defend your business against zero day attacks:
- Stay informed: Zero Day exploits aren’t always published, but sometimes you’ll hear about a vulnerability that could potentially be exploited. If you stay tuned to the news and pay attention to versions from your software vendors, you may have time to put security measures in place or respond to a threat before it is exploited. .
- Keep your systems up to date: Developers are constantly working to keep their software up to date and patched to avoid any possibility of exploitation. When a vulnerability is discovered, it is only a matter of time before you issue a patch. However, it’s up to you and your team to make sure your software platforms are up to date at all times. The best approach here is to enable automatic updates, so that your software is updated regularly and without manual intervention.
- Implement network access control: Network access control is a tool that prevents unauthorized machines from accessing an organization’s network, thereby reducing the risk of hacking, exploits and breaches . It can also help contain any damage to a particular network.
- Use IPsec: IPsec encrypts and authenticates all network traffic, allowing a system to quickly identify and isolate non-network traffic and suspicious activity. With this information, organizations have a better chance of being able to recognize and stop attacks before damage is done.
This article covers the answers to some of your frequently asked questions: