What Is a Zero-Day Vulnerability?
Definition and Examples of Zero-Day Vulnerabilities. Find Out All There Is to Know about Zero-Day Vulnerabilities and Their Exploits.
Nowadays, every single organization relies on software and Internet services. This dependence brings along a certain degree of vulnerability. Today’s marketplace businesses are more likely to be disrupted by cybercriminals than real-world criminals. Zero-Day vulnerabilities are especially intimidating, as they give hackers a unique opportunity to bypass typical cybersecurity defenses. In this article, I will explain what exactly a zero-day vulnerability is and how you can protect yourself against such an attack.
Defining a Zero-Day vulnerability
The term “Zero-day” is an imaginative time, as this type of cyberattack happens in less than a day since the awareness of the security flaw. Thereby, not giving developers ample time to eradicate or mitigate the potential risks associated with this vulnerability. In zero-day attacks, software vendors are reactive, not proactive. Therefore, since patches have not yet been released, the attackers are already making their move.
A zero-day attack occurs when hackers exploit a vulnerability window and then launch a direct attack using that vulnerability. What makes zero-day exploits so dangerous is that the only ones who know about them are the attackers themselves. Hackers can attack immediately or take advantage of their weakness, waiting for the right moment to strike.
How does a Zero-Day attack work?
Generally, zero-day exploits include targeting specific security weaknesses with malware. What happens next is that malware integrates into an existing layer in the software and blocks it from fulfilling its normal function. Sounds complicated, right? In fact, malware infiltration is remarkably easy. Hackers can conceal malware as links to a particular site. All a user has to do is click on the link and the doubtful software starts downloading automatically. Downloads like these usually occur when attackers have found a way to exploit unprotected vulnerabilities in a browser.
Let’s assume your browser has updated its version to add more features. You log in to a site you trust and click on what you believe is a valid link. However, the link contains malicious code. Before patches, your browser would have prevented the link from automatically downloading the software to your computer. However, due to changes in the browser code, the download begins and your computer becomes infected. Later, the browser is updated with a new patch to prevent infecting other users. Unfortunately, it is too little too late.
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Who are the targets?
Although it is believed that zero-day exploits target large corporations and governments, the truth is anyone can be a target. For example, Stuxnet tried to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program back in 2010 in what is probably the most famous and devastating type of cyber warfare sabotage. This worm was specifically designed to target Siemens centrifuges used to enrich uranium in Iranian nuclear power plants. By modifying the rotation patterns, Stuxnet was able to destroy a significant amount of centrifuges, and delay Iran’s nuclear program by several years. Stuxnet contained new forms of exploitation that many people had never seen before.
Fake addresses, for instance, cannot be filtered out by new email software. This could expose users to different types of phishing attacks. Hackers can try to steal valuable information, such as bank card details or passwords.
How to detect Zero-Day exploits
Organizations need to be able to detect these attacks quickly. So far, there are four ways to identify a zero-day attack.
- Statistical analysis – It can be used to analyze the probability and probable source of an attack.
- Static and dynamic behavioral analysis – Study the malicious behavior and see if it has changed. If the patterns from a suspected hacking entity differ, then it could be a sign of attack.
- Signature – Previous data from past attacks can be examined and can determine if current data models indicate a threat. If they do, then an attack may already be in progress.
- Combined scoring system – By combining all the methods in a single scoring system, the score determines the probability of an attack.
How to prevent Zero-Day exploits?
It is wrongly believed that not much can be done to stop a zero-day attack. As I previously stated in this article, there is a series of measures that can turn out to be effective zero-day prevention strategies.
#1. Use advanced security software
The problem with many basic solutions for antivirus software is that they are only good at defending against known threats. When threats are unknown – as in zero-day attacks – they can fail. Only the most advanced security programs can protect against cyberattacks from unknown sources. Luckily for you, our innovative Heimdal™ Patch and Asset Management solution enables you to automate your patching process and efficiently manage vulnerabilities. It can prevent zero-day attacks using advanced automated patching, scheduling, IT asset management, and more. You will no longer worry about vulnerabilities that expose you to malvertising campaigns such as the one operated by ScamClub after you take your patch management to the next level.
#2. Make sure your security software is up to date
Providers cannot always reveal whether they have been the victims of a zero-day attack. So, to help reduce the risk of zero-day attacks, make sure you install new software updates as soon as they roll out. I also recommend covering other areas of your cybersecurity infrastructure, such as Privileged Access Management (PAM), DNS security, a reliable Next-Gen Antivirus with Firewall Integration, and advanced email security as well. We have all of these and more, unified in a single intelligent dashboard, as part of our top-notch EPDR suite.
#3. Learn online security habits
Like it or not, most zero-day exploits use human error. Take malicious hackers, for example, who target users through fake emails. These emails may contain malware-infected documents or they can manipulate users to share private information. Therefore, both individuals and organizations should strictly implement security habits to help them stay safe online.
#4. Install smart security defense solutions
These products can sometimes block unknown threats using databases of previous breaches. The data obtained can be associated with current threat detection attacks. Choose software that can protect against attacks of both known and unknown origin, like our Heimdal™ Threat Prevention suite.
#5. Implement a firewall for web applications
Web app firewalls are a type of firewall that helps protect computers that connect to a web server. The firewall scans the data packets that appear for threats so that companies can react in real-time and immediately end suspicious activity on their platforms.
#6. Use content threat removal
CTR is a type of detection technology that assumes that all data is threatening. The system works by breaking up all data coming through the network and rejecting any potentially malicious files. The main goal is to reject any insecure element in the original data, determined from a database of dangerous threats.
#7. Implement recovery strategies
Even if you follow all of the advice above, it is unlikely that you or an organization will be able to completely clear away the threat of zero-day exposure. Therefore, in order to react, you need to prepare for the worst. Having a disaster recovery strategy is essential. In the unfortunate event of a security breach, your data is safe and you can continue your operations as usual.
Wrapping it up…
To an extent, cybercrimes persist due to their high-level anonymity. So, if hackers discover a zero-day vulnerability on an information system they will gladly use it for their advantage, and to the disadvantage of the organization whose IS has been compromised (which may result in monetary loss, loss of customers, and image damage).
With the proper cybersecurity knowledge and practices, as well as a reliable suite of solutions, staying safe from zero-day vulnerabilities will come easy. As always, Heimdal™ Security can help you with the latter. If you want to know more about which of our company products are best suited for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.