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Gaining insights into the myriad cyber threats and how to protect your organization from each one is vital. Threat actors have no limits when it comes to devising ways to infiltrate organizations or individual systems for nefarious purposes.
Zero-day attacks have exploded over the past year and a half, with many different types of bad actors taking advantage of the growing attack surface. These vulnerabilities, which are often unknown to the software vendors, are leveraged by both state-sponsored
groups and ransomware gangs. Zero-day attacks and the resulting exploits have become an attractive weapon that cybercriminals increasingly and cavalierly use to their advantage, to security teams' frustration. Can organizations that have experienced
zero-day attacks and the resulting damage have done more—or anything at all—to protect their organization?
This piece details a typical zero-day attack and what security teams can do to protect their organization from a threat you can't detect until it has already made its way into your system.
A zero-day attack (or 0day) occurs when a threat actor finds a vulnerability or software weakness they can use to exploit your system or application and enter it to steal data or cause damage. The term "zero" was coined as organizations and software vendors
didn’t know their software contained a vulnerability until the attack was already happening, so people have zero days of warning, which removes the ability for any meaningful defenses or to put patches in place, making this a severe security
These types of attacks started to appear in the early 2010s, and ramped up with 2014's Heartbleed and Shellshock attacks and Stagefright's cluster of bugs in 2015. They then seemed to go back under the radar until 2021. Many businesses experienced zero-day
attacks in 2021 because of holes exposed by remote work during the pandemic's peak. Software engineers and developers lacked adequate protections, which made them easier targets for attacks, with platforms and devices that might have fallen off their
security program’s radar.
A zero-day attack can seemingly come out of nowhere, stemming from an internal and as yet undetected software vulnerability. Once threat actors detect a software vulnerability, they can conduct these attacks against organizations or individual users on
PCs and various mobile Apple and Android devices. While zero-click attacks are often facilitated by zero-day attacks, they are different. It’s important to understand the connection between
the two because zero-day attacks help open the door to zero-click attacks.
Zero-day attacks have targeted and affected nearly every type of organization, major government, individual or network, including: large and small corporations; freelancers or contract workers; and local, state and federal agencies. They focus on networks
and any devices with software, including hardware, firmware or IoT.
READ: How to Improve Your Vulnerability Management Program
Zero-day incidents follow a three-step process for threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities and launch the attack:
READ: 3 Keys to Addressing Systemic Vulnerabilities
Some of the more notable security vulnerabilities and attacks of 2021 included the SolarWinds supply chain attack and the Log4Shell cybersecurity incident. Software suppliers, security and vulnerability risk management teams have had to step up their
game ever since.
Other related methods threat actors use to exploit systems and execute attacks include:
READ: Six Common Social Engineering Attack Methods
The most obvious and frustrating challenge in zero-day attacks is not knowing where, when or how attackers will strike your organization and its systems. Plus, affected tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple must respond quickly, devise a patch
and distribute it widely, all of which takes time, expanding the attack surface.
Traditional security strategies, such as employing antivirus endpoint solutions and patch management, don't stand up to zero-day exploits and attacks. This is because old-school signature-based tools do not detect such attacks since they haven't occurred
When focusing on detecting and preventing zero-day attacks, look to tighten up your overall security and vulnerability measures. There is little-to-no set solution that is guaranteed on such a large attack surface to anticipate zero-day vulnerabilities
to prevent attack to an organization's system.
However, knowing and using best practices for your security program can help prevent, detect and mitigate zero-day attacks.
Here are some essential best practices help detect, deter and prevent zero-day attacks and mitigate damage, and speed up recovery if your organization does experience one:
The rise in zero-day exploits and the various types of actors using them can be a cause of concern for organizations regardless of their size. On the flip side, it can also provide valuable learning opportunities for the security industry. With the increase
in attacks, it's essential to learn as much as possible about them going forward.
By using best practices and learning more about how cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities, you stand a much greater chance of mitigating these attacks and protecting your organization.
Although reasonable efforts will be made to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in our blog posts, no liability can be accepted by IANS or our Faculty members for the results of any actions taken by individuals or firms in
connection with such information, opinions, or advice.
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