When it comes to cyber security, no organization can be too careful as cybercriminals actors are constantly crafting new ways to hack networks. To effectively guard against them enterprises should focus on mitigating all known gaps in their network security posture.
Of the most notable vulnerabilities is the zero-day exploit. If an organization already has this, they have a big problem that they must prioritize eliminating it as quickly as possible. Even top tech companies have encountered zero-day bugs in their network. The prevalence of software programming errors leaves cracks for hackers to locate unintentional flaws which they use for zero-day cyber-attacks.
However, one reassuring fact is that zero-day is a household name in cybersecurity, and fortunately, software programs exist to continuously protect against such malicious attacks.
So what are zero-day exploits?
The term ‘zero-day’ is a broad concept that describes an unknown vulnerability discovered and exploited by hackers in a company’s network. Cyber criminals inevitably target and exploit these weaknesses when they discover them. Due to the lack of defense mechanisms in place, these attacks can amount to quick lucrative profits for cybercriminals, and devastating losses for organizations.
As the name indicates, “zero-day” references any vulnerability that a developer or vendor just learned about and consequently have zero days to fix with updated software patches. However, the consequence of leaving it unattended is a chance to exploit the vulnerabilities.
How it Works
There are three main ways to view a zero-day:
- Zero-day vulnerability: These involve an easily exploited software weakness that hackers discover before the developer does.
- Zero-day exploit: These refer to the methods threat actors use to gain access to a system through a discovered zero-day vulnerability.
- Zero-day attack: Cyber actors use the zero-day exploit to access the system, steal data, or cause damage to an organization.
When bad actors identify vulnerabilities before the developers, they create an exploit code. Through this code, victimizing users becomes a walkover. They utilize socially engineered email to access vulnerable systems. Once the user visits a website with malicious content, it downloads malware.
The malware can also infiltrate files, steals data or identity, and perform other crimes. In some cases, once they infiltrate a network, some immediately act on it. However, others wait for the most valuable time to strike.
How to Identify Zero-Day Attacks
The traits of zero-day attacks are already the stuff of nightmares, though correctly identifying them is a whole other beast to deal with. They are challenging to detect with traditional cybersecurity approaches. Moreover, their associated vulnerabilities can come in various forms such as bugs, broken algorithms, password security issues, and more. Hence the use of advanced detection and patching practices.
An organization might see the following signs when attacked with a zero-day exploit:
- Unexpected Legitimate Traffic: When a company receives unexpected legitimate traffic, it can be a red flag. At this point, an emergency upgrade on all systems becomes expedient. Also, it is crucial to identify where the traffic is coming from and configure all applications as preventive measures.
- Scanning Activity From a Compromised Server or Client: Scanning activities emerging from a client or a server require prompt action. Such occurrences call for analyzing the event with the aid of the affected vendor to provide a better understanding of the situation. As tricky as detection may be, there are always ways to suspect a zero-day exploit. Here are some ways to detect previously unknown software vulnerabilities:
- Monitoring via Statistics: Some anti-malware vendors provide statistics on previously detected exploits. This data provides helpful insight into a machine learning system that identifies contemporaneous attacks. Despite this, organizations need not throw caution to the wind as the detection method still has its limitations.
- Behavior-Based Monitoring: The procedure serves to create alerts as it picks out suspicious traffic and scanning on a network. For most malicious software, probing a system is a mode of operation. So instead of analyzing signature activities, the detector observes malware interaction with the device.
- Detection Based on Signature Variant: Zero-day exploits often come with digital signatures. These signatures get fed into artificial intelligence systems and machine learning algorithms. This action identify the variants of previous attacks.
- Hybrid Method of Detection: The name says it all. This method focuses on the combination of all three approaches for effectiveness.
How to Protect your Enterprise from Zero-Day Exploit
Prevention is a far more effective approach than remediation. Organizations that focus more on keeping attackers and hackers away tend to save themselves from significant damage. However, as the threat increases, it becomes necessary to put procedures in place to prevent such malicious activities. There are several ways to prevent or eliminate zero-day exploits.
Below are some helpful tips to get organizations started:
Software Patch Management
One way to avoid a zero-day exploit is to immediately install software patches at the detection of a new vulnerability. Of course, there’s no guarantee of it preventing an attack, though it makes reducing the risk of attacks an easier task.
Furthermore, three factors exist in delaying the use of security patches. First is the discovery of vulnerabilities. Most software vendors need time to discover the vulnerabilities. Upon the discovery, developing a patch becomes the next phase before it is then distributed to users.
Scanning for Vulnerabilities
Vulnerability scanning quickly helps to discover zero-day exploits where vendors create a form of simulation attack on software codes. Other procedures include a review of the codes and finding new vulnerabilities.
This method also does not guarantee the detection of all zero-day attacks. Enterprises need to perform code reviews, sanitize them, and act on the result of every scan. These actions require promptness, as cybercriminals are constantly on the prowl.
Use Multilayered Protection
Multilayered malware protection can go a long way in protecting against zero-day exploits. As an enterprise, consider using behavior monitoring protection as a function. Also, explore sandboxing, hashing, and threat intelligence. What these helps to achieve is to prevent the downloading of malware despite a connection with a cyber actor.
Most enterprises should consider collaborations with Advanced Threat Detection and Response companies. Other procedures by these companies include the use of powerful correlation engines that produce findings with near-zero false positives while offering automatic and manual remediation.
Deployment of Web Applications
Web applications provide amazing preventions against zero-day attacks on the network edge. One of the most effective applications to consider is the Web Application Firewall (WAF) which filters and monitors HTTP traffic between the internet and the web application.
Most WAF protocols come in a seven-layered defense. However, there’s no design against all forms of attacks. As part of a suite of tools, it creates a comprehensive defense against several attackers.
WAF’s design helps review incoming traffic and filter malicious content targeting security vulnerabilities.
Another application to consider includes Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP). RASP operates by sitting inside an application and examining request payloads.
Since threat actors often capitalize on human error, one way to prevent a zero-day exploit in your organization is to educate everyone on. Therefore, users and employees must be well aware of good security and safety habits to ensure the safety of networks and users.
Preventing the Spread
Professionals and experts must realize that most preventive procedures offer excellent first-level protection. However, many of these efforts have limitations in protecting against zero-day attacks.
A permanent solution for zero-day exploits remains challenging for even the most vigilant systems executives. When an enterprise discovers an attack, preventing a spread will reduce the extent of the damage. Organizations that limit connections to the business require better control and management of various threat scenarios. They can then mitigate the spread of the exploit within the organization after the initial infection.
Protecting an enterprise against zero-day attacks, exploits, and vulnerabilities is crucial to the integrity of its data. Proper procedures and safeguards significantly reduce the risks to critical data and systems. No organization can ever go wrong with an adequate detection, mitigation, and prevention strategy.
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