Understanding Zero-Day Attacks
April 15, 2019

Zero-day attacks are some of the most serious threats against enterprises. According to Ponemon’s 2018 State of Endpoint Security Risk report, zero-day attacks are four times more likely to compromise organizations. New vulnerabilities are being discovered every day. Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that there will be a zero-day exploit once per day by 2021. Zero-day attacks can lead to serious damage. For example, the WannaCry ransomware attack managed to infect organizations worldwide because it took advantage of the EternalBlue exploit.

Source: Ponemon

What is a Zero-Day Attack?

When vendors discover a new vulnerability, they have “zero days” to fix the problem because the vulnerability might already be exploited by hackers. A zero-day attack is when cybercriminals exploit security flaws that vendors have not patched yet. These flaws can be exploited to conduct various attacks such as account hijacking, data theft and network compromise.

How Does a Zero-Day Attack Happen?

Zero-day attacks are dangerous and rely on developers not knowing about the security hole. Even if a developer is aware of a vulnerability, it takes time for them to develop a patch. In the meantime, hackers are taking advantage of the situation and infecting as many computers they can. Attackers can also sell the exploits on the dark web for other hackers to use.

Here are the common steps hackers take to create zero-day exploits:

1. Scanning: Hackers scan codes for vulnerabilities. Once they discover a vulnerability, they can scan other websites or programs that have the same security holes.

2. Development: Once they discover a weakness, the hackers create an exploit they can use. These exploits can be a variety of things, such as malware, SQL injections, cross scripts, etc.

3. Infiltration: Hackers need to take advantage of the security vulnerability before it gets patched. Once their exploit is ready, they start infecting the system.

3 Ways You Can Mitigate Zero-Day Attacks

1. Install and Update Patches: These attacks rely on unpatched systems which is why it’s important to update your software as soon as a security patch is released. Keeping your software updated will help minimize your exposure to known exploits.

2. Using advanced security solutions: Using basic security solutions like an antivirus is not enough to protect against these advanced attacks. Zero-day threats also use unknown attacks and using a solution that can only detect known exploits is not enough. New technologies like machine learning and A.I. provide advanced detection techniques that can keep up with evolving threats. Using additional layers of security like Advanced Threat Protection on your next generation firewalls can help protect against these types of attacks.

3. Automated detection: Hackers use zero-day exploits to infect systems with malware. Being able detect malicious behaviour within the network can help prevent them from installing malicious programs. A SIEM system, like Secure IT – SIEM monitors devices on your network to detect suspicious behaviour. When security alerts are detected, our security team will investigate and remediate any issues.


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