What are the Potential Impacts that Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Pose to Your Organizations?
Zero-day vulnerability attacks have emerged as one of the major cybersecurity concerns in the last few years. It is known to target individuals, large enterprises, government agencies, and for that matter, any organization irrespective of its size or nature of the industry. According to data released by the Google Project Zero security team, they detected 20 zero-day vulnerability attacks in 2019 and 11 zero-days in the first half of 2020 in the wild.
What are Zero-Day Vulnerabilities?
Also known as zero-day exploits, zero-day vulnerability is a weakness or a flaw in your software applications, firmware, hardware, operating systems, or computer network that is unknown to security vendors. Hence, there is no ready patch available.
The term ‘zero’ refers to the time frame for which the security vendor is aware of the vulnerability, but not found the solution to fix it. Unfortunately, hackers use this period to write malicious code and exploit the security gap to compromise your systems. The attackers use a spear-phishing emails with attachments, spam emails, phishing, maladvertisements, and many other techniques to launch zero-day attacks.
Some of the examples of 0-day exploits that have taken place across the world over the years are:
- CVE-2019-3568 spread malware in WhatsApp mobile app for Android, iOS, and Windows devices.
- Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm that infected software of several industrial sites in Iran, Indonesia, and India.
- CVE-2019-1132 targeted a Windows OS vulnerability and attacked Easter European government institutions.
- A hacker group attacked Sony Pictures networks using a variant of Shamoon wiper malware and gain access to highly confidential data.
- CVE-2018-4990 and CVE-2018-8120 targeted both Acrobat and Acrobat Reader.
Adverse Impacts of Zero-Day Vulnerabilities
1. Data Theft
Attackers can use a zero-day vulnerability to steal critical and sensitive data of your company, employees, and customers. They may use this data to steal money, sell it to other criminals on the dark web, commit identity theft, or extort the victims.
2. Unauthorized Control/Account Takeover
Hackers can exploit the vulnerability to take unauthorized control and access to your network, website, server, program, or any other system. They can install a phishing or malware technique to send malicious messages to your contact list.
3. Damage to Reputation
If the attack goes public, whether you have found the patch or not, it can harm your brand reputation in a big way. It sends out a public message that your cybersecurity measures are not in place, and data and systems are highly susceptible to breaches.
4. Loss of Production and Productivity
Zero-day exploits can take control of your production machines, electronic communication, and other systems. This brings all production activities to a standstill and also hampering employee and organizational productivity.
5. Financial Loss
If your systems are down for even a few hours due to the attack, it can result in massive revenue losses, especially if you are in the banking or financial services domain. Losses also occur due to the hefty money spent on the investigation, response actions, and recovery techniques in the aftermath of the attacks. Such financial losses can compel small enterprises and start-ups to shut down their shop.
6. Watering-Hole Attacks
The zero-day security vulnerability exploit can also take the form of watering-hole attacks. The hackers usually slip on the malware on websites with high traffic volume to infect the visitors during the peak traffic period.
7. Legal Implications
When such cyberattacks happen, you need to prove to the regulatory/compliance authorities, customers, or stakeholders that it is not a case of security negligence. In case it is proven otherwise, you may face lawsuits and end up paying huge fines and penalties.
Prevention of Zero-Day Vulnerability Attacks
Zero-day vulnerability attacks call for a three-pronged strategy – Protection, Detection, and Response. Here are some ways to do this:
- Set up a dedicated cybersecurity team that can continuously monitor the security through code audits, manual tests, and automatic tests
- Formulate a robust cybersecurity disaster response and recovery plan
- Educate your staff about identifying common security threats and taking a suitable course of action
- Keep your software and systems updated with the latest anti-virus solutions and security patches
- Use websites with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection
- Deploy multi-layer security systems such as Web Application Firewalls
- Scan for anomalies and unusual, suspicious activities daily
- Use the most advanced and sophisticated security software – it is a high value for money
- Update your browsers with the latest versions at regular intervals
0-day vulnerability attacks are expected to grow in the number in the wake of radical digital transformation happening at a swift pace in the current scenario. Unfortunately, you can neither predict them, nor guarantee a quick fix when it occurs. So, the only way to tackle them is to mitigate their occurrence and damage. You can consider hiring a trusted security advisor like Indusface for comprehensive zero-day attack solutions.