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What is a Zero-Day Exploit?

Posted DateJanuary 27, 2022
Posted Time 3   min Read

As cybercrime is rising by the hour, security is a huge concern for everyone today. One of the most effective ways to protect the systems from being hacked is detecting and fixing the vulnerabilities. However, now attackers began to take advantage of security flaws known only to them. Zero-day exploits are very difficult to prepare for as they’re quite unpredictable.   

Here is an overview of what you need to know about zero-day exploits.  

What is a Zero-Day Exploit? 

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for weaknesses in networks to exploit them. Vulnerabilities can exist in improperly encrypted data, easy-to-crack passwords, or other bugs in software. Normally, when a weakness is identified, the attackers will develop a code to exploit it. These attackers can then use bots or other automated scanners to find systems that have the vulnerability. 

The whole process can take weeks or months to be executed. The attackers will take time to conduct reconnaissance on the target organization to perform the attack at the best time possible. A key characteristic of zero-day exploits is the element of surprise because the vulnerability is yet to be discovered by the hosts. Once reconnaissance is done, the attack is launched, and infiltration can occur. The attackers get remote access to the target machines. 

Why Do Zero-Day Exploits Occur? 

Most attacks have a financial motive behind them. Cybercriminals find security vulnerabilities to benefit them by selling the vulnerabilities they find to third parties on the dark web. The third parties then conduct the attacks themselves. Alternatively, those who find vulnerabilities can develop the code to conduct the attacks themselves. 

However, zero-day exploits result from corporate espionage as organizations attempt to find useful secret information from their competitors. Attacks could also target government institutions as nations engage in cyberwarfare. Finally, there are zero-day exploits that arise as part of activism activity. Hacktivists try to draw attention to a given cause or topic through such attacks. 

Recent Notable Zero-Day Exploits

In 2019, data related to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was released after Russian hackers conducted a spear-phishing campaign. The hackers had discovered vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and Microsoft Windows. They sent emails with phishing links to specific people within the DNC. Clicking the link led to the surrender of victims’ PCs to hackers who then accessed the DNC network.  

Enterprise security firm SonicWall confirmed suffering from zero-day attacks in early 2021. The attacks were highly sophisticated and coordinated. They targeted remote access devices called SMA 100 series made by the firm. The firm, however, was able to work on a patch to fix the vulnerability. Users were then asked to reset their passwords and enable multi-factor authentication. 

Zero-Day Attack Protection: Staying Ahead of the Game

Best Practice to Reduce Chances of Zero-Day Exploits 

Antivirus cannot protect against zero-day exploits. However, some best practices can reduce an organization’s vulnerability to attacks. 

1. Vulnerability Scanning 

Vulnerability scanning solutions are often created by third-party vendors to simulate attacks on a network or application. They also conduct code reviews to find new vulnerabilities. This approach can detect some but not all vulnerabilities or zero-day exploits. Organizations must be quick to act on the results of such a scan because attackers tend to act quite fast on vulnerabilities they find. 

2. Efficient Patch Management

Applying patches quickly whenever vulnerabilities are discovered is very important. It reduces the risk of an attack and sends signals to attackers that the developers are constantly looking to improve security. Efficient patch management depends on the speed of development and applications by users of the software. Add virtual patching as part of your patch management strategy. Most Web Application Firewalls (WAF) automatically ship virtual patches to the application when vulnerabilities are identified.  

3. Input Validation and Sanitization 

Input validation involves checking whether inputs agree with certain criteria. For instance, it might check whether an input string has no single quotation mark. If an application only accepts integers as inputs, validation ensures all input contains only digits between 0 and 9.   

Sanitization is the modification of input that is not valid. Combining validation and sanitization adds defense to the application by checking for only allowable characters. 

 4. Incident Response Plan

Given the financial, operational, and reputational damage that zero-day exploits can have on an organization, it would be advisable to have an incident response plan. The plan should help detect attacks faster, limit the damage, and recover as quickly as possible. 

Guard Your Applications with Indusface 

Web and mobile application security is a major concern for all enterprises regardless of their scale of operation. If your business does not know where to start,Indusface will help assess your vulnerabilities, pick the right products, and develop the requisite expertise to stay guarded. Indusface also provides monitoring services for application security risks and mitigation strategies in the event of an attack. 

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