Zero-Day Exploits: What Are They and How to Prevent Them

A zero-day exploit is a cybersecurity flaw that has been identified by the vendor but has yet to release a patch to resolve the issue. This leaves a significant amount of time for a potential cybercriminal to exploit software flaws. Zero-day attacks should not be underestimated. Past instances have shown that these types of attacks have caused quite a bit of havoc by releasing private corporate data, gaining internal administrative access, and much worse.

What are Software Exploits?

Software exploits are unintended vulnerabilities found in applications, programs, or operating systems. These exploits are more than likely the result of poor network or security configuration. These vulnerabilities are seen as gateways by cybercriminals to make their way past security protocols.

To breach through those gateways, cybercriminals develop code to hone in on a specific security weakness. From there, they can package this code into a “zero-day” malware exploit. The goal for this program could be to compromise a network or cause an unintended action. I.e. stealing data, gaining unauthorized computer access, installing malware or spyware, and more.

What Makes an Exploit a “Zero-Day”?

When malware is classified as a zero-day exploit, it refers to a newly discovered software vulnerability. Generally, the vendor has learned about the exploit fairly quickly but has yet to develop a patch for the issue. To put it as simply as possible, the program developers have 0 days to resolve the problem and remediate the damage that may be taking place.

Here are some examples of significant zero-day attacks:

  • November 2014 Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced a zero-day attack that allowed a team of hackers stifle Sony’s network, breach their network, and release massive amounts of business-critical information. This data included unreleased films, contracts, business plans, and executive emails.
  • October 2016 – The Democratic National Committee (DNC) was hit by not one, but SIX, zero-day exploit attacks to gain access and steal data. The attacks were found in Microsoft Windows 10, Adobe Flash, as well as Java. These hackers utilized spear-phishing campaigns to send thousands of emails with malicious links. When users clicked on the email links, they handed the control of their PCS and the DNC network.
  • May 2019Windows experienced a zero-day attack that would gain access to run code on a target system. This malicious code allowed attackers to gain administrative access to specific targets. Most of the details surrounding the attack have been kept under wraps.

Ways to Prevent Zero-Day Attacks

Zero-day exploits are hyper-critical security risks. To keep your network and business-critical data safe, it’s in your best interest to add proactive and responsive measures into your IT security strategy.

The goal for proactive security measures is to limit the chances of a malicious, zero-day attack targeting your business. Take a deep look into your network to identify any and all vulnerabilities. Questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is all of our software up-to-date?
  • Are our employees aware of and educated about online threats?
  • Do we need to update weak passwords?

Penetration testing and security audits can help identify vulnerabilities before cybercriminals do. For the best results, testing should be performed by a professional MSP. Professional pentesters have a much better eye for vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, even strong IT security strategies can be exploited. This is why it’s important to have responsive cybersecurity measures in place. The goal for responsive security measures is to effectively and efficiently mitigate an attack that your business is facing. Questions you can ask yourself:

  • Have we updated our Disaster Recovery plan?
  • Do we have a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) for this situation?
  • Are there backups of our data?

Once an attack has taken place, the business’s focus transitions to damage control. A malware attack can cost your business a lot of money as well as tarnish your brand’s reputation. Take the time to prepare your IT security strategies for “what if” situations.

“What should I do if my data has been hacked or breached?”

Interested to learn how to protect your business from a zero-day exploit? Reach out to Creative Network Innovations today, and we’ll sit with your team to develop a thorough security strategy that will keep your business as safe as possible. We work with numerous businesses in the Central Florida area with IT security solutions such as:

Penetration Testing

Network Security Audits

Security Awareness Training

Digital Forensics

Data Recovery & Backups

& so much more!