How to Minimize the Risk of Zero-Day Attack

Technology is critical for success in the modern business landscape. While it delivers many significant benefits it can also pose a level of risk to business security. With every software and hardware update that organizations implement in an attempt to improve functionality, performance, and security, they unknowingly leave themselves open to a new type of attack – the zero-day attack.

The following article details what a zero-day attack is and how your business can minimize the risk of falling victim to one.

What is a Zero-Day Attack?

A zero-day attack refers to a vulnerability within a computer’s software or hardware that is exploited by cybercriminals between the short space of time it is discovered and developers release a patch to fix the weakness. The attacks occur for two main reasons. The first is for financial gain, which is achieved by illegally accessing and selling sensitive data. The second is for notoriety, which is revered in the hacking community.

Zero-day attacks can materialize on a variety of systems. This includes web browsers, operating systems, office applications and anything connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition to this, they can also compromise physical devices by targeting hardware such as wireless routers.

What Risks Do Zero-Day Attacks Pose? 

Once cybercriminals gain access to your systems via zero-day attacks, they will likely begin infecting your network. They can install malware on your company’s hardware and spread it across several devices. This leaves even more of your data open to attack and has the potential to extend to your entire network, causing major financial losses.

What Can I Do to Prevent Zero-Day Exploits from Happening

While zero-day exploits can happen to any organization, large or small, there are some preventive measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of being a victim.

Inform Your Employees About Cybersecurity Risks

Education should be a top priority when it comes to cyber-attacks. Every employee needs to be alert and well versed on the various risks and how to best prevent them. Regular cybersecurity training is also required to keep staff updated on newer threats and prevention methods.

Regularly Check for Patches and Bug Fixes 

This may seem like a double-edged sword, but it is a critical step nonetheless. Yes, new updates can sometimes be the source of vulnerabilities but they still serve a purpose. As such, install new updates at your earliest convenience to limit any risk of an attack.

Secure Every New Device 

Before implementing new hardware that connects to existing systems, ensure that the latest security software is installed. This includes computers, laptops, mobile phones and anything else that connects to your wider network.

Implement Behavior-Based Detection Systems

Behavior-based detection systems work by identifying the intentions of an action within a software program. They will then evaluate whether this action is intended or linked to a change in function. If the system detects a deliberate alteration to a given function it will raise the necessary alerts.

Behavior-based detection systems are superior to standard threat detection models as they anticipate the intentions of an action before it’s too late. Threat detection models are flawed in that they work from a database of known threats. They often fail to identify zero-day exploits as they’re new threats that the business has not experienced before.

By implementing such a system your organization can reduce the risk of zero-day exploits drastically.

Do Not Install Unnecessary Software Programs 

Every software program installed on your company’s hardware can bring its own set of zero-day risks. You should only install software that is necessary for your business operations. Otherwise, it’s best to uninstall them to minimize the potential of further threats to your security.

Work with Trusted Partners 

Presumably, your organization works with a range of different partners. A partner that doesn’t command the same robust security standards as your organization can unwittingly be the cause of infections that penetrate your systems.

Create an Incident Response Plan 

Incident response plans put you at a decided advantage when dealing with zero-day exploits. You’ll need to perform a risk assessment on your organization’s assets to determine what the primary focus should be. Your plan should generally consist of four key steps:

Identifying the problem: You can use a behavior-based detection system or other operational processes to check how real any threats are.

Containing the problem: Once an issue has been detected, containing the incident is key. Identify the immediate steps that need to be taken, for example, contacting software developers.

Eliminating the problem: You must identify the cause of the issue and how best to prevent it from happening again. Ensure that the issue is fully resolved before bringing systems back online.

Recovery: Bring your systems back online. Perform the necessary tests to ensure everything is back to normal.

Keep Zero-Day Attacks At Bay

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for ways to penetrate your defenses. As attacks become more sophisticated and hackers become more daring, it is imperative to be vigilant to avoid substantial financial losses and devastating reputational damage. By implementing preventive measures such as those mentioned above, your organization can minimize the risk of zero-day attacks.