CISOs Playbook to a Zero-Day Vulnerability

CISOs Playbook to a Zero-Day Vulnerability

Zero-day attacks can go unnoticed for a long time. With constant traffic from the digital world, malicious actors can identify & exploit a vulnerability in the network even before businesses know about it.  

Zero-day attack

Businesses face a significant risk from zero-day attacks. Many cybersecurity leaders find it challenging to identify and prevent such attacks.

“zero-day” refers to the availability of the number of days (zero) for the software provider to fix a vulnerability issue.

Attackers here exploit a vulnerability unknown to the software vendor. Malicious actors thus use zero-day vulnerabilities to accomplish a full-blown zero-day attack to damage or steal sensitive from a business network.

Platforms like Apple iOS, Google Chrome, and Windows expose zero-day vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals are exploring opportunities to exploit existing vulnerabilities to accomplish their malicious goals. The surge in the number of existing exploit variants is making it challenging to mitigate these attacks.

Implementing the right cybersecurity software will help to cyber defense. Organizations also need the best cybersecurity practices to improve security against zero-day attacks.

Developers do not intentionally create bugs. However, all software codes have some inherent development flaws. Such vulnerabilities weaken an application’s design, development, or post-deployment.

Hackers can access and steal sensitive data by posing as a known user or executing denial of service attacks. For example, a vulnerability in cloud storage might offer access to sensitive data secure data on the cloud.

The Lifecycle of a Zero-Day Vulnerability

  • The introduction of vulnerability 

The software code that has an unidentified bug is a vulnerability. This could be due to a coding error or missing encryption. Additionally, anything else might grant unauthorized users access to the system.

  • Exploit deployed in the wild

Malicious actors identify the bug or error in the software code. They design and deploy an exploit code or malicious payload to infiltrate the network. Cybercriminals use this zero-day vulnerability as a vector to conduct attacks.

  • The software vendor identifies the vulnerability

The software provider responsible for resolving the issue understands the bug. Software vendors can discover this bug by regularly testing their software code. They can partner with a third-party agency if they do not have enough resources. At this stage, the software vendor will start focusing on developing a zero-day vulnerability patch.

  • Revealing the vulnerability to the public

The software provider must reveal the bug’s information once they identify it. The vendor denotes the bug with a common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) number to easily identify. There are also a few zero-day vulnerabilities that stay private. The vendors identify, fix and deploy patches quietly.

  • Launching Anti-virus signatures

Cybersecurity vendors determine the attack signatures after the vulnerability is detected. Once they understand the attack signatures, they update their monitoring and detection systems.

  • Deploying zero-day vulnerability Patch 

Software vendors release a patch for the zero-day vulnerability to minimize the risk. These patches ensure that all users get immunity from the attacks.

  • Patch deployment done

Criminals cannot exploit the vulnerability after the vendor completes the patch deployment. These are the stages of a zero-day vulnerability, from detection to mitigation. Just understanding the stages will not help to stay secure against zero-day attacks. CISOs need to be aware of all the potential areas that cybercriminals can exploit.

Prime Targets for Zero-Day Attacks

It is essential to strengthen security against a zero-day attack. Following are a few systems that are prime targets of a cybercriminal to accomplish an attack:

  • Hardware 

Business networks have multiple hardware devices integrated to streamline operations. Hardware like routers, network appliances, or switches can have a vulnerability. Malicious actors can use this zero-day vulnerability to disrupt operations.

  • Operating systems (OS)

Operating systems are one of the prime zero-day vulnerabilities that hackers look out for. Attack on OS vulnerabilities allows them to gain access to the business network.

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

Modern IT infrastructures have multiple IoT applications integrated. These applications are another common zero-day vulnerability exploited by cybercriminals.

Employees’ systems, like their phones, tablets, and smartwatches, are exploitable. They pose a significant threat to the organization’s cybersecurity posture.

IoT devices usually lack the updates or patches required to strengthen their security. Hence, IoT devices are another common zero-day attack vulnerability that cybercriminals exploit.

  • Web browser 

Web browsers like Google Chrome and Internet Explorer might have many unpatched vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals can exploit it to execute a file or script.

  • Office systems

Office files and documents might have inherent zero-day malware. Cybercriminals look out for this zero-day vulnerability to exploit the underlying application.

These are the prime zero-day vulnerability targets that CISOs need to be aware of. Let’s now have a quick look at how security leaders can prevent zero-day attacks:

Best Strategies to Prevent Zero-Day Attacks 

Zero-day characteristics of these attacks make it challenging for businesses to avoid them. Enterprises cannot prevent them but can have proactive strategies to minimize the impact.

  • Track Reported Vulnerabilities 

It is not only malicious actors that are out on the prowl for a security weakness in the code. Software providers, too, look to detect vulnerabilities. Software companies use white or gray hat ‘ethical’ hackers to evaluate their systems.

CISOs need to find a database of known vulnerabilities and their corresponding patches. Tracking these sites will help to detect issues that businesses were unaware of.

  • Implement Robust Anti-Virus Solutions

Traditional anti-virus solutions can identify malware but are inefficient against zero-day threats. They are ineffective until the vendor updates the patch to their database.

Advanced anti-virus solutions cannot prevent zero-day threats. But it can minimize the attack surface area. The best anti-virus solutions will also restrict the severity of zero-day attacks.

Also Read: Blocking Zero-Day Attacks with Human Threat Hunters

  • Execute Patch Management Efficiently

Businesses need to detect and address the bug in the IT infrastructure. It’s their responsibility to complete patch management effectively.

Cybersecurity leaders need to design and implement the best patch management strategies. This strategy should be aligned across the organization – aligning employees, IT, and security teams.

Enterprises can even automate patch management to avoid patch deployment delays. Automation in patch management will also ensure that no vulnerable device is overlooked.

  • Integrate an Advanced Web Application Firewall 

Integrating a web application firewall (WAF) is an effective proactive measure. WAF is an efficient, proactive tool to prevent zero-day attacks.

  • Embrace a Least Privilege Approach

Businesses should strictly follow a least-privilege policy to avoid zero-day attacks. A least access policy will help to reduce the potential damage because of a zero-day vulnerability.

Enterprises that find detecting and mitigating zero-day attacks challenging can consider these points.

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