Cyber-attacks have become increasingly worrisome for businesses of all types. In recent, cyber-attacks have increased exponentially. Hackers can steal data, money, and even intellectual properties critical for any business. A data breach, on average, can cost a small business from 120,000$ to $1.24 million.
Thus, it’s incredibly essential to be aware of such attacks and how to protect your business from them. Business owners can find the information presented in this blog useful so that if they face any zero-day threat, they are better prepared.
What is Zero Day?
A zero-day (also known as a 0-day) is cyber attack targeting a software vulnerability which is unknown to the software vendor or to antivirus vendors. Until the vulnerability is mitigated, hackers can exploit it to adversely affect programs, data, additional computers or a network. An exploit taking advantage of a zero-day is called a zero-day exploit, or zero-day attack.
Zero-day is a term used to that describes recently discovered security weaknesses that hackers use to attack systems. The reason why it’s referred to as zero-day is that the developer has zero days to fix the flaw that led to the hacking of the systems. Before a developer gets a chance to fix it, the systems are attacked.
Some Important Terms You Should Know About
Often, people use the terms related to zero-day interchangeably. To clear the distinction, here is the definition of some of the common terms used:
- Zero Day Attack: A zero-day exploit implemented by hackers to harm data or steal it from a system affected by the vulnerability.
- Zero Day Vulnerability: It is the software vulnerability that the hacker has discovered before the vendor.
- Zero Day Exploit: Simply, a method adopted by hackers to attack systems.
Who Implements Zero Day Attack?
Depending on the action to be carried out, different individuals can carry out a zero-day attack. These can be:
- Cyber Warfare Hackers: Political leaders or countries spying or wishing to attack another country’s cyberspace.
- For-profit Attackers: Such individuals find vulnerabilities in a company’s cyber infrastructure and then sell them to other companies. However, they don’t attack or impose any harm and just sell data.
- Hacktivists: People who hack systems to draw attention to their social or political cause are known as hacktivists.
- Cybercriminals: They hack largely for financial gains.
- Corporate Hackers: A company can hack a competitor’s systems to gain more information about them.
Who Are The Victims Of Zero Day Exploit?
Not only large corporations but even smaller businesses can also be a victim of a zero-day attack. Thus, a wide range of organizations can be affected by this, some of which are:
- Government agencies such as defense organizations, and confidential organizations.
- Organizations that handle personal data such as Social Security numbers.
- Hardware and software development companies.
- Businesses that have a bad cyber infrastructure.
Any company will be targeted as long as it’s profitable. Take this fact: 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses. Moreover, hackers want to make the most money with the least amount of risk, therefore, any business can be at target and not just the big giants.
Nearly every hacker targets:
- IoT Devices
- Web browsers
- Software applications
- Hardware and firmware
- Office applications
- Open source components
Keep in mind that zero-day attacks are carried out regardless of the size of an organization. Targeted zero-day attacks are taken against potentially valuable targets. These can include government agencies, large organizations, or even celebrities. Non-targeted zero-day attacks are carried out against vulnerable systems such as browsers, or operating systems.
What are the Signs Of A Zero-Day Attack?
Certainly, there are specific signs and symptoms of a zero-day attack. It is essential to recognize these early on and take prompt action. However, the complex part is that every zero-day is unique. Though, there are some ways through which you can detect:
1. Vulnerability Scanning
It is the actual process of scanning for zero-day vulnerabilities in the system. Once the issue is found, it should be instantly fixed. It can be a separate activity or a regular part of the development process. Sometimes this process is also outsourced to cyber security firms.
2. Machine Learning
Machine learning algorithms are frequently adopted to establish a base safety line for systems. These algorithms use current and past interactions to establish safety measures for a system. The more data the algorithm receives, the more reliable it becomes.
3. Retro Hunting
Retro Hunting is the process of searching for reports of a major cyber attack and ensuring whether your company was affected by it or not. Follow these steps for effective retro hunting:
- Read details of a similar attack and ask your developers if they can face a similar attack without any damage.
- Check the news daily to remain informed about similar attacks.
- Navigate emails from your software vendors to a central inbox and check for any notifications associated with security flaws.
4. Check Your Website’s Performance
You can look for these signs on your website:
- Website performance has tanked before you know it.
- The appearance of your website has changed.
- Multiple browser warnings on the website.
- The website is not redirecting visitors as expected.
- You just can’t log in.
5. Gather And Analyze Reports From System Users
System users frequently interact with your system so they may spot problems before you. Therefore, regularly tracking user reports for suspicious emails, notifications about password attempts, or strange pop-ups is usually suggested to protect an organization from a zero-day attack.
6. Reduced Network Speed
A victim’s internet connection can suffer as a result of the attack. It’s easy to conclude that an attack has taken place when you witness a drastic drop in network speed. Though slow network speed doesn’t always indicate an attack, it’s a sign worth noting.
7. Analyze Software’s Performance
When a zero-day attack is implemented it can largely affect software performance, alter its functions, or even take certain features offline. This way it becomes natural for any business to identify a cyber attack.
How Do Zero Day Attacks Work?
Even though each zero-day is unique in its way, here are some of the standard steps that take place:
- It starts with a developer creating a system that has a fault. Often software has vulnerabilities that are exposed by attackers.
- Usually, the vulnerability is exploited by the hacker before the developer knows it. Hackers devise an exploit code to attack the system.
- The exploit code can wreak havoc on a system and damage software users in multiple ways.
The next step that hackers implement is to penetrate systems once they have access to the network. Though there is no standard method, they commonly adapt these strategies:
- One commonly adopted technique is fuzzing. With the aid of software, random data is injected into a system’s input boxes or the text boxes where individuals enter information. After this, the hacker looks for any failed executions, memory leaks, or crashes.
- Through manipulation known as social engineering, hackers gain access to the systems. Social engineering itself is of multiple types. It could be as simple as someone being from your IT department and asking for a password.
- Phishing is a type of social engineering in which hackers convince you to give them confidential information by opening a corrupt file or link. They can target a business with emails, or any other form of connection. By clicking on such links, hackers can steal confidential data and gain access to information.
With time, developers become aware of the attack and write a patch to fix the issue. But the problem is security weaknesses are not discovered right away. It can take some days, weeks, or even months.
Most importantly, hackers can steal data with this attack and sell it online such as on the dark web. Multiple cyber security companies sell this data in black and grey markets. For large sums of money, data could be traded.
Finally, once the attack is discovered and patched, it no longer remains a zero-day attack, though, the damage it causes can vary.
How To Protect Yourself From A Zero Day Calamity?
A zero-day attack is extremely stressful as the only option is to wait for the developers to fix the issue. The best attack is preparation. To prevent a zero-day attack, you can take the following steps:
1. Update Software Frequently
Outdated code creates a way for hackers to penetrate. Thus, it becomes essential for an organization to update software and applications. New updates are necessary as they:
- Help fix minor issues that are prone to fuzzing.
- Old or unused sections are removed from the code so that the system becomes more robust.
- Patches are frequently included to make the networks more robust and secure.
2. Least Access Rule
Professionals working in an organization should have limited access to data, hardware, and software. Only the applications to which they perform regular tasks should they be given access. This way, hackers have few ways to gain access to systems.
3. Implement Security Software
Security software protects systems against viruses, malware, and other attacks. Protection solutions block unauthorized users from systems, encrypt data, and protect against various threats. Specialized software is also developed for websites. For instance, WordPress websites can be protected with File Integrity Monitoring(FIM), Content Delivery Network(CDN), and some specific plugins.
4. Access Secure Web Hosting
Worldwide, 30,000 websites are hacked per day. Getting secure web hosting can protect them. Secure web hosting can bring the following benefits:
- Protection against hacking, viruses, and other software vulnerabilities.
- It shields from valuable loss of data, money, and eventually revenue.
- Regular updates and status on systems.
- A website needs to be secure for better search rankings.
5. Utilize Firewall
Firewalls protect your system against any outside interference, or attacks. In functionality, firewalls provide an additional layer of protection to systems, shielding them from hacker attacks. In the market, there are many types of firewalls you can choose from such as packet filtering, web application, stateful, etc.
6. Implement Security Training For Employees
Security training can make your employees better equipped with handling security threats and help them easily identify social engineering techniques. Training employees for such situations can make them less anxious and allow them to take practical steps towards resolving the situation.
7. DevOps Development
DevOps uses continuous development to update programs frequently. With frequent updates, systems automatically become robust and secure. DevOps development cycle includes continuous feedback, monitoring, integration, and deployment.
8. Avail VPN’s
VPN provides virtual servers for safeguarding browsing data, connection data, and IP addresses. With less information available for hackers, they find it hard to breach your system. Thus, VPN also protects the system against zero-day attacks and other similar ones.
Also Know: How to Create Your Google People Card
Here are Some Examples Of Zero-Day Attack
Every 39 seconds there is a cyber attack. Cyber attacks have become common, however, these are some of the notable attacks that have taken place:
1. 2021 Google Chrome
In April of 2021, Google released an update for the chrome browser that also fixed a zero-day vulnerability exposed by a hacker. The vulnerability allowed someone to run code in a sandbox with the help of a crafted HTML page.
2. 2019 Microsoft Windows, Eastern Europe
Specific government institutions in Eastern Europe were attacked and focused on local escalation privileges in Microsoft Windows. This allowed to run arbitrary code and install applications on non-protected systems. A patch was subsequently developed and the required code was implemented.
3. Microsoft Word Attack
Individuals and organizations identified a zero-day vulnerability with Microsoft Word. In 2016, Ryan Hanson, a security researcher, and consultant, first identified this allowing an attacker to install malware on a system after the user downloaded a Word document.
Hackers exploited this vulnerability and stole millions from bank accounts before Microsoft developers patched it in 2017.
4. Zoom Hack
In 2020, Opatch, a cyber security company reported that an unknown individual has identified a zero-day vulnerability in Zoom. By convincing a user to click on a link or open malware, hackers were able to run code remotely in Zoom. However, this attack was only possible on Windows 7 or earlier versions. Opatch delivered this issue to Zoom and within a day a patch was built by Zoom developers.
5. Apple IOS
Apple systems are highly lauded for their security. However, in 2020, iOS faced two zero-day vulnerabilities that consisted of a zero-day attack that helped attackers gain access and compromise iPhones remotely.
6. 2010 Stuxnet
Stuxnet was a computer worm that targeted multiple facilities in Iran. It infected Windows computers with the aid of USB sticks that consisted of malware. This malware then attacked machines by targeting their PLCs or Programmable Logic Controllers. With PLCs, automating machine processes becomes easy. Because of this, Stuxnet was able to penetrate security systems and target facilities in Iran.
Zero-day attacks are painful and can make any organization anxious, as it can take them by surprise. However, precaution is better than cure and when necessary, protection measures are adopted, zero-day attacks can be prevented. It’s essential to know the necessary signs of a zero-day attack as businesses of all sizes can be victims.
Q. What Are Zero-Day Attacks In Simple Terms?
Zero-day attacks are cyber attacks done on businesses of all sizes that give them zero time to prepare. Developers have little to no time to fix the vulnerability in the system that’s exposed by a hacker. It can take some time depending on the complexity of the situation to come up with a patch.
Q. What Expertise Is Required To Prevent Oneself From A Zero-Day Attack?
Professional assistance in networking, cyber security, web development, operational management, and more can help an organization recover from a zero-day attack.
Q. What To Do When Attacked By A Zero-Day?
Some of the common recovery methods are as follows:
- Access Removal: Block access to anyone who has the chance of exploiting it. If required, shut down the website until a patch gets released.
- Content Threat Removal(CTR): This is a specialized technology that intercepts data on its route to its destination. All data is considered hostile and blocks its direct delivery. Only business information is delivered by the data. Dangerous elements of the data are, thus, discarded.
- Recovery Plan: Having an in-depth strategy in place for a crisis, as such, is crucial for any organization. The strategy should include a combination of cloud-based storage and on-site components for data recovery.
Q. Should I Start Today To Protect My Business From Zero-Day Attacks?
Yes, don’t think that you won’t be attacked. The hackers try to get maximum returns with minimum risk. Therefore, small businesses are also vulnerable to such attacks. From day one or as early as possible, you should protect your business from such attacks.
Q. How Quickly Can A Business Recover From A Zero-Day Attack?
It depends on the complexity of the situation. Every software has some vulnerabilities. The best option is to protect your systems from such attacks. However, when attacked it depends on your team of developers how quickly can they release a patch. It can take a day, weeks, or even months to deliver a patch for the vulnerability.