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Zero-Day Exploits: Definition, Detection and Recovery

  • deepti

  • Jan. 23, 2020, 5:37 a.m.

Did you know that information and sensitive data loss accounts for 43% of the recovery costs after a cyber attack has taken place? According to Cybercrime Magazine, the cybercrime landscape is quickly becoming more profitable than the illegal drug trade! Indeed, data is the new fuel. As per estimates, it is known that enterprises take almost six months to realize that there has been a data breach. These alarming statistics are proof that it is time for both business giants and SMBs to level up their security infrastructure by incorporating malware analysis tools.

How do you know if it's time for your business to upgrade the cybersecurity landscape? Read our blog to find out - Signs it's time to relook at your approach to security operations

An increasing number of companies are investing in sophisticated products like online malware analysis tools to strengthen their cybersecurity framework but the prevalence of zero-day vulnerabilities is still showing no sign of slowing down. These vulnerabilities make the security landscape weak, exposing the network and systems to malicious threat entities.

So, what exactly are these zero-day threats? For this week’s blog post, let us discuss the invincibility of these threats and why their mitigation should be a priority for businesses.

What are Software Vulnerabilities?

A vulnerability in cybersecurity terms refers to unintended flaws in software programs. This mainly occurs due to accidental errors in programming and improper security configurations. If undetected and unattended, these can create security gaps that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals.

Which Vulnerabilities are Known as Zero-Day and Why?

Zero-day vulnerabilities are by definition recently discovered software flaws that were present all this time in the security landscape of the company. The flaw may have been in existence in the system for years without being noticed by the security experts.

The term ‘zero-day’ arises from the fact that on the discovery of the vulnerability, the developers have zero-days to fix the issue. This means, there is no official security patch or update available that can correct the error immediately. Also, it is likely that the flaw has already been exploited by hackers. If the software developer fails to design a security patch for the security hole before it is exploited, then the incident is referred to as a zero-day attack.

How Cybercriminals Exploit Vulnerabilities?

Cybercriminals create targeted software programs and package them in the form of malware that is known as zero-day attacks. These malicious entities take advantage of the vulnerability to infect the enterprise network and carry out unintended behavior.

How to Detect the Occurrence of a Zero-Day Attack?

By definition, zero-day attacks are impossible to detect. Malware analysis tools and intrusion detection and prevention systems fail in recognizing zero-day attacks due to the lack of attack signatures. Lately, several strategies have come up that can ease the process of detection of such cyber attacks.

  • Detection Based On Statistics: This solution aims to employ the abilities of Machine Learning (ML) to gather data from similar exploits that may have happened previously. This creates a baseline for what a ‘safe’ system looks like. This method is not a hundred percent effective due to the prevalence of false negatives or positives but it performs great in a hybrid solution.
  • Detection Based On Signature: Tools for malware analysis help detect and analyze malware which in turn gives security experts an accurate account of existing malware databases. Using Machine Learning, experts can create and analyze signatures for existing malware which can be utilized to detect unknown attacks and vulnerabilities in the system.
  • Detection Based on Behavior: This process detects the presence of malware based on its interaction with the target system.
  • Hybrid Detection: The best malware analysis tool, this solution makes use of the strengths of all three techniques while eliminating their respective weaknesses.

User-behavior analytics - This method is the best way to detect zero-day attacks. Since most of the entities that have access to networks and systems of a particular security framework display certain kinds of user behavior and patterns, it is considered to be normal. Any diversion from the regular pattern is most certainly an indication of a zero-day attack taking place.

Online malware analysis tools help to identify potential threats in the system. The lack of visibility into the presence of the vulnerability impedes even the best malware analysis tools from detecting the presence of malware in the network.

Read more about malware analysis online here - Importance of malware analysis tools for timely malware detection

How to Mitigate Damages of Zero-Day Attacks?

Malware analysis online can be carried out after the detection of the attack to discover its patterns and behavior. Best malware analysis tools help businesses identify and categorize potentially malicious software. Prevention of zero-day attacks is still not a reality in cybersecurity. But modern innovations have developed certain technologies that can help mitigate damage post-attack.

  • Content Threat Removal or CTR: A modern cybersecurity technology, CTR interrupts the passage of data on its way to the destination. It works by assuming all data is hostile and filters it to pass on only the business information. This way, harmful or malicious entities in the original data can be segregated and stopped from reaching the destination.
  • Disaster Recovery Strategy: This includes an on-cloud and on-site backup of data.
  • Access Removal: The best way to carry out a recovery strategy is by removing access physically from every entity that may have had the ability to exploit the vulnerability.

Way Forward

Zero-day vulnerabilities that lead to attacks mostly take shape in the form of phishing. Employees should be trained to understand the risks and techniques should be taught to them on how to avoid such attacks. Zero-day exploits can take the form of viruses, spyware and other forms of malware. It is crucial to incorporate tools for malware analysis and other cybersecurity software that can not only detect and mitigate known threats but are also effective towards previously unknown exploits.

Read more about the latest best malware analysis tools - All you need to know about Malware Reverse Engineering

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