How to be ready for Zero-Day Attacks

8 November 2022 | by Hannah Brice

Every day, it seems like there’s a new cyber attack in the news. From major corporations to small businesses, no one is safe from sophisticated and often devastating zero day attacks. 

So what exactly is a zero day attack? Essentially, it’s an exploit that takes advantage of a previously unknown vulnerability in software or hardware. Because these attacks are not easy to predict or prevent, they can cause serious damage to your business – which is why it’s so important to be prepared.

In this blog post, we’ll share some tips on how CISOs and IT security teams can get ready for a zero day attack and minimise the risk of being caught off guard.

But first, let’s explain zero day attacks in a little more detail.

What are Zero Day Attacks?

A zero day attack is a type of cyberattack that exploits security vulnerabilities that are unknown to the vendor or developer. The term “zero day” refers to the fact that these attacks occur on the same day that the security vulnerability is discovered, giving vendors and developers zero days to patch the security hole before it can be exploited. 

Zero day attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities found in any kind of software, including operating systems, applications, and firmware, and are often carried out by cyber criminals and nation-states for financial gain or espionage purposes. However, they can also be carried out by hackers who simply want to cause chaos or damage corporate reputation. 

Once an attacker finds a zero day vulnerability, they can craft an exploit that takes advantage of it. This exploit can then be used to gain access to systems or data, or to wreak havoc on critical infrastructure. The damage caused by a zero day attack can be significant—which is why these attacks are so feared by CISOs and IT security teams. 

One of the most recent examples of a zero day attack occurred in 2021 with LinkedIn when more than 700 million user records (90% of its userbase) were compromised. The attackers gained access to LinkedIn’s systems by exploiting the site’s API. According to the NCSC, the data stolen, which included email addresses, phone numbers, genders, social media details and geolocation records, could be exploited to create alarmingly credible social engineering attacks in the future. 

The LinkedIn data breach is a prime example of why it’s so important for businesses to be prepared for zero day attacks. 

How Zero Day Attacks work

Zero day attacks usually happen in one of two ways: either the attacker finds a new software vulnerability and exploits it before anyone else knows about it, or the attacker buys information about new vulnerabilities from someone who has already found them. In either case, the attackers are able to get a head start on launching their attack while the victims are still in the dark.  

Don’t want to be in the dark with any form of cyber attack? Learn about how Lupovis can help you with a free demo

Once the attacker has gained access to the system, they can then execute their desired payload, which could be anything from installing malware to stealing data. In some cases, attackers will simply use the compromised system as a launchpad for further attacks. 

One of the more common methods is through phishing emails. Attackers will craft an email that appears to come from a legitimate source, such as a company’s IT department. The email will contain a malicious link or attachment that, when clicked on or opened, will exploit the security vulnerability and allow the attacker to gain access to the system. 

Another common method for carrying out zero day attacks is through watering hole websites. These are websites that are frequented by employees of a particular company or organisation. The attacker will infect these websites with malware that exploits a security vulnerability. When an employee visits the website and tries to load it in their web browser, they will unknowingly infect their own system with the malware. This gives the attacker a foothold inside the company’s network. 

What are the consequences of a Zero Day Attack? 

Zero day attacks can have serious consequences for businesses that fall victim to them. The damage caused by these attacks can be significant, and can include the loss of sensitive data, financial losses, reputational damage, and even legal action. 

In some cases, zero day attacks can lead to the complete shutdown of a company’s operations. This was the case with the 2017 NotPetya attack, which used a previously unknown vulnerability in the Windows operating system to spread malware across networks, causing billions of dollars in damage and bringing operations at many large companies to a standstill. 

Zero day attacks can also damage a business’s reputation, especially if sensitive customer data is involved.  The 2017 Equifax data breach is a prime example of this. The breach, which was caused by an unpatched security vulnerability in the company’s website, affected over 140 million people and led to Equifax being fined $650 million by the US Federal Trade Commission. 

How can you defend your business against Zero Day Attacks? 

The biggest threat of zero day attacks is that they are very difficult to defend against. The challenge with this type of attack is even the best vulnerability scanning tool and the most productive remediation team can’t beat it. You could have patched every vulnerability identified on your systems and fall victim to a zero day attack. As a result, CISOs and IT security teams must constantly be on the lookout for new threats and be prepared to respond quickly when an attack occurs. 

The easiest way to do this is with Lupovis, which provides cyber deception.

Using hundreds of decoys placed inside and outside of our customers’ networks, we know as soon as a threat is in the vicinity. We then keep it distracted and away from their valuable assets.  This step not only prevents damage to their systems, but it also enables us to gain crucial insight into the intruder’s activity, such as how they would have entered the network, what they were looking for, and what they intended to do with that asset or that information once they’d accessed it.  This means our customers know how they can improve their security posture and the damage of a zero day attack has been minimised. 

Of course, Lupovis’ technology should be used to support a company’s existing security measures; rather than replace them. To help defend against a zero day attack, businesses should also have the following in place:

  • An up-to-date inventory of all software and hardware assets
  • An incident response plan that includes procedures for dealing with a zero day attack. This should be tested regularly to ensure it is effective.
  • A well-trained and prepared security team that knows how to respond quickly and effectively to an attack.
  • Firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems. These involve setting up rules that will block or alert on any suspicious activity.
  • Separate networks for sensitive data and systems. This way, if one network is compromised, the others will still be secure. 
  • Up-to-date security software. You can do this by setting your software to automatically update or by manually installing updates as soon as they are released.
  • Company wide education and training about the threat of zero day attacks and how they can help to prevent them. This includes not opening attachments from unknown senders, not clicking on links in emails from unknown senders, and being cautious when using social media.
  • Strong and unique passwords
  • Regular patching and updates of systems and software. The best way to ensure this is through a highly frequent vulnerability scanning solution which monitors your entire network for new vulnerabilities as they appear. You then need an effective way of prioritising all of the vulnerabilities identified to ensure you remediate them in order of criticality to your business.
  • Two-factor authentication where possible

By taking these steps, businesses can make it much harder for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities and mount a successful zero day attack. 

However, the best defense against a zero day attack is always going to be a proactive one. And that’s where Lupovis comes in. We’re constantly on the lookout for new threats so our customers don’t have to be. Contact us today to find out more about how.

Zero day attacks are serious business—literally. These types of cyberattacks can have far-reaching consequences for businesses of all sizes. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for them with a comprehensive security program that includes both network security and endpoint security measures. By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that your business is protected against zero day attacks—and all other types of cyber threats.

8 November 2022 | by Hannah Brice

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