Zero-day exploits are some of the most critical cybersecurity threats facing businesses today, but also one of the most difficult to address. Cybercriminals that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities take advantage of flaws within an organization’s software and security systems before the victim itself discovers it. This can lead to potentially devastating consequences when bad actors are successful in accessing critical data and networks undetected.
It is also much harder to defend against these attacks when the victim is fighting in the dark – how can an organization fix a vulnerability when they don’t know it is there? For this reason, there are thousands of organizations across the world operating with unknown gaps in their cybersecurity defenses that are vulnerable to zero-day threats
Over the past few years, zero-day attacks have become an increasing concern. In fact, 2021 was a record-breaking year, seeing double the number of incidents compared to the year before. As cybercriminals grow in sophistication, we can only expect this trend to continue to increase.
Date for the diary: Patch Tuesday
In response, software vendors including Apple, Google and Microsoft continuously release updates to patch zero-day vulnerabilities. For example, ‘Patch Tuesday’ occurs on the second Tuesday of every month when such vendors release software updates to fix any zero-day vulnerabilities. February’s Patch Tuesday, for example, saw Microsoft fix 48 security flaws, including one zero-day bug.
However, despite this effort to patch regularly and raise awareness of zero-day vulnerabilities, it is extremely difficult to stay ahead of the game as new risks are constantly emerging. In fact, new exploits appear so often that the day after Patch Tuesday has become known as ‘Exploit Wednesday’ as cybercriminals look to exploit systems that were not updated and protected the day before.
It doesn’t even end there — the day after Exploit Wednesday has now also become known as ‘Uninstall Thursday’, when it becomes clear that updates designed to secure and protect systems actually cause critical performance issues. To avoid ‘Uninstall Thursday’, software vendors may release extra ‘hot fixes’ to patch any vulnerabilities and fix other security issues without impacting overall performance.
Protection that doesn’t wait for detection
Part of the problem is that reactive security solutions, such as anti-virus and sandboxing, can remain oblivious to zero-day vulnerabilities for as many as 18 days after they are exploited. It is for this reason that cybercriminals favor zero-day attacks to gain access to systems and transmit malware. The time lag between the vulnerabilities being exploited and the updates being developed and made available to patch put unprotected data and systems at serious risk.
Unfortunately, regardless of an organization’s efforts to provide cybersecurity training and ensure high cyber hygiene standards, and with 98 percent of malware undetectable by anti-virus technologies, cybercriminals are successfully creating malicious files that appear to be authentic and thus pass through security solutions.
To avoid this risk, organizations should turn to proactive cybersecurity methods. As the threat of zero-day exploits continues to grow and organizations become more aware of their potential security blindspots, more are looking to improve their defenses against such threats.
Technologies such as Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) provide protection that doesn’t wait for detection. With proactivity at its core, CDR technology offers instant protection as it inspects, cleans, and rebuilds files to the manufacturer’s ‘known good’ specification, making it very difficult for threats to slip through the net.
It is more important than ever for organizations to address their cybersecurity vulnerabilities as zero-day threats continue to rise. While it’s easy to get bogged down in the financial and strategic difficulties of changing security policies, those that focus on meeting the risks head on can significantly improve their chances of avoiding the impact of a zero-day attack.
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Danny Lopez is CEO at Glasswall. Danny is all about building trust with customers, partners and colleagues. Having enjoyed a successful career doing exactly that in banking, government, diplomacy and tech, our fearless leader is now on a mission to make Glasswall the most trusted name in CDR. His previous roles include COO at Blippar, British Consul General to New York, CEO of London & Partners, Marketing Director at the UK’s Department for International Trade, and senior international positions at Barclays Bank.