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zero-day attacks: what is it & how can it harm your business

Zero-day Attacks: What is it and How Can It Harm Your Business?

zero-day attacks
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There are various methods hackers use to access systems and data illegally. They implement brute force attacks, denial of service, and more. However, the most severe form of them is zero-day attacks.

Zero-day threats are opportunistic in their attacks. It exploits weaknesses and vulnerabilities in systems and software that are often missed or forgotten. Once it’s discovered, the malicious program has already been deployed or entered the system. That’s why it needs to be mitigated immediately.

Earlier this year, WatchGuard reported that 74% of threats were zero-day malware. It wasn’t detected by a signature-based antivirus solution. 

If that’s the case, it is vital that businesses should learn about zero-day attacks and how they can prevent such threats.

What is Zero-day?

Zero-day is described to be a recently discovered vulnerability that is exploited by hackers. The word zero-day means that the developers have only learned about the issue and need to fix it.

Zero-day is used alongside the words vulnerability, exploit, and attack. They all do differ in meaning.

A zero-day attack is a zero-day exploit to damage a computer or steal data from a vulnerable system.

Meanwhile, a zero-day exploit is the method hackers utilize to attack systems.

The zero-day vulnerability is the weakness of a system or software that developers are not aware of. These vulnerabilities can come in multiple forms. It can be unencrypted data, bugs, weak passwords, and broken algorithms. 

Vulnerabilities that go undiscovered and exploited by hackers are what make it called zero-day. However, if the weakness is discovered before the attack, it is no longer considered a zero-day.

How Zero-day Attacks Happen?

Hackers can take advantage of security flaws in software or systems. They can inflict damage that ranges from minimal to extreme. Therefore, software developers are constantly on the lookout for flaws in their software. They create a solution to distribute in a new update.

However, hackers may discover the flaw before the program developers. Attackers can write and implement code to exploit the vulnerability while it is still unpatched.

When an attacker discovers a zero-day vulnerability, they must find a way to get to the susceptible system. They do it by sending a socially engineered email. The email or other message appears to come from a known or reputable correspondent. But it is actually sent by an attacker. The content of the email aims to persuade the user to do something, such as open a file or visit a malicious website. By doing so, the attacker’s software is downloaded, infiltrating the user’s files and stealing confidential information.

When attackers have stolen the data they need, they can sell them on the dark web for a large sum of money. Hence, hackers are willing to steal from others.

Such attacks can be dangerous because hackers can continue to exploit the vulnerability without anyone knowing it.

So, what exactly happens when a business experiences a zero-day attack?

Impact of Zero-day Attacks on Businesses?

Data Theft

Hackers aim to steal valuable data and information from a company and customers. They could either use the sensitive details for personal advantage, sell them on the dark web, or further exploit the victim.

Data theft can be an expensive consequence for a business. It cost around $3.86 million and 207 days to identify the breach. Most of the victims that fall for data breaches are small businesses due to a lack of security.

When businesses become victims of data loss, it could impact them in multiple ways. They might lose money and customers, have legal issues, and harbor a bad reputation.

Takeover Accounts 

When hackers take over business emails and accounts, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. They can access admin rights, networks, servers, programs, and critical information. When this happens, they can send phishing emails to clients and customers. Then, it can lead to identity theft.

Furthermore, when hackers have control over your business, it could destroy your reputation.

Leads to Bad Reputation

As mentioned earlier, when zero-day attacks occur, it can cause data breaches and lead to a bad reputation once it goes public. Even though the attack has been patched, when people find out that you had an attack, it can make them feel uncomfortable to trust your business.

Affects the Productivity and Production

When zero-day attacks occur, it puts a halt to the business operation. When data has been compromised, employees cannot work and accomplish their tasks. If the workflow is interrupted, it can cost a loss of revenue too.

Financial Loss

The main reason that businesses should fear cyber-attacks is due to financial loss. Organizations can lose money in various ways. They lose money due to data breaches, interruption of production or workflow, customers distrust, and cost of legal fees and data retrieval.

Small businesses and start-ups that experience breaches are more likely to file for bankruptcy due to financial loss.

Legal Issues

If it has been proven that your business was negligent and you have no security enough to protect your data, you can end up with an expensive lawsuit. If you are a small business or a startup, it can cost you a lot of money.

Watering Hole Attacks

Sometimes, zero-day exploits work like watering hole attacks. It injects malware on websites that are frequently receiving a higher volume of traffic.

A watering hole attack is a security flaw in which the attacker attempts to compromise a specific group of end-users by infecting the websites they visit. The objective is to target a user’s computer and get access to the workplace network.

While watering hole attacks are relatively rare, they constitute a significant threat since they are hard to detect and often target highly guarded enterprises. They pass through the security by exploiting employees and partners who are less secure. It is destructive as it can go through multiple layers of security.

Zero-day can be a harmful attack on businesses, particularly those that are just starting. They can lose money and end up closing down their business. 

That’s why the best way to avoid such an attack is to keep informed about it. Learn how you can protect your business and update yourself for better security.

How to Keep Your Business Safe from Zero-day Attacks?

Update All Software and Systems

Zero-day attacks happen due to vulnerabilities on a system or outdated software. Therefore, the best solution is to update your system or software when there’s any available. Do not click “Later” or “Ignore.”

There are consequences when one doesn’t update their system.

If you think that updating your software takes time and can interrupt the workflow, you can set a schedule or activate auto-updates.

You can also use software like AVG Driver Updater to scan for vulnerabilities in your system and patch them as soon as there’s one available.

Install a Comprehensive Antivirus Software

There are various antivirus software programs available online. You can choose from free to paid versions. However, not all antivirus tools are equivalent in fighting zero-day threats.

You can try leading names of antivirus software in the market, like Bitdefender or Kaspersky Total Security.

Limit Software to What Matters

Whether it’s your computer or mobile device, install only the most crucial applications. 

The more software we have on our devices, the more chances of getting hacked. You might forget to update all of the software, or developers might not be able to detect any weakness on the software immediately.

Use a Firewall

When using a web application firewall, your organization will be able to respond to attacks in real-time. It will continuously examine incoming data for risks, giving companies the knowledge they need to restrict suspicious activity and prevent an attack.

Educate Employees

When attackers detect a vulnerability in your system, they will find a way to send malicious code into your device. They can send emails with malicious content, so when accidentally opened, it can infect the device.

As human errors are the most common cause of threats, educating your employees should be a priority. Teaching them all about cybersecurity practices can reduce the chances of cyberattacks.

Back-Up Data

Back up your data regularly in case of cyberattacks. Businesses that invest in a good backup system are able to recover from attacks faster and with fewer damages; However, those who don’t are more likely to suffer from far more consequences.

Choose a backup method that is most suitable for your business. You can opt for a cloud-based or external backup method.

Inform Yourself

Keep an eye out for the latest news in cyberattacks and security. Staying up to date with what’s happening and what threats are spreading can help your business stay safe. You can practice a better way to guard your vital business data.

Work with Professionals

One way to lessen the chances of zero-day attacks, or any threats, is to have a team of proactive security experts. They can watch for the presence of bugs, issues on passwords, or missing data encryption. They continue to search for vulnerabilities and secure your system.

Conclusion

Zero-day attacks are difficult to defend against since they occur without warning. It is all the more dangerous because zero-day frequently go after high-profile targets. However, by following general security best practices and having a backup plan in place, you may reduce the possible impact. Always deploy fixes as quickly as you can, as this will reduce the effect of a threat.

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