Stay Safe from Zero Day Vulnerabilities
By Space Coast Daily // April 27, 2021
In the cybersecurity, or simply put internet security world coming forward into the 2020s, industry insights point to the certainty that cybersecurity training, hardware, and software solutions are going to be the primary investment for digital businesses and organizations worldwide.
Cybersecurity for businesses is going to be the number one focus for the IT industry, especially as we are coming into a ‘post-privacy (where our data is no longer under our control) and cyber threat-ridden era. What does the cyber threat era mean, exactly?
Well, it is the reality that cybercrime damages are costing the world an unbelievable $6 trillion annually, roughly speaking. Cybercrime is a serious threat to the world and will be the war weapon of the future. Also, we are now witnessing the worst cyber crimes in history, where the highest levels of governments have been breached by nation-states with brute force attacks, ransomware, and the exploitation of Zero-Day vulnerabilities.
To put the cherry on top, distrust in the internet overall is at an all-time low and the internet is becoming a chaotic, out-of-control jungle as we speak.
When it comes to businesses, institutions, and organizations, which today heavily rely on the internet no matter what sector, endpoint security is going to be where the majority of investment and hard work goes.
The term endpoint security, according to McAfee is “the practice of securing endpoints or entry points of end-user devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices from being exploited by malicious actors and campaigns.” McAfee also explains that, “Organizations of all sizes are at risk from nation-states, hacktivists, organized crime, and malicious and accidental insider threats. Endpoint security is often seen as cybersecurity’s frontline, and represents one of the first places organizations look to secure their enterprise networks.”
Companies like McAfee and others are taking a different approach to security now rather than just a simple antivirus program. These are things like cloud-based Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs) that harbor a Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). A transfer to ‘fileless’ protection is crucial for businesses (enterprises) in that this will better integrate into protection from the most dangerous threat that is the zero-day threat.
What is Cybersecurity For Businesses/Enterprise?
Today’s emerging cybersecurity threats are at another level completely when it comes to the severity, sophistication and attack surface (amount of potential attack techniques). To counter the speed of modern day attacks, the top cybersecurity players of today are taking into account the need to make closed-loop, lightning fast detection systems that will immediately recognize and mitigate vulnerabilities, such as those that have led to the SolarWinds ‘hack’ -where malicious agents entered the world’s most secure systems through a simple loophole that was left unchecked.
What is a ‘Zero Day Vulnerability’?
A Zero Day vulnerability is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb in the cybercrime world. Basically, this is when cybercriminals exploit a security flaw that was not noticed or updated, which they then share with the underground world (on the dark web, for example).
This flaw, in a big organization, can lead to the data of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people to be stolen or disrupted. The issue is that there is no instant solution to zero day vulnerabilities, and usually once they are reported it is already too late, and the fix takes a very long time. Zero Day exploits, as they are called, are immune to installed security software.
The most concerning aspect of this is that even the most sophisticated security software systems can be circumvented by zero day exploits. These exploits are of the highest-profile, so it is usually national intelligence and hackers that work together to target other countries for maximum espionage or damage via zero day vulnerabilities.
Modern Day Zero Day Cybersecurity Risks
Let’s get to actual concrete examples and evidence of the zero day exploits in the real world that have happened;
■ Hackers exploited the NSA’s EternalBlue tool (the US National Security Agency) around 2011, and used it against them as well as to spread the famous WannaCry ransomware malware in 2016
■ In 2019, Google discovered a zero day vulnerability within Windows (CVE-2020-1464) that meant hackers could bypass Windows security and fake authenticity. It took Microsoft a year and half to patch the issue, which caused several phishing attacks on users
■ Security company SolarWinds was exploited by hackers in a zero day vulnerability via the Microsoft Office 365 environment and Orion network monitoring platform. This compromised a large number of high-profile companies and individuals that were working with SolarWinds. Investigations and mitigations are still taking place
■ Facebook, the Pentagon and US State Department as well as British Airways are a small portion of high-profile victims as well
There are several examples of zero day exploits, the above list covers only some of the key ones to illustrate just how dangerous zero day issues are for the entire world. Zero day exploits can also evolve into large, global campaigns if they manage to to be successful and uninterrupted in their infection chain.
How to Be Proactive Against Zero Day Vulnerabilities
As we have mentioned earlier, to take on Zero Day threats means a transition to cloud-based AI EPP EDR protection mechanisms. The primary advantages of these systems compared to legacy antiviruses is first of all speed, then automatic updates and the ability to integrate AI seamlessly into the protection mechanism.
Cybercrime today is focusing most on the following; stealing AI and Machine Learning (ML) research as well as quantum computing research. The focus is on these aspects because cybercriminals are looking to be one-step ahead of the cybersecurity industry.
For businesses/enterprises, it is very important to take a different approach to cybersecurity, given these severe threats. This means:
■ Never allowing a digital ecosystem to run out-of-date software
■ Improving the effectiveness of firewalls and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
■ Business email and employee email must be protected against spear phishing
■ Developing cloud-based, adaptive AI detection algorithms that use ML
■ Using machine learning and artificial intelligence for endpoint defenses
■ Deploying real-time protection such as intrusion-prevention systems (IPS)
■ Mandatory cybersecurity training for all employees to raise awareness
Some possible signs that a zero day vulnerability is being exploited in an organization are; unusual internet traffic and/or scanning activity coming from a server, client or port. Network administrators should be constantly monitoring ports, and the cybersecurity level of an enterprise should be tested by ethical hackers.
According to recent studies, most businesses have been compromised in some way from endpoint vulnerabilities, and this is on the rise. This is especially dangerous for SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) who do not have the security budget that large corporations have. The industry conclusion is that zero day and fileless attacks (cloud) are the biggest threats to organizations in our time.