Understanding and Preventing Zero-Day Threats

    New threats are always emerging in the cybersecurity world as technology and attacker techniques improve. These zero-day threats can exploit vulnerabilities in your network that you didn’t even know existed and cause major problems for your organization. While signature-matching used to be the only way to detect malware, cybersecurity technology has improved enough that businesses can now detect and remove these threats before they cause damage. To help keep your company safe, we’ve put together this guide on understanding and preventing zero-day threats.

    Table of contents

    What are zero-day threats?

    Zero-day threats, also sometimes referred to as zero-hour or day-zero threats, are cyberattacks that haven’t been previously seen or reported. It could be a vulnerability in software that doesn’t yet have a patch, or attackers could have created a new variation of malware. Usually, malware variants are a direct result of the attackers discovering a software vulnerability before the vendors or users do.

    Signature matching used to be the only way to detect threats within a network, which meant zero-day threats would always claim at least one victim but usually many more. Now, however, you can protect your company from zero-day threats with the right cybersecurity tools.

    Why are zero-day exploits so dangerous?

    Zero-day exploits are dangerous for companies because, unlike known malware, there’s no available solution for them since the threat has not been seen before. Because of this, it’s impossible to completely prevent them. Additionally, security tools that use signature matching only are unable to detect these threats because they don’t have known signatures. Zero-day attacks are usually targeted towards companies and government organizations with the most valuable data.

    Once zero-day threats are discovered, it takes time to create patches that can fix the vulnerabilities the attackers exploited. This means customers are using compromised software and opening up their own networks to danger. Additionally, end-users can often be slow to install patches even when they do become available, extending the amount of time that attackers have access.

    How can you prevent zero-day attacks?

    While zero-day attacks can’t be prevented with complete accuracy, there are things you can do to protect your company’s network and remove any threats quickly.

    Add sandboxing techniques

    Sandboxing is the practice of isolating applications from other critical systems on your network in an attempt to protect data and your operating system. Network access is usually either not allowed or heavily restricted for programs running in a sandbox environment. By sandboxing an application, it’s harder for attackers to exploit zero-day vulnerabilities to gain access to your network.

    Apply patches and updates as soon as they’re available

    Developers roll out patches and updates for a reason. While it can be annoying to have to apply a patch or update, doing so could save your company thousands of dollars or more. Approximately 18 percent of vulnerabilities stem from companies not applying patches in a timely manner. Make sure you’re checking devices regularly to see if new patches are available, including IoT devices. Patch management solutions, like KACE, are available with automation to make patching your devices easier.

    Use modern, robust cybersecurity tools

    If you’re currently using cybersecurity tools that only use signature matching, you need to upgrade to include more modern options. Next-generation firewalls (NGFW), next-generation antivirus (NGAV), and endpoint protection platforms (EPP) can all help you protect your network from threats without relying solely on signature matching. Many cybersecurity tools will include AI and behavioral analytics to further improve the security of your network.

    Also read: EDR vs EPP Security Solutions

    Create a bounty program

    If you’re part of a software development company, you might elect to create a bounty program for your applications. This allows white-hat hackers to search your system for vulnerabilities in exchange for a reward. You can then roll out patches for the vulnerabilities before attackers find them.

    Protecting your company from zero-day threats

    Zero-day threats and vulnerabilities can cause big problems for your organization. To keep them out of your network, consider using sandboxes and upgrading your security tools with NGAV, NGFW, and EPP. Additionally, apply patches as they become available for all of your devices. By following these tips, you can keep your network safe and protect your data from outside attacks.

    Read next: The Best Cybersecurity Tools for Small Businesses

    Jenn Fulmer
    Jenn Fulmer
    Jenn Fulmer is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, and eSecurity Planet currently based in Lexington, KY. Using detailed, research-based content, she aims to help businesses find the technology they need to maximize their success and protect their data.

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