Despite the precautions you've taken to protect your network and sensitive data, you're still at risk of a zero-day attack. But what exactly is it? A zero-day vulnerability refers to an undiscovered flaw in computer security that software developers have yet to recognise. Hackers can exploit this vulnerability in software or hardware, creating all sorts of complicated problems before a fix becomes available. Hence, developers effectively have "zero-days" to fix a security hole that has been exposed or exploited. But patches take time to write so there exists a vulnerability window, between the time a threat is discovered and the time a security patch is released, in which your system may be compromised.
Zero-day vulnerabilities are exploited through various vectors. Web browsers are prime targets due to their widespread distribution and usage. Cybercriminals also tend to use malicious email attachments to implement zero-day attacks. In most cases, attackers will try to sneak past defences to deploy zero-day exploits, which can take the form of viruses, polymorphic worms, trojans and various types of malware, onto an unsuspecting computer or device. Once this happens, they are able to gain access to your system without you knowing it. These attacks are rarely discovered immediately. In fact, it may take days, months and in some cases, years before a developer learns of the vulnerability that led to an attack.
It sounds a bit daunting and it is extremely difficult to protect yourself from an unknown threat, especially with traditional cyber defences. But there are precautions businesses can take to prevent zero-day attacks. First and foremost, keep your systems and software updated. Updates often include patches that are created to fix vulnerabilities, strengthening your resistance to malware. Use only essential applications and always use your best judgement when dealing with websites and emails to reduce your exposure and mitigate infection. Eliminate gaps in your system by using a comprehensive security program, such as Symantec Endpoint Protection, which takes a layered approach to security and thwarts targeted attacks as well as zero-day threats with advanced capabilities that include:
network firewall & intrusion prevention
application and device control
memory exploit mitigation
advanced machine learning
Security-focused blogs, like the Symantec Security Response Blog, can provide actionable insights on the different types of zero-day vulnerabilities as well as methods used by attackers to help enterprises and users be better prepared in dealing with such threats.
Zero-day attacks can be costly and they're not going away anytime soon. That is why it is vital for organisations to always stay vigilant, take all the necessary measures to keep their systems secure and have contingency plans should such an attack take place.
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