Zero day exploits target vulnerabilities that a software manufacturer has not yet patched. By taking advantage of largely unknown vulnerabilities, these exploits have a high probability of success and are difficult or impossible to protect against using legacy cybersecurity tools.
Vulnerabilities in software can be discovered in a few different ways. In some cases, the vulnerability is discovered internally by the software manufacturer or ethically reported to them by an external security researcher. In others, the vulnerability is discovered and exploited by cybercriminals.
Most zero day exploits fall into this second category. In this case, there is a window between the vulnerability first being publicly exploited and targeted defenses – in the form of malware signatures or a software update – being released. This is referred to as “day zero” and is where zero day vulnerabilities and exploits get their names.
One example of some zero day vulnerabilities is a set of vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange servers. While Microsoft initially discovered these vulnerabilities, slow patch cycles meant that many Exchange servers were still vulnerable when cybercriminals started exploiting these vulnerabilities.
Hafnium is an example of a malware that takes advantage of these Exchange vulnerabilities. It exploits these vulnerabilities to gain access to a vulnerable Exchange server and elevate its privileges on the system. This malware is designed to perform information gathering, trying to steal user credentials and emails from exploited systems.
Zero day vulnerabilities and exploits are a significant concern for cybersecurity personnel because they are difficult to defend against. Some of the security challenges of zero day exploits include:
For these reasons, a reactive approach to cybersecurity based on signatures and patching is not effective for zero day vulnerabilities and exploits. Organizations must proactively prevent attacks to block these novel exploits.
For zero day exploits, the main problem that organizations face is a lack of information. If a security team has information about a particular threat, then security solutions can be configured to block that threat. However, gaining access to this information and disseminating it through an organization’s security architecture is a major challenge for many organizations.
Effective zero day protection requires a security architecture with the following features:
Check Point’s prevention-first approach is the only way to effectively protect against unknown threats like zero day exploits. ThreatCloud is the world’s largest cyberthreat intelligence database and processes an average of 86 billion transactions per day. This allows it to identify approximately 7,000 previously unknown threats each day, enabling organizations to detect and block these zero day exploits against their systems.
ThreatCloud leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to process data and detect threats. To learn more about the importance of AI for zero day exploit detection, check out this whitepaper. You’re also welcome to sign up for a demo to see how Check Point’s advanced endpoint protection solutions can protect your organization’s remote workforce against zero day threats.