Zero-day exploits are dangerous vulnerabilities in software or hardware that your manufacturer does not know about. Hackers find these and exploit them before the manufacturer develops a patch as a solution.
Detecting a zero-day attack
A zero-day attack is difficult to detect. Often an internal user has triggered this type of attack without knowing it. Organisations’ IT departments are well prepared to discover known threats, but are ill-equipped to find and respond to these types of attacks.
There are several strategies for detecting a zero-day attack including:
- statistics based detection
- signature based detection
- behaviour based detection
- hybrid detection.
Statistics based detection
Statistics based detection uses machine learning to collect and collate system data from previous exploits to determine a base level for system behaviour. The advantage of this method is the more data it collects, the more information it has about zero-day exploits to compare against to detect new ones.
This method can produce a lot of false negatives and positives depending on the safe baseline chosen. Choosing the right baseline can be difficult and takes skill to avoid impacting the organisation’s daily operations. It also has limited effectiveness for detecting zero-day exploits and even some types of malware although it can work well as part of a hybrid solution.
Signature based detection
Signature based detection is usually used for detecting malware. It relies on the current database of existing malware signatures it uses for scanning a system for viruses. As most zero-day exploits do not have known signatures, you can create signatures using machine learning to generate a signature that may correspond with real life malware.
Behaviour based detection
Behaviour based detection looks at how malware interacts with other system software to predict if it is a harmful attack. With the use of machine learning it can establish a safe baseline. The more data available, the more effective it is at predicting what is currently going on and detecting malicious software.
Hybrid detection uses a combination of these three methods. It uses the strengths and reduces the weaknesses of each to detect an zero-day attack with more accurate results.
Ways to avoid zero-day attacks
There are several things you can do to avoid a zero-day attack. These include:
- Managing patches. Ensure your IT people install all patches for zero-day exploits as soon as the manufacturer releases them.
- Monitoring in real-time. Manufacturers do not always release patches before a zero-day exploit occurs so your cybersecurity needs to:
- monitor suspicious network traffic behaviour
- use intrusion prevention systems which trigger when notified by the behaviour monitoring system to prevent threats entering the network
- respond quickly to incidents to minimise the damage caused.
- Educate staff. Educate staff about what malware looks like and how their actions can put the system at risk. Put processes and procedures in place for downloading apps and software on the company computer system.
- Back up data. Back your data up on cloud and local servers for a quick recovery from an attack.
Talk to the experts at Rightsize Technology about preventing and recovering from a zero-day attack.
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