While reading various reviews and articles about antiviruses we often encounter the word “vulnerability” and the term “zero-day vulnerability.” What does it all mean and why we as users have to know these terms? Let’s bring some clarity to this topic.
What is Software Vulnerability?
A software vulnerability is a flaw that might allow hackers to get into the system and harm it. It can be a software bug – some mistake in the code that malefactors can use as a way to lay their hands on sensitive data. Also, cybercriminals can perform hacks utilizing the functions of the app.
Another favorite tool for hackers is a human flaw: weak passwords, unprotected data, etc. And developers do their best to prevent any possibility of the attack by taking away all the issues.
What Makes Vulnerability a Zero-day?
A zero-day vulnerability is a flaw in the software that hackers found. It means that developers don’t know about it, and no patch is able to fix it yet. The specialist will work on the issue for a while and release an update later. But until then the flaw is present in the software and, may be considered an indirect threat to your system.
That being said, we should expect hackers to use this issue because it is the most simple way to get into the system. Therefore, users have to protect their devices on their own to avoid a zero-day exploit. We can’t entirely rely on vendors of the apps we’re using.
What Is a Zero-Day Exploit?
It is a hacker’s attack that was performed using a zero-day vulnerability. Often a zero-day exploit happens to browsers and other widely used apps. The popularity allows criminals to get into as many devices as possible with a single action.
Since vendors usually don’t know about the existing issue, hackers have time to study it and find sophisticated ways to get into the user’s system. One of the most notable zero-day attacks is the Apache Struts case. This open-source web-development framework had a flaw that allowed hackers to execute malicious code remotely.
And even though the vendor patched the vulnerability quickly, not everyone updated their Apache software. Therefore, numerous apps built on the base of this framework were exposed to the potential threat.
Another well-known zero-day attack was aimed at RSA Security. Someone managed to steal the data from this world’s top cybersecurity company. How? By using both zero-day and human vulnerabilities. During two days several employees of the company received emails with a subject “2011 Recruitment Plan”.
One of the workers got curious enough to open the letter that was already in spam and download the Excel file it contained. The file had a malware inside that created a backdoor for hackers. The malware used a flaw no one knew about yet and created a massive data leak.
How to Protect Your Devices?
Even though it is hard to detect zero-day vulnerabilities and prevent attacks, you, as a user can protect yourself. Of course, you need to install good antivirus software that will detect and prevent any threats. But you can also:
- update all your apps, especially ones you use daily;
- back up the critical data so you don’t lose it if you suffer from an attack;
- practice safe behavior online.
Safe behavior means that users don’t open attached documents in emails from unknown senders. They also avoid suspicious websites. Finally, they don’t click on potentially malicious ads.
If you are an employer and there is a group of people working for you, teach your team to behave safely when they’re using the Internet. Also, you might want to use a VPN service that will protect your company’s data. It will hide vital information like the IP address. It will keep hackers away since they won’t be able to get into the system.
Business needs to establish a system that will determine how much access to corporate data does each employee have. It will lower the risk of human mistake. Additionally, you should always have a plan that will help your company to recover quickly after the attack.
Even though developers do their best to keep the software as protected as possible, vulnerabilities take place quite often. Because nothing is perfect in our world. It means that everyone has to think about our protection instead of hoping for the best. Cyber attacks can lead not only to data loss but to real damage done to your wallet or business.