Zero-day cyber attacks – What they are and how you can prepare for them

Cyber attacks pose an ongoing threat to anyone who relies on digital devices, whether you’re a small-business owner, student, government official, or a casual Internet user. Like it or not, if you (or your personal information) is online, you’re vulnerable to a cyber attack.

Everyone’s a target

In the early days of the Internet, security threats were often relatively easy to spot and contain. That’s because attackers targeted only computers, and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) had yet to make the giant leap from science fiction fodder into everyday reality.

Unfortunately, as our collective reliance on connected phones, computers, virtual networks and more increases, so does the lure of quick cash for ‘black-hat’ hackers — criminals looking to profit by stealing information and blackmailing their victims into paying big bucks to purchase the info needed to prevent an attack. We’re now sharing, sending, saving, and searching more than ever before, and the bad guys have noticed.

Cybercrime rates skyrocket

Indicators show that cybercrime continues to skyrocket at an alarming rate, with hackers targeting everything from mobile phones to corporate computers. According to the 2016 cybersecurity reportsgenerated by industry leaders like Cisco, Dell, Google, and Verizon, “Malware attacks nearly doubled to $8.19 billion” and unsurprisingly, “89 percent of all cyber attacks involve financial or espionage motivations.”

What’s more, the British government reports that two thirds of large UK businesses were hit by cyber breach or attack in past year, while on this side of the pond, surveys reveal that over 40 percent of cyber attacks target small business, and nearly two-thirds of those small businesses fail within six months of a cyber attack.

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Zero-day cyber attack – What is it?

In a nutshell, a zero-day exploit is a malicious software hack that quite literally blindsides the software developers, end-users, and everyone else. The catch is that the hackers have discovered a ‘security hole’ in the software, but rather than report this problem to the anti-virus companies, software vendors and developers, they keep this information to themselves.

The term ‘zero-day’ refers to the actual number of days that the software vendor has known about the hole, which in this case is in fact zero. When the attackers use the security hole to plant a virus or worm, insert malware, or simply disable the software they are targeting, developers and security experts are left scrambling to patch the hole and go into recovery and restoration mode.

What makes a zero-day cyber attack so dangerous?

While many digital security threats and data breaches target a specific small business, government, or organization, zero-day cyber attacks have the potential to impact millions of users simultaneously.

Worse yet, these attacks are very difficult to prevent and defend against simply because nobody sees them coming. Zero-day strikes occur during what’s known as a ‘vulnerability window’ — the time frame between when the attackers first discover the security weakness in the software and when a ‘patch,’ or remedy, is implemented.

There’s a thriving and lucrative black market where hackers sell not only the details about how to execute a zero-day attack using vulnerabilities they’ve uncovered, but also information like IT system passwords, data, and credit card numbers obtained through zero-day exploits.

Protecting Your Small Business Against A Zero-Day Exploit

The best defense against a zero-day cyber attack against your small business involves a layered, proactive approach that includes securing your devices and data using a high-quality firewall, software that’s continuously updated, and malware prevention and detection solutions.

Managed IT services can ensure your IT system is always monitored, current, and backed up through a secure cloud server. This enables you to both shut down access to your system quickly when a zero-day cyber attack strikes, and recover your data to mitigate losses and keep your business operational.

At Dyrand Systems, keeping our client’s technology infrastructure safe and running at peak performance is what we do, and it’s what we do best. To learn more about how we can help you prepare for, and recover from, zero-day cyber attacks, contact us today.