How To Protect Your Data From a Zero-Day Exploit

How To Protect Your Data From a Zero-Day Exploit


Cybersecurity is a constant dance between hackers and security professionals with the former trying to exploit vulnerabilities in systems and the latter trying to remove them. In many cases, hackers take advantage of systems that haven’t been properly patched or configured, or they try to trick humans into giving them access. However, sometimes they discover an exploit that has yet to be noticed by cybersecurity professionals. This is when a zero-day exploit is possible.

What Is a Zero-Day Attack?

IT and cybersecurity professionals are quite proactive about finding and fixing vulnerabilities. However, they can never find them all. A zero day exploit is an exploit of a vulnerability that has only just been discovered. In other words, it happens when hackers find a vulnerability, create a method for exploiting it and do so before the cybersecurity community is even aware of it.

These attacks are significantly less common than exploits using known vulnerabilities or social engineering-based attacks. However, they do happen, and the consequences can be especially damaging because many systems are unprepared for the zero-day exploit. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to be ready.

1. Implement Proactive Security Measures

Just because a vulnerability has been found doesn’t mean it can easily be exploited if there are other obstacles. For example, a good network firewall can help to detect suspicious traffic. A zero-trust security model (one in which no traffic gets a free pass, even if it is within your network) can also be very helpful. Similarly, anti-virus solutions can detect unpermitted software running on your systems.

2. Back Up Your Data

Many exploits focus on stealing or encrypting data (ransomware). Furthermore, if you get hit with an exploit, you can always rebuild your systems as long as you still have access to your data. Thus, it is essential to set up good backup practices. With effective and regular backups, you can easily just restore your data once you have been able to eliminate the threat.

3. Carefully Manage Access Permissions

One of the simplest ways to ensure that your network is protected from any exploit is to have strict access permission controls. In many cases, exploits allow access to one part of the network or one person’s credentials (or sometimes multiple). If devices and users only have access to the data and systems that they need, you can greatly mitigate the damage done by a successful exploit.

4. Use Intrusion Protection

Intrusion protection functions sort of like a firewall, but it is a little more intelligent. The purpose of a network intrusion protection system is to monitor the network for any unusual activity. It is based on patterns rather than known exploits. Thus, unlike antimalware products, it doesn’t require updates to its database. Instead, it can simply identify activity that doesn’t fit with the normal flow of work on the network. This is best used as an additional layer of security added to standards such as firewalls and antimalware.

5. Have a Response Plan

While the idea of a cybersecurity professional desperately fighting off a hacker digitally in real-time is a Hollywood fantasy, there is a lot that can be done to respond to an attack in the moment. In some cases, locking down traffic, especially to and from critical systems can mitigate some of the damage (after all, data transfers don’t happen instantaneously). Furthermore, having a defined procedure to assess and respond to any breaches can help you to get ahead of any of the subsequent fallout. It is also a good idea to notify law enforcement promptly.

Learn More

The above information will help you to be ready for a zero-day exploit. However, it is important to remember that no computer system is completely invulnerable. Therefore, it is important to stay proactive and to prepare for any possible exploits. There is no way to know what will happen with a zero-day attack, but you can at least develop a robust IT stack that is ready for anything.