As awareness about the many dangers and potentially devastating effects posed by cyber-attack increases, so many of the different names, phrases and terminologies gain greater prominence in the public lexicon. With malware, denial of service, ransomware and hacking all breaking out from the tech pages into mainstream consciousness thanks to some extremely high-profile incidences in recent years.
You can now add Zero Day leaks (alternately, exploits or attacks) to that ever-growing list. Like the other terms, zero day is not a new thing. IT and cyber-security experts have been aware of it for more than a decade. Only now, however, is it coming to the attention of the wider business community.
And for good reason.
Zero Day Defined
A Zero Day leak is a vulnerability within your IT network; a fault or gap that develops somewhere on your system that has the potential to be exploited by hackers and other online ne’er do wells.
It’s a common issue. A change in software, or a small error within a programme may be enough to create a gap or weak spot in the overall security of the IT system. When these glitches are discovered, programmers will work to rectify the situation as quickly as possible – sending out patches to fix the ‘hole’ or even a full software update.
The problem, however, is that gap in between the discovery of the problem, and the fix. If it’s discovered by those with nefarious intentions, then it has the potential to be exploited.
And it’s an exploitation that has no defence, since the vulnerability was unknown to the programmers.
They have zero time to protect against the attack – hence the name.
How to protect against such a threat
Modern anti-virus software is delivered via the cloud; offering significant benefits over more traditionally downloaded variants. For, while patching will invariably close the gap, there’s a potentially harmful time lag.
Cloud delivery ensures that system scans occur in real time, the software updating and reacting to threats the instant they emerge.
Email remains the single largest route for malicious material to find its way to your system. And the perfect vehicle to drive malware towards any software vulnerability. Awareness from all network users on the spear-phishing threat should be a given; which can be bolstered further through effective email gateway protection. Again, this would typically be a cloud-based protection, where files, attachments and other downloads can be scanned for threat indicators before they gain access to your system.
Software and online applications should be updated as swiftly as possible to ensure that they are offering the most up-to-date level of protection. The longer you leave it before updating, the more you are risking vulnerabilities in your own system. Most of the commonly used web browsers (Chrome, IE, Firefox) update automatically before re-opening (so ensure all browsers are shut down after use). Instantly updating all other apps further enhances protection.
Zero day leaks can be a major issue for your network if you let you guard down. But like all on and offline security measures, prevention is always better than cure. Be aware that your system is always prone to vulnerability. There are always new threats on the horizon, and they will invariably target potential weak spots for easy access and maximum harm. Ensuring that you have real-time security measures in place, with robust anti-phishing barriers, while remaining diligent in use, ever mindful of risks, and adopting a policy of rapid updating of software and applications, gives you the best chance of avoiding a zero day leak disaster.