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The Zero-Day Monster

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the time of year for horrors and haunts of all flavors. For kids, it’s all fun and games and reruns of old cheesy terror flicks and slasher films. But for your business, other kinds of scares might be lurking in the shadows…

One of the big cyber security monsters out there is the ever-looming threat of Zero-Day exploitation. A Zero-Day is a vulnerability that seemingly pops out of nowhere, and gives its victims no time to fight back. The name refers to the “Day 0” of discovery, the very first day an issue raises its ugly head in the wild. It’s often reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” as a seemingly benign piece of code or software becomes spontaneously dangerous.

“Ensure that you place all devices safely behind boundaries. IoT devices, internal servers, printers, etc. should never be exposed to the internet.”

Because the issue is previously unknown, it may take time for a mitigation to even be available. Every day spent trying to find a patch, hotfix, or workaround is a day when exploitation of the issue may occur in your environment. And while over time the threat can dissipate and fixes can be applied, the impact of that initial “30 Days of Night” can be devastating.

This can make a business feel helpless. How can you protect against issues that don’t even “exist” publicly yet? Just like keeping silver bullets on hand for the next werewolf uprising, there are some precautions you can take to ensure your assets are safe.

  • Ensure Proper Patching – Board up those windows so the Zombies can’t get in.

This might seem odd. Isn’t the whole point about Zero Days that they don’t have available fixes yet? It turns out that a lot of Zero-Day exploits actually end up targeting systems that may already be considered obsolete, or have patches available that can reduce the scale of the damage a Zero-Day exploitation can perform. Keeping up-to-date on all software, hardware, and operating system patches is the first key step to ensure nothing slips in to bite! It also inspires good habits and security hygiene. Being ready to apply patches when they become available can save business assets in the nick of time!

  • Train employees to “See the Vampire” and reject social engineering attempts.

Many Zero-Day exploits, not unlike many monsters, actually need to be “invited in” in order to take advantage of vulnerabilities. The most common way a vampire finds his way into someone’s lounge? Why, he just sweet talks! Teaching employees how to identify potential threats such as phishing can prevent attacks in the form of malicious files and remote access, and ensures that vulnerable vectors are safe behind a wall of security savvy defenders. Every member of your staff can benefit from security awareness training, as any one of them can fall for the charms of these cyber blood-suckers.

  • Manage your traffic—don’t let the Terrors from the Deep dock on your ports.

This can be a bit nuanced, and associated with Social Engineering risk, but ensuring that traffic on the network is controlled (either with firewall rules or other protective measures) can be critical in preventing the slimy tentacles of malicious forces from touching your network. Ports and services that face the internet are juicy targets for crustaceans and sharks looking for particular vulnerable machines or software. Ensure that you place all devices safely behind boundaries. IoT devices, internal servers, printers, etc. should never be exposed to the internet. Devices that do need to access the outside should go through proper channels (such as a VPN, or other encryption), and only allow ports to open when services are intentionally running. Leaving too many open areas as ships go to and fro just means more opportunities for Lovecraftian horrors to crawl out and strike!

Contact Pivot Point Security to make sure your network and systems are as secure as you think they are. Our experts have helped hundreds of companies of all sizes gain maximum value from their vulnerability assessment and penetration testing efforts.

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