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Protecting Against Zero-Day Threats with Advanced Endpoint Security Solutions

By: ProtectCyber

Posted on: 27/02/2024

Cybercrime remains rampant, with cybercriminals using more sophisticated attack methods to target individuals and businesses. In Australia, there’s a cyberattack every 10 minutes, 43% targeting SMEs. Cybercriminals target both individuals and organizations, resulting in millions of dollars lost every year.

Organizations globally are investing in more advanced security operations to stay ahead of these threats. But while everyone’s doing their best, a zero-day exploit can happen anytime. And if you’re caught unprepared, these security vulnerabilities can deal severe damage.

This article explores how zero-day vulnerabilities happen and how endpoint security solutions protect against them.

What are zero-day threats?

Zero-day happens when security teams are surprised by software vulnerabilities. Since they just learned of the issue, they have zero days to create a patch or update to fix the software vulnerability. Malicious actors can exploit vulnerabilities, giving rise to zero-day attacks.

Since these vulnerabilities are unknown, they are very dangerous and can cause serious security risks. Imagine a thief sneaking through an unlocked backdoor without anyone realizing it. You don’t have any opportunity to prevent the thief or protect yourself before the thief attacks. That’s a zero-day exploit.

How zero-day threats work

It’s normal for any software to have security vulnerabilities. Vendors often know about these issues and release a security patch in an update to prevent any unwanted security incidents. In the unfortunate event that cybercriminals discover a software vulnerability, they can inject an exploit code into the vulnerable system that can victimize users and launch an attack.

These are typically accomplished through socially engineered emails where legitimate users are forced to perform an action that will download malware, such as a malicious computer worm, and steal confidential data. Often, even as developers try to stop the attack, they struggle to discover the vulnerability and patch it.

Examples of zero-day attacks

Some of the popular zero-day attacks include the 2021 Google Chrome zero-day vulnerability, which came from a V8 JavaScript engine bug. Zoom also experienced a zero-day attack in 2020, where hackers were able to remotely access users’ PCs when they ran the program in an older Windows version.

Apple iOS, despite being one of the most secure smartphone platforms, also experienced two sets of zero-day vulnerabilities in 2020. Attackers were able to compromise iPhones remotely. In 2017, Microsoft Word experienced a severely damaging zero-day attack when personal bank accounts were leaked from users who unknowingly installed malware from an MS Word pop-up window.

These organizations already have robust security teams and security protocols, and yet they were compromised. This shows that no one is exempt from zero-day attacks, and the best way to remain protected is to be proactive and vigilant.

Identifying zero-day attacks

While difficult to identify, there are several detection and response techniques meant to unveil any zero-day threats and prevent valuable business data from being compromised. Some of these are:

  • Behavioural analysis: Analysing the behaviour of files, applications, and network traffic to identify unusual or malicious activities. These can be unexpected operating system changes or unusual network traffic patterns.
  • Heuristic analysis: This cybersecurity solution involves using heuristic algorithms to identify new, previously unknown malware based on the characteristics or patterns commonly associated with malicious codes. This technique detects threats that exhibit suspicious behaviour, even if it’s still an unknown threat.
  • Sandboxing: This vulnerability management process involves running suspicious files or programs in a controlled environment (sandbox) to observe their behaviour without affecting the actual system. If the file exhibits malicious behaviour, it can be flagged as potentially harmful.
  • Machine learning: Machine learning algorithms can identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate a zero-day vulnerability. They can be trained on historical data to recognize patterns associated with known threats.
  • Network traffic analysis: Another vulnerability management technique involves monitoring network traffic for unusual patterns or communication that may indicate a zero-day threat. Intrusion detection and prevention systems can help identify suspicious activities.

Aside from the above, users should be consistently educated and trained to recognize and report suspicious activities. They can serve as the first line of defence in identifying social engineering or phishing attempts.

Security teams should also ensure that software, operating systems, and applications are regularly updated with the latest security patches. They should also stay informed on the latest threat intelligence from security researchers, vendors, and industry sources. This will help them prepare and implement appropriate measures for any emerging threats and improve your organization’s security posture.

Using Advanced Endpoint Security for Zero-Day Threat Protection

Organizations are at constant risk from various kinds of malicious actors, and most of these threats happen at various endpoints. An endpoint is any device connected to a network. This can be tablets, mobile devices, laptops, printers, servers, ATMs, POS, wearables, smart systems, and IoT devices. They can also include any network-connected sensor, such as those found in cars, planes, hospitals, and the like.

What happens when endpoints become vulnerable?

Endpoints serve as entry points for threats and malware, especially when the users are careless and unaware of security protocols. The rise of remote work and BYOD (bring your own device) has increased the number of individual end user devices connected to an organization’s network, resulting in more attack surfaces for cybercriminals to gain access to company data. Among their primary targets are remote and mobile devices. These endpoints are challenging to monitor, requiring security teams to adopt advanced protection.

When these entry points are exploited, valuable data can be stolen and lost. Data is now the most valuable asset of any organization, and companies should exert all efforts to have robust data loss prevention measures. When data is compromised, businesses can face grave risks, including ceasing operations. Hackers will always find creative ways to manipulate users to give out sensitive information that can be used to launch an attack.

Data breaches are costly, with the global average in 2023 reaching USD 4.45 million. Aside from cost, reputational damage is also a major concern, and companies have lost consumer trust after announcing they’ve been hit by a data breach. A consumer study found that 81% of respondents would stop engaging with a brand after they’ve suffered a data breach.

How to implement endpoint protection

Endpoint security protection is a must if you want to protect your organization from zero-day threats and data breaches. They protect you from harmful downloads, ransomware, and other malicious applications. There are two types of endpoint security: traditional and advanced.

Traditional endpoint security solutions include antivirus and signature-based protection. They are the most common endpoint protection solution sold, but while these are good lines of defence, they are not enough. Advanced endpoint security solutions have features that provide deep visibility across multiple endpoints and implement multilayered defence to protect end user devices.

A traditional endpoint security vendor can only protect a single endpoint and offer limited visibility. Meanwhile, advanced solutions protect the entire enterprise network and allow you to view all the connected endpoints from a single location.

Legacy solutions must be manually updated or have pre-set updates downloaded to the endpoint’s virus database. Advanced solutions have an administrator responsible for pushing updates to all endpoints, ensuring the entire network is secured. This also removes the dependency on the endpoint user to update their antivirus programs periodically.

How advanced endpoint security works

Endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) are easy to install across devices and lightweight but comprehensive enough. Once configured, they’ll quickly detect malware and other threats by examining files as they enter the network and using the cloud to store an increasing database of threat information. There’s a centralized console installed in a network gateway, and each device that connects to the network is installed with the security solution.

The client software pushes updates to the connected devices and authenticates logins. It also enforces corporate policies and ensures that only approved applications are used. This prevents the use of any unsafe or unauthorized apps.

They can work in tandem with endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions that detect more advanced threats like file-less malware, zero-day attacks, and polymorphic attacks using continuous monitoring.

Key Features of Endpoint Protection Solutions

While there are many endpoint security systems, not all are created equal. When choosing among multiple security products, you should look for the following endpoint security features to arrive at a comprehensive solution.

Device Protection

These are the tools, like the endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, that track endpoint activities and analyse them for any suspicious behaviour. It includes next-generation antivirus and malware protection meant to help IT teams detect and resolve potential threats.

These tools use advanced analytics and machine learning to mitigate ransomware and advanced phishing attacks. They are usually installed on a user endpoint device.

Network Security Control

A good endpoint protection solution should track, monitor, and filter all incoming network traffic. It includes comprehensive firewalls that can identify, detect, and purge potential network security threats.

Application Control

These are controls implemented across apps used within the network and cover any integrations with other application servers. This component determines, monitors, and limits the endpoint access to involved applications and can include patch updates to potential associated security risks.

A common practice is to ensure all applications are updated to their latest versions and implement maximum security protocols. Users should also be allowed to install only essential applications on their devices, and restrictions must be in place to prevent any unauthorized apps from gaining access to the network.

Data Control

This endpoint security component refers to how transmitted and stored data is managed and handled over the network. It includes encryption protocols to prevent data leaks and make it unreadable to attackers.

Browser Protection

Finally, look for an endpoint protection solution that protects users as they browse the web by providing web filters. You can choose what sites users can access or visit while they’re connected to the network. By creating a screen for web browsers, you can control the entry of any malicious files from potentially harmful sites.

Achieve Endpoint Security Protection with ReaQta

Endpoint protection software is crucial to protect organizations from zero-day exploits, and you can’t go wrong with ReaQta, an IBM company. With ReaQta, you get an advanced security solution that uses AI to continuously learn, detect, and respond to new and unknown threats.

You get 360 visibility to processes and applications running on your network while making your endpoints invisible to malware and attackers at the same time. It’s simple and easy to set up, and you can get running in no time since the bulk of the work is handled by intelligent algorithms.

In the event of a breach, ReaQta has a highly automated endpoint security process that guarantees rapid incident response down to a minute. Your team can respond in real time as they look at an easy-to-understand graphical storyline mapping the way the threat unfolds. With this visibility, security experts can automatically neutralize zero-day exploits. Security analysts can also detect lateral movements, knowing how an ongoing attack is progressing so they can implement lightning-fast responses.

Even if attackers manage a successful breach from a zero-day exploit, your team can rapidly mitigate further damage and protect your most valuable resources. As soon as affected resources are identified, they can be isolated immediately and monitored to gather threat intelligence data, further preventing future attacks.

You can also unleash ReaQta’s full potential and use it to go proactive threat hunting and search your entire network infrastructure for specific threats. You’re also guaranteed protection from ransomware with the help of a dedicated behavioural analysis engine that can mitigate crypto-based attacks without interrupting business continuity.

In an uncertain world, zero-day attacks are a reality all organizations must grapple with. But you don’t have to live in fear of the unknown. Advanced endpoint protection solutions like ReaQta provide comprehensive protection and help your company operate with peace of mind. You are assured that whatever zero-day vulnerabilities arise, your business is protected from any unknown endpoint threats. Coupled with user training and other security best practices, you can thrive despite the risks and face uncertainties with courage.