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5 Ways to Prevent Zero Day Attacks 

by Tori Thurmond / March 7th, 2023

Hackers get better at their jobs every day.  

It can be overwhelming to try to stay ahead and keep your organization as secure as possible. New ways to capitalize on vulnerabilities within an organization’s security landscape pop up frequently putting your data at risk. One of the methods threat actors use to gain control of your environment is through zero-day attacks.  

A zero-day attack, or Day Zero, is a software-related attack that takes advantage of a weakness that an organization was not aware of. Many zero-day attacks involve the use of malware, but there are other ways they can occur. These types of attacks can be hard to detect because the anti-virus software may not be able to identify the vulnerability until it is publicly known. To defend against these attacks, a patch must be installed.For more on the intricacies of how zero-days attacks work, who carries them out, and who the main targets are check out this article from Kaspersky.  

Zero-day attacks are hard to prevent, but we’ve compiled 5 ways to help protect your environment.  

1. Make cyber risk a priority.  

If risk management is a priority within your organization, you’ll be faced with fewer vulnerabilities. Here are a few ways to make cyber risk a priority in your organization:  

Know Your Data 

Understand the type of data your organization stores, collects, transmits, or processes and where that data is kept. When you know your data, you’ll be able to keep sensitive data private and take necessary measures to better protect the data you have. Because zero-day attacks are most common with the involvement of malware, here are five data protection best practices you can implement to protect your data from ransomware: 

  • Regularly update software to apply security patches 
  • Back up data to a secure remote location 
  • Implement least-privilege access policies  
  • Follow cloud and physical infrastructure configuration best practices 
  • Carry out regular security risk assessments 
  • Implement security awareness training  

To learn more about how these steps can help protect your organization from harmful ransomware, click here to read the full article.  

Know Your Risk 

While it’s hard to predict when a zero-day attack will happen, you can still assess the risk associated with your data. A regular risk assessment process can help you analyze vulnerabilities and threats to your organization and the organization’s IT systems. Once your risk has been identified, you will rate the impact and likelihood of each security event in order to prioritize risk and determine the best plan for remediation. 

Encrypt Everything 

Without encryption, we have zero privacy. Encryption will protect your data, privacy, customers, and ultimately your business. The harder your data is to access, the less likely you are to experience an attack.   

Use Advanced Authentication  

Password security and the use of strong passwords to protect access to sensitive data is essential. Adding another form of authentication, known as two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (MFA), is a great way to add one more layer of security to protecting the data you’re responsible for. Two-factor identification makes it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your environment because it doesn’t just need passwords and usernames.  

Two-factor authentication consists of a combination of two of the following: something you know (password, PIN), something you have (key fob, security card), something you are (biometrics, fingerprint). Adding an extra login or access step will make it more difficult for threat actors to find a way into your environment.  

Create a Culture of Privacy  

Without policies and procedures, even the strongest controls won’t matter if those policies and procedures aren’t properly communicated to all personnel. Creating a culture of privacy within your organization must start from the top with management and stakeholders and be communicated all the way down to the operations level. Once an organization recognizes how important privacy and security are to those at the top, they will follow suit. 

When all members of the organization are invested in the security and privacy of the data, fewer breaches will occur. Many attacks are the result of human error, and while zero-day attacks involve the use of malware and can fly under the radar until the attackers decide to make a move, company-wide awareness could lead to faster detection and recovery.  

Implement Employee Training Programs 

The best way to be sure that every employee in your organization is prepared and equipped with security and privacy awareness is by developing and implementing a regular employee training program. Training employees on an annual or semi-annual basis will help keep them up to date on emerging security trends and create employees who are privacy aware.  

2. Agree on cybersecurity basics.  

Develop a common understanding of where threats lie. 75% of zero-days are being found on Microsoft, Apple, and Google, and the most common threats leading to breaches include credentials, phishing, vulnerabilities, and botnet. Making sure all members of your organization are aware of these common vulnerabilities can help prevent attacks.  

Many companies are guilty of these cloud security mistakes.  You don’t have to be one. Ensure your controls are following industry best practices, such as Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks. Implementing the following controls can help protect your organization from attacks:  

When vulnerabilities and best practices to mitigate those vulnerabilities are common knowledge within your organization, attacks will become less of a threat.  

3. Protect members of your supply chain.  

How are you assessing the security posture of not only your organization but also your vendors and supply chain? 62% of system intrusions come through supply chain partners. You can secure your extended enterprise through Third Party Risk Management (TPRM) and risk assessments. Audit your vendors based off of a financial cost scenario. Think about how much money you are giving them and the risk associated with working with them.  

Do you know how your vendors are handling your data? Are they working from a facility on desktop computers where your data never leaves the premises? Or do your vendors work from home on laptops? Are you sure your data is being encrypted properly by your third-party developers? Have you ever met your vendors in-person or seen their working environment to ensure your data is being handled with care?  

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to TPRM. From payroll processors to electricians, managing vendor risk is essential to ensuring that a service organization is secure. During a SOC 2 audit, your auditor will check that your vendors are complying with the necessary framework to keep your organization as secure as possible. 

4. Educate your employees and contractors.  

Create cyber-savvy users who are familiar with security procedures and can identify vulnerabilities. 82% of breaches involve human error. By ensuring that employees know the organization’s security expectations, the number of breaches will be significantly reduced.  

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to implement a security awareness program to ensure that all members of your organization can operate within your organization’s security environment. During an audit, your auditor will check to make sure you have an awareness program in place to keep employees updated on your organization’s latest security initiatives. Click here to read about five tools that can help with your security awareness training.  

Security best practices may not come naturally to all members of your organization, especially the non-technical roles within the company. However, regardless of the position, everyone should be equally committed and informed on how to keep the organization secure and how to identify threats quickly. The fewer human errors that are made, the less likely attacks, including zero-day attacks, are to occur.  

5. Come together and help others along the way.  

Share your cybersecurity knowledge and experiences with others. Our greatest defense against threat actors is awareness. We all have a part to play in becoming security champions. Build a comprehensive protection network and dedicate time for yearly training. Make sure all members of your organization know that they have a responsibility to uphold when it comes to the organization’s security posture.  

Are You Prepared To Face Today’s Threats Confidently? 

At KirkpatrickPrice, we know it can be intimidating to think about updating security policies and finding the best way to protect your environment, especially with new, harder-to-detect threats.   

We have resources and tools to help you with your security goals. Our experts work to stay on top of the latest cybersecurity news and want to partner with you to help you face the latest threats confidently. Connect with a KirkpatrickPrice expert today to answer any questions you may have about updating your policies or security best practices.  

About the Author

Tori Thurmond

Tori Thurmond has degrees in both professional and creative writing. She has over five years of copywriting experience and enjoys making difficult topics, like cybersecurity compliance, accessible to all. Since starting at KirkpatrickPrice in 2022, she's earned her CC certification from (ISC)2 which has aided her ability to contribute to the company culture of educating, empowering, and inspiring KirkpatrickPrice's clients and team members.