The Lucrative Business With IT Security Gaps!
Meltdown, Spectre, Citrix, Log4 Shell, Log4j: The list of new but well-known IT security gaps are growing daily. However, things only get serious when cybercriminals misuse them for criminal purposes. Exploits are a tool that is often used in this regard. As a “crowbar” or “lock pick”, they help the attackers to penetrate an IT system, operating system or network and cause considerable damage there. In the following sections, you can read what is behind this attack method, what types there are and how you can protect yourself and your company from them.
The threat posed by Internet attacks has progressively intensified. An additional burden is that the attack methods are experiencing greater professionalization, further technical development and economic development – and are consequently gaining considerable clout.
According to the latest study, one in three companies experienced a successful Internet attack in the past year. In addition, three out of four companies state that the attack situation has worsened due to home office and hybrid working models.
Even though brand-new forms of attack are being developed every minute, cybercriminals depend on security gaps and weak points in hardware products and software solutions to spread malware, ransomware and the like. To find them, they rely on so-called exploits.
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What Exactly Is An Exploit?
The umbrella term “exploit” means a computer program with executable data and lines of code with which IT security gaps and vulnerabilities can be shown and exploited. On the other hand, the purely theoretical description of an IT vulnerability.
In general, “exploit-based” attacks represent a potent attack for cybercriminals to inject malicious programs, gain further access, and commit data theft or similar illegal activities. However, exploits can also be used in legitimate security checks, such as checking computer software or network components for widespread vulnerabilities. Exploits can also be used to check the performance of security updates or patches.
The Infection Methods Of Exploits!
Today there are different ways in which exploits can get onto the hardware, software or network component. Two of these most common methods are “drive-by download” and “drive-by exploits”.
- With “drive-by” downloads, infection occurs while surfing on a specially prepared website – without the victims noticing anything. In several situations, entire exploit kits are used. These contain a selection of different exploits for several other targets, for example, for PDF readers or web browsers such as Firefox.
- Drive-by exploits: In a drive-by exploit, the victims of the attack are specifically infected. The exploits are distributed via documents in e-mail attachments, USB sticks, or external hard drives.
How Does An Exploit-Based Attack Work?
An attack with exploits usually takes place in several steps.
- Find security gaps: In the first step, the exploitable IT vulnerability must be identified. The threat actors use the “drive-by download” or the “drive-by exploits” method to transport the exploits to the target systems. As soon as these are installed on the IT systems, they look for vulnerable IT security gaps or vulnerabilities.
- Store malicious code and redirect program flow: As soon as the exploits have discovered a suitable IT vulnerability, they position malicious code that directs the normal program flow to the manipulated program code.
- Become active and reload malware: The active malicious code can then call up the functions of the hijacked IT system and the generally accessible operating system functions. In this way, the exploit collects information about the system, for example, and can load additional malicious code, such as ransomware, a banking Trojan or other malware from the Internet onto the IT system.
Exploits: The Different Variants At A Glance!
Depending on the type of attack used and the timing factors, exploits can be broken down into different types:
- Zero-Day Exploits: Zero-day exploits are arguably the most popular and feared form of exploit. This security gap has been discovered, which the provider of the software or hardware is not yet aware of. This can, therefore, only be found during the very first attack on the system. Because the manufacturer first has to create a patch for the exploit, the attacker has more time to corrupt a significantly more significant number of IT systems or to cause more substantial damage.
- Remote Exploits: Remote exploits target network software vulnerabilities and use manipulated data packets in their attacks.
- Denial of Service Exploits: Denial of Service exploits, also known as DoS exploits, do not execute any unique code on the compromised systems. Instead, they cause the application to overwork.
- SQL injection exploits: Web applications that perform their functions based on SQL databases may be vulnerable to SQL injection exploits.
- Command Execution Exploits: Using a Command Execution exploit, code is steered by the intruder and executed with high privileges on the compromised system.
Measures To Protect Against Zero-Day Attacks
IT security gaps are one of the most significant difficulties for IT security. To give exploit-based attacks as little opportunity as possible, IT managers can ensure that they have the latest software updates and security updates installed on all IT systems and applications. These eliminate the IT security gaps and ensure that these IT systems are protected against known attack patterns. Exploits that carry out the attacks via the web can be suppressed in most situations using modern, next-generation firewall solutions or intrusion detection and intrusion prevention solutions.
Conclusion – Beat Cyber Criminals At Their Own Game!
The growing number of critical IT security gaps and the associated exploit attacks will remain an unavoidable threat in the future. Companies must secure the IT infrastructure with a multi-layered IT security strategy with practical techniques for defending against exploits and IT security training courses. This is the only way to reduce an exploit attack’s risks and consequential damage significantly.