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preventing zero day attacks

How Zero Trust Mitigates Zero-Day Attacks  

Zero-day attacks can be mitigated with zero trust (least privilege access) best practices 

Zero-day attacks, fueled by their stealthy nature and unknown vulnerabilities, pose a significant threat to organizations, worldwide and across all sectors. Attacks like WannCry, Stuxnet, Peta/NotPeta, and the Equifax Breach made major news publications headlines and are a part of the public consciousness. These sophisticated cyber threats can bypass traditional security defenses, making them difficult to detect and mitigate. However, implementing a zero trust security model is an effective approach to combat zero-day attacks.  

We will investigate how zero trust mitigates zero-day attacks by redefining the security perimeter, adopting a proactive defense strategy, enforcing strict access controls, leveraging continuous monitoring, and integrating advanced threat intelligence. Here’s how organizations can fortify their security posture by adopting zero trust principles and effectively safeguarding against the ever-evolving – and ever-current – attacks by nation-state bad actors, hacktivists, and financial opportunists.

Zero-Day Back on the Radar 

Recent weeks have seen a worrying wave of cyberattacks c/o MOVEit, a widely used file transfer application from Progress, which has again raised the ever-worrying issue of zero-day attacks. Bad actors have exploited its vulnerabilities, successfully deployed ransomware, and stolen data via vulnerable MOVEit deployments worldwide.

This situation isn’t just about the scale of the issue; it’s also about the complexity and sophistication of these threats. This new type of cyberattack involves remote code execution, a step beyond the typical “man in the middle” or “dependency tampering” tactics that have been all too common in the past. This is a calculated, tactical intrusion that marks a shift in the cybercriminal playbook of Russian-backed Clop, also known as Lace Tempest, TA505, and FIN11, who have claimed responsibility for this (and many other zero-day exploits) in order to deploy ransomware 

Progress has been quick to address the vulnerabilities in MOVEit, offering patches to mitigate the identified threats, but this painfully highlights the importance of having zero trust protection to mitigate lateral movement by bad actors.  

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has encouraged a combination of network and application protection to respond to the MOVEit attacks – a strategy in synergy with our own.

In the face of escalating cyber threats, protecting against zero-day attacks with the best lateral movement protection and real-time application visibility is an absolute must – enabling organizations to swiftly detect and respond to novel threats. This is vital in managing zero-day exploits, which often exploit unknown vulnerabilities. 

Redefining the Security Perimeter 

Traditional security models rely on perimeter-based defenses, where an organization’s network perimeter is considered a trusted zone. However, this approach has proven inadequate against modern threats, especially zero-day attacks that target the unknown and unpredictable.  

Zero trust redefines the security perimeter by considering every user, device, and application as untrusted until proven otherwise. Regardless of their location, users or devices must be continuously authenticated and authorized before accessing any resources. This approach eliminates the concept of a trusted internal network, ensuring that no entity is exempt from security scrutiny, and potential threats are detected early.  

Adopting a Proactive Defense Strategy 

Zero-day attacks require a proactive defense strategy, as traditional signature-based security solutions are ineffective against unknown threats. With zero trust, organizations implement advanced threat detection and behavioral analytics.

Continuous monitoring of user behavior, network traffic, and application activities allows security teams to detect anomalies and suspicious activities in real-time. By leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence, zero trust models can identify potential zero-day attacks based on behavioral patterns, unusual activities, and known indicators of compromise (IOCs), enabling early detection and rapid response.  

Enforcing Strict Access Controls 

Zero trust mandates granular access controls based on the principle of least privilege. Users and devices are only granted access to the resources they require to perform their specific roles and tasks, reducing the attack surface and limiting the potential damage of zero-day attacks. Through multifactor authentication (MFA), strong encryption, and dynamic access policies, zero trust ensures that even if an attacker gains access to a system, lateral movement is restricted, mitigating the impact of the breach. 

Using microsegmentation is generally considered zero trust best practice, as it enforces the principle of least privilege and restricts network traffic to the granular level. By dividing the network into isolated microsegments, each with its own access controls and security policies, microsegmentation reduces the attack surface and prevents lateral movement in case of a breach. This approach ensures that communication between network segments is strictly controlled and authorized based on user identity, device security posture, and other contextual factors. Through microsegmentation, organizations can achieve a more fine-grained and effective access control mechanism, enhancing their ability to detect and respond to potential threats, ultimately bolstering their overall cybersecurity resilience.

Essentially, attackers might get in during a zero-day exploit, but they’re going nowhere if they do. 

Leveraging Continuous Monitoring 

Zero trust’s emphasis on continuous monitoring is crucial in combating zero-day attacks. Any deviations from normal patterns can be quickly identified by continuously analyzing network traffic, user behaviors, and application interactions. Real-time visibility into all applications and processes running across the organization’s environment is essential. An ongoing deep insight allows security teams to identify potential zero-day threats and abnormal activities, enabling rapid response and containment and further enhancing the efficiency of security teams in addressing emerging threats. 

Taking a behavioral approach enables teams to detect zero-day attacks that exploit unknown vulnerabilities or use new attack techniques – essentially protecting against the inevitable breach we can’t foresee. Organizations can implement timely countermeasures and prevent potential damage by detecting these emerging threats as they happen.  

For optimal zero-day exploit protection, it is possible to leverage behavioral analysis and machine learning algorithms to establish a baseline of normal behavior for each application and process. When deviations from the baseline occur, our own platform identifies these anomalies, including potential zero-day attacks that may exhibit unusual patterns. 

Integrating Advanced Threat Intelligence 

Organizations must integrate advanced threat intelligence to bolster the zero trust security model against zero-day attacks.

Our own TrueFort Platform leverages real-time threat intelligence feeds to stay updated on emerging threats and new zero-day vulnerabilities. This intelligence-driven approach allows the platform to adapt its defenses and provide relevant insights to security teams. Otherwise, security teams must engage in the time–consuming process of proactively subscribing to and digesting threat intelligence feeds, constantly sharing information with industry peers, and constantly collaborating with cybersecurity communities –which isn’t practical for most CISOs and security teams.

Integrating threat intelligence into security platforms and workflows enables faster threat identification and response, enhancing the overall resilience of the zero trust framework. 

Use Your Existing Stack 

Consolidation is important for security teams because it can improve visibility, reduce clutter and concentrate efforts, improve efficiency, and result in cost savings. We are able to offer seamless integration with an organization’s existing security infrastructure, notably Crowdstrike and SentinelOne, enhancing the capabilities of other security tools and enabling a more comprehensive defense against zero-day attacks.

By adopting microsegmentation, service account protection, file integrity monitoring, and workload hardening while leveraging existing agents, security teams can achieve optimal zero-day protection with minimal friction, reduced alert clutter, and fewer overheads. The value of consolidating their security infrastructure becomes priceless as it empowers security teams to enhance their organization’s protection against security threats. With streamlined and integrated security measures, organizations can fortify their defenses, effectively mitigating the risks posed by zero-day attacks and other cyber threats. 

Conducting Regular Security Assessments 

Zero trust security is an ongoing process that requires continuous improvements and refinements. Regular security assessments, including vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and red team exercises, are always beneficial to identify any potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the zero trust infrastructure. By conducting periodic evaluations, organizations can validate the effectiveness of their security measures, address new risks, and optimize their response to zero-day attacks.

When a zero-day attack occurs, it is important to have detailed forensics data. Security teams must be able to quickly investigate the attack, understand its scope, and apply appropriate mitigation strategies to prevent recurrence. Knowing what has happened, with clear actions for remediation, is the path to future-proofing an organization. 

How Can We Help?

The TrueFort Platform plays a vital role in mitigating zero-day attacks by providing real-time application visibility, behavior-based anomaly detection, and proactive security measures. Our capability to detect zero-day threats and facilitate zero-trust microsegmentation empowers organizations to bolster their cybersecurity defenses and enhance their security posture, detect and respond to emerging threats, and protect critical assets from the devastating impact of zero-day attacks.

If you’d like to know more, please get in touch for more information or see our zero-day solution brief. 

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