Exploit Attacks are Getting Better – Are your Protected?

December 13th, 2019
Exploit Attacks are Getting Better

Ransomware. Zero-day malware.

These are two phrases you hear about often in a world battling highly-evolved cyberattacks on a day-to-day basis. These attacks can be categorized in the larger umbrella of ‘exploit attacks’ and before you think, only big businesses are at the receiving end of such attacks, think again. 

Exploit attacks don’t play favorites between individuals and businesses. Your home PC is as vulnerable to an exploit attack, as a business computer. 

For the cybercrime ecosystem, unsuspecting home users and their computers are easier targets. You may not be aware that a program you are using regularly on your PC has a vulnerability that can be exploited by cybercriminals.  

Scary, isn’t it? 

What is an 'exploit'?

That’s why it’s important to understand what exploits are and how to protect your home computer against these constantly evolving cybercrime tactics.

What is an ‘exploit’?

An exploit is a piece of code used by malicious actors that leverages a software vulnerability. The goal is to gain remote access to a network, move deeper into that network, or to get enhanced network privileges. When it comes to home-based computers, there are two exploit objectives. One is to get inside the computer system and access sensitive user information stored on the device. The other is to use it as a conduit to get into the user’s organization’s network.

Common computer programs, including Microsoft Office and web browsers, are often an easy backdoor for malware to access a computer and its data. These programs are particularly vulnerable to zero-day exploits. This is industry jargon for previously undiscovered malware without a patch or signature written and distributed for it.

Exploit examples

That “innocuous” browser you are using has vulnerabilities. This is illustrated by Firefox's remote code execution zero-day vulnerability and the many security flaws researchers keep finding in Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Think your favorite operating system is safe? We have news for you: it isn’t. For example, a recently identified Windows 7 zero-day vulnerability can be used in conjunction with a Chrome exploit to infect Windows systems.

Evolved exploits that fly under the radar

Cybercriminals are also using “file-less” attacks that do not use an actual malware file. These attacks are levelled at native applications. They’re not about asking someone to download a malicious file. Rather, they exploit vulnerabilities in the application and basically make it dance to a specific tune.

Occasionally, an exploit is also a part of a multi-pronged attack plan. The exploit doesn’t use a malicious file. Instead, it relies on a different malware that takes the form of a backdoor Trojan or even spyware. This steals valuable user data from the infected system.

Exploiting the 'unawareness' aspect

The modus operandi of zero-day exploits relies on identifying a vulnerability that hasn’t been patched. It then exploits this vulnerability before the patch is released. Also, it relies on the fact that home users are often slow to install patches. Typically, patching is not on their ‘must-do list’ for securing their computers from cyberattacks. Some home owners tend to run unsupported or pirated versions of their OS and apps, making their system even more vulnerable. An unpatched software/OS/app is an open window. It offers easy access to cybercriminals into your computer system to run an exploit code.

Exploit prevention is not just a box you tick

Exploits have been used in different forms for several years and have evolved over time. Today, their file-based and file-less versions are playing havoc with vulnerable computers. It’s imperative that innovative anti-exploit protection is used to combat advanced exploits.

Simple tips to steer clear of exploits:

  • Keep on top of all software patches and security releases and be sure to install them when available
  • Always maintain security hygiene while surfing the web and making online payments, and install apps and software from legitimate websites/sources only
  • Use common sense as your best friend and stick to safe computing habits
  • Install an all-encompassing home internet security that offers comprehensive anti-malware defense along with next-gen security features such anti-exploit, anti-ransomware capabilities and more
  • Don’t just keep your antivirus up to date – keep your apps (MS Office, Adobe etc.) and OS updated as well

Need of the hour – real-time threat prevention

So, here’s the question. How can home users protect their computers from the ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over their computer systems in the form of exploits? The answer lies in the Sophos Home Premium with anti-exploit capability. Sophos Home Premium is a security solution that has outperformed multiple vendors at stopping exploits. Don’t just take our word for it. Take the 30-day free trial and check for yourself.

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