Vulnerabilities and exploits are closely related security concepts which are often confused but it is critically important to understand the difference in order to secure your IT systems as tightly as possible. Let us delve deep into each concept one by one to know them a little more:
The weak spots in software code which allows an attacker to exploit them to steal data or expose your organization are referred to as vulnerabilities. They usually enter the code base either at the time of initial app building or whenever an update is made. To avoid them slipping in you must rely on mobile/web app development experts who are adept at following best coding practices.
Examples of highly publicized vulnerabilities
Two major vulnerabilities which garnered quite a lot of media attention are mentioned below:
- Heartbleed was a security bug within the OpenSSL cryptography library mostly used to implement the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. This vulnerability made it possible for cyber criminals to access private data by exploiting any OpenSSL instance using TLS. This bug entered the software in 2012 and was patched in April 2014, on the day it was publicized.
- Shellshock was a family of security bugs that affected the widely used Unix Bash shell and was disclosed in September 2014. This vulnerability enabled hackers to execute DDoS attacks. Some hackers used Shellshock to execute arbitrary commands to gain unauthorized access to software systems.
Although it may not be possible for you to ensure that your codes are free of vulnerabilities, still the best way to reduce the attack surface is by setting up automatic updates for all your softwares and IT infrastructure. Moreover, you can talk with our software development specialists to conduct vulnerability assessment i.e. set up alerting system that will scan your systems regularly and in case vulnerabilities are detected then they will create a patch to seal those vulnerabilities.
Exploits can be a chunk of data, a piece of software or arbitrary commands that a person with malicious intent uses to take advantage of vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities open the door for exploits which infers that vulnerabilities are must for successful exploits and not the other way round.
Instances of exploits
Some well-known exploits that cyber criminals executed by using vulnerabilities are as follows:
- Dyn DDoS Attack took place in October 2016 and is considered one of the biggest DDoS attacks of all time. The attack on Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that powers Twitters, Amazon, Netflix and many others, was executed using unsecured DVRs and IP cameras to overwhelm its servers resulting in a massive internet outage. Dyn confirmed that Mirai botnet was the primary source of the attack.
- Retail POS Breaches include the famous Target breach in 2013 and Home Depot breach in 2014. Both the exploits were accomplished using stolen third-party vendor credentials and malware in order to scrape sensitive private data.
Securing against exploits
How would you protect your system from exploits that use vulnerabilities still unknown to you? Well, you can reduce the success of potential exploits by incorporating these security systems:
- Multifactor authentication: It is a security system that requires more than one authentication like password, token and biometric verification to verify the user’s identity for a login or transaction. Hence, it becomes harder for unauthorized users to break into your system.
- Account lockout: It is about instituting lockouts after a certain number of passwords attempts so that attackers cannot reach out to the correct one eventually after trying for umpteen times. If users have forgotten their credentials then they can retrieve it with the help of IT team.
Using virtual keyboard: Entering your private data such as online banking credentials or any personal data for that matter from a regular keyboard can leave you at a risk of data interception by some spyware, Trojan program or keyloggers. Using virtual keyboard can ensure protection of your sensitive data from malicious programs.
Continuous monitoring: You can reach our highly skilled team of software development experts for security solutions to constantly keep a watch on your software infrastructure and systems so that immediate action can be taken if any suspicious activity is noticed.
Understanding the basics of vulnerabilities and exploits is crucial for your company because you cannot remain detached from the internet in this era of digital transformation. Therefore, reach out to us for securing your IT infrastructure from cyber threats. We are Software Development Agency securing clients from potential cyber attacks and helping them focus their entire attention to core business operations, over the years.