With the growing number of zero-day attacks of various kinds that traditional antivirus software has not been able to detect effectively, a whole new market segment has emerged. Zero-Day Exploits that are developed, distributed, and executed by Zero Day Attacks, are becoming increasingly common and widespread in the world of cybersecurity and security research and development.
A zero-day exploit is an undisclosed security or device loophole that an attacker at risk may use malicious code to address.
A zero-day attack is for the attacker to develop a malicious program that targets the zero-day vulnerability. The attack can be carried out via email, social media, and other means such as using a social engineering technique.
Once the exploit has been developed, the next step is to deliver the malware to the target system to perform the zero-day attack. The malware is detected by the Threat Emulation Engine so that the hacker can use evasive techniques that try to bypass the sandbox.
The best defense against zero-day attacks is one that focuses on detection and response, as prevention efforts typically fail on unknown vulnerabilities and exploits. Because attackers can exploit zero-day exploits, most organizations are slow to respond to newly discovered vulnerabilities.
Traditional protection tools depend on binary malware signatures or external URLs and server reputations. These protections only recognize known, confirmed threats by design. Code-morphing and obfuscation strategies produce new malware variants more quickly than conventional defense companies would create new signatures. And spam filters do not stop attacks by spear-phishing, which are limited in number. Operating system-level protection including Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is also being decreased. Simultaneously, operating system level protection is being less effective.
Innovative solutions that combine advanced heuristics to protect infections from targeted attacks, such as those used in zero-day attacks of various types, and advanced detection methods.
Existing approaches can be divided into three categories:
There is no guarantee that these methods detect malicious activities, so antivirus solutions that use heuristic analysis can be a great weapon against zero-day malware. Products that can use heuristic techniques to detect new malware by recognizing its similarities to known malware and other features.
Unfortunately, zero-day exploits cannot be detected by antivirus signatures, and existing solutions are unable to detect the possibilities that lead to zero-day attacks on networks. In the future, however, we could detect zero-days from behaviors - tracking algorithms that detect suspicious malicious behavior. By monitoring behavior instead of signatures, antivirus software can detect undetected malware and effectively fight zero-day attacks. A good antivirus also uses a technique called heuristics analysis
Heuristic detection can scan files for suspicious characters and detect new malware without signature recognition. It checks files for features that the system finds questionable rather than requiring an accurate file signature match. This can be performed statically or by emulation where the anti-virus uses a low clocking cycle to simulate the execution of the file.
In this approach, the "suspicious" behavior is mostly a perception dependent on the software's risk thresholds. Since several features that have been observed together may give an alert, heuristic mechanisms to detect legitimate files are noted as malware.
Antivirus heuristics that detect suspicious activity - looking for activity - can also block zero-day attacks. The fact that Anti-Virus Solutions protect against advanced zero-day attacks should underscore the need for effective runtime protection. An ideal security solution for the protection of the runtime should be able to detect a zero-day attack without generating false positive alarms at the same time.
The heuristic engine used by an antimalware program includes rules for the following:
To be able to detect modern zero-day attacks, the solution must be able to monitor as many events as possible, including, but not limited to, monitoring of all system processes including hidden, existing hooks and floating-point vulnerabilities.
Advanced heuristic protection algorithms to detect behavior that indicates malicious activity even before an attack attempt is made within zero days.
Cloud technology now offers a complementary feature to file and device behavioral research. It is also one of some of the top anti-virus packages on the market.
How cloud-based heuristics detection work?
In a nutshell, traditional antivirus software is usually only effective in fending off known threats and is therefore often ineffective in protecting against zero-day exploits. Zero-day attacks do not give security analysts and developers enough time to overcome the threat. Detecting zero-day attacks should be faster and give hackers less time to develop exploit code.
Although virus protection software manufacturers are aware of the dangers of zero-day exploits, not all software has been developed with this goal in mind when it comes to protecting themselves against them. The advantage of a heuristic analysis of code is it can detect not just variants (modified forms) of existing malicious programs but new, previously-unknown malicious programs, as well.
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