Update Now! What SMEs Can Do to Protect Against Exploits

In a world where millions of businesses are infected every day with trojans designed to siphon money from bank accounts and wire it to money mules in distant geographies—whether or not they have the latest anti-malware security software installed—no organisation is immune to compromise.

The culprit in many cases? Software and browser vulnerabilities.

The good news is that new technologies are emerging that can help organisations better protect themselves from security exploits.

What you need to know about computer exploits

A computer exploit is a type of malware that takes advantage of bugs or vulnerabilities, which cybercriminals use to gain illicit access to a system. These vulnerabilities are hidden in the code of the operating system and its applications just waiting to be discovered and put to use by cybercriminals. Commonly exploited software includes the operating system itself, browsers, Microsoft Office, and third-party applications.

A zero-day flaw is any software vulnerability exploitable by hackers that doesn't have a patch yet. The software developers may either not know of the weakness, are developing a fix for it, or are ignoring it. People in the computing world refer to it as a zero-day attack — because the software creators have zero days to respond after.

Why traditional, reactive approaches are ineffective

Once the threat is discovered, IT teams rush to develop signature updates for an outdated security model, yet the threat landscape continues to change, morphing into an entirely different set of attacks or vulnerabilities.

By the time the security fix is executed, the damage has been done. This reactive approach renders existing security solutions largely ineffective, simply because they are too slow to respond and require patching, either by receiving up-to-date malware or network attack signatures, before they can provide an effective defense. While the reactive signature approach provides adequate identification of existing attacks, it is virtually useless in protecting against new and unknown attacks.

How to mitigate exploits

In many ways, your business presents a higher value target for cybercriminals and exploits than the individual consumer—more data to steal, more to hold for ransom, and more endpoints to attack.

So how can you protect your business? You need to get rid of the weaknesses in your system with a good patch management strategy. Here’s some things to keep in mind as you figure out what’s best for your network.

  • Stay up-to-date with updates. Keep an eye on Patch Tuesday and plan around it accordingly. The Microsoft Security Response Center maintains a blog with all the latest update info. You can also subscribe to their email newsletter to stay in the know about what’s being patched every month.
  • Prioritise your updates. The day after Patch Tuesday is sometimes called (tongue firmly in cheek) Exploit Wednesday. Cybercriminals have been made aware of potential exploits and the race is on to update systems before the cybercriminals have a chance to attack. To expedite the patch process, you should consider launching updates at each endpoint from one central agent, as opposed to leaving it up to each end user to complete on their own time.
  • Audit your updates after the fact. Patches are supposed to fix software, but sometimes patches end up breaking things. It’s worth following up and ensuring the patches you pushed out to your network didn’t make things worse and uninstall as necessary.
  • Get rid of abandonware. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of old software that’s past its expiration date—especially at a large business where the purchasing cycle moves with the urgency of a sloth, but discontinued software is truly the worst-case scenario for any network or system administrator. Cybercriminals actively seek out systems running outdated and obsolete software, so replace it as soon as possible.

 

Consider Malwarebytes

With Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection and Malwarebytes Endpoint Detection and Response, we have a solution for all your business security needs.

Contact us for more information