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Zero-day attacks in distributed edge environments

Zero-day attacks in distributed edge environments

Distributed IoT-connected devices face growing zero-day attacks that compromise your systems.
March 30, 2023

Zero-day attacks refer to a category of cyber-attacks that take advantage of undisclosed and previously unknown vulnerabilities in software or hardware. Such vulnerabilities may be exploited by hackers to compromise targeted systems, steal sensitive information or launch further attacks.

They are commonly known as ‘zero-day’ due to the lack of time available to the cybersecurity team to release a patch or fix before the vulnerabilities are leveraged by attackers. Zero-day attacks often involve malware, a type of malicious software created to cause harm, interfere with normal system operation, or gain unauthorized access to targeted computers.

A zero-day attack is a sophisticated cyber-attack strategy where a hacker exploits a zero-day vulnerability that has not been discovered by the target organization. The attacker then crafts a zero-day exploit, which is a specific type of attack method that takes advantage of the newly discovered vulnerability to launch a successful attack.

The exploit could involve the use of specialized software tools, techniques, and payloads that allow the attacker to bypass the security mechanisms of the targeted system and gain unauthorized access, execute malicious code, or exfiltrate sensitive data.

A DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack can be classified as a zero-day attack if the attacker employs novel techniques or methods that have not been previously encountered or analyzed by cybersecurity professionals. Such new and untested tactics pose a significant challenge to cybersecurity experts who may struggle to mitigate the impact of the attack and defend against its effects.

In this article, we will explore the risks and impacts of zero-day attacks on edge infrastructure and provide practical advice on how to protect against them.

What are these attacks in the context of edge infrastructure?

Zero-day attacks on edge infrastructure have become a critical concern for enterprises using edge computing for their digital transformation. According to a report from Gartner, it is predicted that there will be more than 43 billion IoT-connected devices by the year 2023. As more and more devices and systems are connected to the edge, the attack surface for hackers continues to expand, making it easier for them to exploit zero-day vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to critical systems.

In edge infrastructure, zero-day attacks are often executed by exploiting vulnerabilities in connected devices, such as routers, sensors, and other IoT devices. Hackers can gain access to these devices through various means, including brute force attacks, social engineering, or exploiting weak passwords. Once they have infiltrated the network, attackers can leverage malware to assume control of the devices and associated data, potentially causing extensive damage, service disruption, or unauthorized exfiltration of confidential information.

As edge computing continues to evolve and mature, businesses are exploring the technology's potential to enhance their value proposition. With its high performance, reduced latency, and greater scalability, edge computing is expected to become increasingly popular among enterprises in the coming years. However, a comprehensive distributed edge computing architecture must include a robust cybersecurity platform that can provide real-time protection against various attacks and secure critical data and operations.

Recent research has identified that mitigating zero-day attacks on edge computing hardware presents unique challenges due to the unavailability of original source code for programs running on the machine. Additionally, in several cases, the software is embedded within firmware and cannot be modified for inspection, further complicating the analysis of potential vulnerabilities.

What are some potential zero-day attack risks for businesses employing edge devices?

Zero-day attacks can have severe consequences, including data breaches, system downtime, and even physical damage to infrastructure. These attacks can be part of many industries, from retail and smart cities to healthcare and autonomous vehicles. For example, in the context of smart cities, if the attacker gains control of the traffic management system, they could cause chaos and potentially put lives at risk by manipulating traffic signals or causing accidents.

One of the famous zero-day attacks is the Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm that targeted industrial control systems used in Iran’s nuclear facilities. The malware specifically targeted programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which automate and monitor electro-mechanical equipment, by exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities in the Siemens Step7 software used in the industrial computers. The attackers could covertly manipulate the PLCs, causing physical damage to the equipment and sabotaging the nuclear program.

How to mitigate these cyberattacks in your edge infrastructure?

To protect against zero-day attacks on edge infrastructure, businesses can implement a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity, including firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, endpoint security solutions, and regular software updates. By taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity, businesses can help to mitigate the risks and impacts of zero-day attacks on edge infrastructure.

AI EdgeLabs security platform uses multiple layers of threat detection and prevention software. This platform adopts a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity that provides a robust and resilient security posture. The approach ensures that even if one layer is breached, other layers can still provide protection.

This strategy is designed to mitigate the risk of zero-day attacks by deploying proactive and reactive security measures. Proactive measures involve regular software updates and implementing security policies, while reactive measures include threat intelligence and detection tools.

AI EdgeLabs security platform has the ability to monitor edge devices and infrastructure in real time and provide alerts to security teams when anomalous activity is detected using behavioral analysis to detect unusual activity patterns that may indicate a zero-day attack.

AI EdgeLabs security platform also leverages the advanced capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning to help identify and respond to zero-day attacks more quickly and accurately by analyzing large volumes of data and identifying patterns and anomalies.

By implementing advanced cybersecurity measures and best practices, businesses can help to mitigate the risks and ensure the safety of edge infrastructure in any application. In the next article, we will look at how the AI EdgeLabs platform will help you secure your edge infrastructure.

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