A zero-day attack leaves your software vulnerable to being exploited by hackers. It is a serious security risk. Cybercriminals are becoming more and more adept at breaching IT security systems.

The black market continues to grow with the increased selling of exploits and vulnerabilities. A zero-day attack can be sold for thousands and in some cases allow an infiltrator up to 12 months of undetected access. This is primarily due to zero-day attacks being completely unknown by the affected software until it has compromised the software.

You’ve more than likely heard in the news about the Microsoft bug that, although a patch was developed for, many devices remained vulnerable. The malware, given the name "Adylkuzz", had been spreading for weeks before it was detected. Detecting invisible malware, such as Adylkuzz, is imperative to protecting your critical system files.

Malware, such as Adylkuzz or WannaCry, can be worrisome to your company. There are of course ways you can identify and protect yourself against a zero-day attack. One of the best options is to have file integrity monitoring software in place. Here are three ways a file integrity monitoring system can identify zero-day attacks.

1. Record Changes

File integrity monitoring can detect changes in your IT environment. You’ll not only want the changes detected, but you’ll need a system that records all changes within the file system. It keeps track of cryptographic hashes of files at different points in time. Hashing is used for file verification. Your file integrity monitoring system can then detect positive, neutral, and negative changes.

Malware entering your key server platforms will be detected, but your monitoring records should provide you with the following details:

  • What function or application made a change
  • When a change was made
  • Who initiated the change
  • Before-and-after state of the file
  • Determine if the change was authorized or not

When your monitoring systems record changes within, you are able to quickly identify where attacks came from no matter how subtle or stealthy. You are then able to rectify the situation brought on by the undesirable changes.

2. Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring allows an administrator to review and evaluate, delete, and modify the use of data on software. There are 8 essential changes that your FIM should be monitoring:

  • File Contents
  • Configurations files
  • Servers
  • Network Devices
  • Databases
  • Active Directory
  • POS Systems
  • Hypervisor Configurations

Real-time monitoring protects your software from breaches that can exfiltrate data in hours or minutes. As we saw previously with the Adylkuzz situation, it went undetected for weeks. An organization wants to find the malware immediately and be able to rectify it instantaneously. Ultimately your business should find the best file integrity monitoring software for keeping cybercriminals out before it is too late. That is why a real-time response to your software is arguably the most important feature your FIM should be utilizing.

3. Create File Integrity Policies

When creating file integrity policies there are a few questions you should be asking yourself in order to get the most accurate monitoring:

  • What files/data are more critical to my organization?
  • Where is a likely spot that malware or other malicious items would attach?
  • What are the greatest areas of risk in my IT environment?

One of the best practices of file integrity monitoring is creating specific policies. When you narrow down your policies for your files and directory targets, your FIM becomes more efficient at detecting negative changes. For example, do not target directories and files you know will change over time. This can create false positives, while distinct exclusions of files reduce the "noise" and, in turn, false positives.

When looking to identify zero-day attacks, file integrity monitoring software is key to detecting malicious attacks before they can do extensive damage or cause a breach. When your file integrity monitoring is able to do the above, you can ensure your files and directories are secure from cybercriminals.

An example of file integrity monitoring technology that can benefit your business, is CimTrak. It falls into the three ways to identify zero-day attacks so you can mitigate risks and differentiate between good, neutral, and bad changes within your IT environment.

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Jacqueline von Ogden
Post by Jacqueline von Ogden
September 14, 2017
Since 1999, Jacqueline has written for corporate communications, MarCom agencies, higher education, and worked within the pharmacy, steel and retail industries. Since joining the tech industry, she has found her "home".

About Cimcor

Cimcor’s File Integrity Monitoring solution, CimTrak, helps enterprise IT and security teams secure critical assets and simplify compliance. Easily identify, prohibit, and remediate unknown or unauthorized changes in real-time