Zero-days, fileless attacks are now the most dangerous threats to the enterprise

These attacks cost the average organization millions and SMBs are the worst affected.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Zero-day vulnerabilities and fileless attacks are now deemed the most dangerous threats to the enterprise.

According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Barkly, called the "2018 State of Endpoint Security Risk report," nearly two-thirds of enterprise players have been compromised in the past 12 months by attacks which originated at endpoints, which the organization says is a 20 percent increase year-on-year.

Such attacks can prove costly, with the average company enduring a cost of $7.12 million, or $440 per endpoint.

Small to medium-sized businesses, which may not have the same cybersecurity solutions or teams in place due to investment limitations, suffer more -- with the same damage cost of endpoints close to double at $763.

In total, the average cost of a successful endpoint-based attack has increased by roughly 42 percent year-on-year.

According to the survey, which recorded the responses of 660 IT and cybersecurity professionals, zero-day vulnerabilities and fileless attacks are today's biggest threats to organizations.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are previously unknown bugs which are unpatched by vendors. These types of security flaws, depending on the severity and the affected software, can be used to conduct attacks including account hijacking, network compromise, and data theft.

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Fileless attacks, however, leverage exploits or launch scripts from memory in order to circumvent detection by antivirus solutions.

"76 percent of successful attacks leveraged unknown and polymorphic malware or zero-day attacks, making them four times more likely to succeed in compromise compared to traditional attack techniques," Ponemon says.


In last year's survey, the organization estimated that 29 percent of attacks faced by the enterprise in 2017 were fileless and this was expected to rise to 35 percent this year.


Respondents of this year's survey estimated that 37 percent of attacks launched against their companies were zero-day attacks -- a 48 percent increase from 2017 -- whereas 35 percent utilized fileless techniques.

Resolving zero-day vulnerabilities requires the creation of patches, but implementing these fixes can often be delayed due to the need to triage threats.

Not all zero-days are created equal and they will not hold the same risk for every organization -- but it just takes one to be overlooked for a successful attack to take place.

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The research estimates the average delay in applying a patch to a vulnerable endpoint is 102 days due to triage, testing, and implementation requirements.

Together with fileless attacks which can dance around traditional, signature-based security solutions, organizations are struggling to keep up with modern security issues -- and so 70 percent have already replaced or plan to replace antivirus solutions for more modern alternatives within the next 12 months.

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High false positive rates, management complexity, and inadequate protection were cited as the top frustrations of IT professionals when it comes to standard antivirus solutions.

"This increase in successful attacks have exposed a gap in protection that existing solutions and processes are not addressing," said Larry Ponemon, Chairman and Founder of the Ponemon Institute. "Antivirus products missed more attacks than they stopped in 2018 and organizations believe their current antivirus is effective at blocking only 43 percent of attacks."

Cybersecurity is an ongoing problem for SMBs and enterprise players alike. Data breaches alone are becoming a daily occurrence, with British Airways, the US State Department, the Pentagon, and Facebook making up only a handful of recent victims.

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