Cybersecurity attacks are a serious problem for businesses of all sizes and across industries, but one of the most challenging types of attack to prevent is the zero-day attack – those attacks that occur after a flaw has been identified but before the developer has been able to create a patch. 

After all, in order to avoid zero-day attacks, organizations need to employ a high level of security, essentially creating a second line of defense at every level so that it doesn’t matter where hackers deploy an attack. That’s a lot to ask, but in many ways it’s also necessary.

In the battle against zero-day attacks, organizations need to embrace a layered security process powered by gamification – a race against hackers, in a sense – because right now the risks are too high. Responding after an attack is unsustainable, so instead of attacking a problem, it’s time to outsmart the hackers at their own game.

Break It Down

One of the best tools that businesses have when seeking to prevent zero-day attacks is segmentation, or breaking down operation technology (OT) and ICS network environments into separate areas. By segmenting the OT ecosystem, your organization can make itself less vulnerable by defining different security areas. In combination with a high level of visibility throughout the network, segmentation ensures that not only is access to any given part of the system more tightly secured, but the key individuals will know where everything is and be alerted in the event of an attempted breach.

Know Your Network

As noted above, visibility is another key aspect of a strong cybersecurity strategy, and this is as true when securing IT systems as it is with OT. However, because technology is currently evolving so rapidly, there tends to be a lot going on within organizations’ that isn’t easily seen or understood. What’s happening with AI on the factory floor, for example? Do you understand the software supply chain? If you don’t know what programs you’re working with, you can’t monitor them for vulnerabilities.

A Culture Of Caution

Because there are so many major security concerns straining businesses today, establishing clear security protocols should be second nature, but in too many businesses this is still a challenge. That’s why the battle to defend against zero-day attacks needs to include good cyber hygiene across the organization. 

Cyber hygiene is one of those issues on which cybersecurity experts tend to sound like broken records, and yet it hasn’t sunk in with businesses after all this time. Consisting of steps like using strong passwords, knowing how to detect phishing attacks, and promptly installing patches, good cyber hygiene is really the bare minimum everyone should be doing to prevent zero-day attacks and other hacks. If your staff is falling short, then it’s critical that your organization find ways to motivate them to engage industry best practices.

Zero-day attacks are, in many regards, not your fault. They’re a challenge that combines the tenacity of bad actors with the inherent impossibility of racing the clock. You can’t apply a patch that doesn’t exist, after all, but you can develop infrastructure and policy that stands strong against attacks – and that’s a great starting point.