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A Brief Look at Exploits

A Brief Look at Exploits
  • An exploit is a set of commands, data, or software that leverages a vulnerability for malicious activities.
  • Almost all commonly identified vulnerabilities are posted on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database.

Exploits can compromise the confidentiality or availability of systems. For this reason, it is essential to understand what exploits are and how to mitigate the associated risks.

Types of exploits

Exploits are broadly classified into these five categories.

  • Hardware exploits that leverage firmware flaws, configuration management issues, and poor encryption methods.
  • Software exploits that abuse programming errors or other flaws, as the name suggests.
  • Network exploits that are based on flaws ranging from poor passwords to unencrypted communication lines.
  • Personnel exploits that cover all manual errors, social engineering attacks, and the like.
  • Physical exploits related to access controls and physical security.

Apart from this, exploits are also split into two groups — known exploits and zero-day exploits — based on its lifecycle stage.

  • Known exploits are those that have already been documented, which means that the security researchers are aware.
  • Zero-day exploits are those that have not yet been publicly reported. There are chances that developers are unaware that the exploit exists in this case.

Understanding exploit kits

Exploit kits are programs that attackers use to perform attacks against known vulnerabilities in software. These exploit kits may also be used to spread malware strains in the compromised machines. Some of the notorious examples of exploits kits include the ones like EternalBlue, RIG, Neutrino, and Magnitude.

Exploits kits used by malicious actors often serve as multipurpose tools for delivering and executing various types of payloads.

The bottom line

No matter how careful you are, exploits tend to crop up. One of the ways to reduce the risks from exploits is to continuously monitor for vulnerabilities and stay updated on patches released by vendors.

Third-party vendors who form a crucial link in several organizational processes may use software with vulnerabilities that, in turn, may impact your organization. It is essential to draw up a plan that focuses on preventing exploits as well as dealing with existing ones.

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