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Battling the persistent threat of N-Day vulnerabilities

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While zero-day exploits often capture the limelight in cybersecurity discussions, the lesser-known N-day exploits present a potentially graver danger to organizations, warns William Petherbridge, systems engineering manager for Southern Africa at Fortinet.

Unlike zero-day vulnerabilities, which are newly discovered and not yet patched, N-day vulnerabilities are long-standing and well-documented in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database. This accessibility makes them a playground for malicious actors, even those with minimal technical prowess.

Petherbridge points out that the root of the problem lies in patch management. Despite being aware of these vulnerabilities, many organizations struggle to implement timely patches due to various reasons, including the sheer volume of patches, resource constraints, and concerns about operational disruptions.

In some cases, organizations may opt to delay patching to avoid potential system downtime or unforeseen complications, especially in operational technology (OT) networks, where safety and uptime are paramount.

The challenge is particularly acute in OT environments, where legacy systems often remain in use despite being out of support. The convergence of OT and IT networks exposes these outdated systems to new risks, further complicating the security landscape.

To address these challenges, organizations must prioritize patch management as part of their broader cybersecurity strategy. This involves assessing the risk posed by each vulnerability, considering factors such as product usage, exposure level, and the vulnerability’s severity score.

Moreover, organizations can leverage technologies like mobile device management systems and Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) to enforce patch compliance and control access to sensitive resources, especially in BYOD and remote work scenarios.

For comprehensive protection, Petherbridge recommends implementing integrated cybersecurity platforms that offer asset tracking, vulnerability management, and network segmentation capabilities. Solutions like Fortinet Universal ZTNA provide secure access to applications for remote users, enhancing overall security posture.

In conclusion, combating N-day exploits requires a proactive approach to patch management and a robust cybersecurity strategy that addresses the evolving threat landscape. By prioritizing security hygiene and leveraging advanced technologies, organizations can effectively mitigate the risks associated with known vulnerabilities and safeguard their digital assets.

By William Petherbridge from Fortinet


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