Cyber-Attacks in 2015 Reveal Unknown Flaws in Flash, Windows

By Robert Lemos  |  Posted 2015-05-27 Print this article Print
Zero-Day Flaws

Seven cyber-attacks in the first quarter of 2015 revealed previously unknown flaws in Adobe Flash and Windows products, as attackers focused on finding flaws in ubiquitous software.

Cyber-attackers continue to use zero-day software vulnerability to compromise high-value sites, while research into security flaws is increasingly focusing on devices and appliances, according to data from vulnerability management firm Secunia's first quarter report for 2015.

In the first three months of the year, seven zero-day vulnerabilities were used in targeted attacks—three exploiting Microsoft Windows and four targeting Adobe Flash. The pace of new zero-day flaws nearly matched that of 2014, when eight vulnerabilities were discovered during attacks in the same quarter, Secunia stated.

The use of previously unknown flaws has climbed dramatically over the past three years. Attacks used 25 zero-day vulnerabilities in 2014, up from 14 zero-day flaws each in 2012 and 2013, Kasper Lindgaard, director of research and security at Secunia, told eWEEK. "Either the attackers are using more zero-days or we got better at finding them,” he said.

The number of vulnerabilities reported annually in software products has climbed steadily in the past five years, topping 15,400 in 2014, according to Secunia. Vulnerabilities in the most used software programs—which includes 34 Microsoft programs and 16 applications from other vendors—has generally climbed, hitting 1,348 last year.

While attacks using zero-day vulnerabilities aim to infect systems without detection, focusing on the top applications means the attacks will be more likely to succeed. "The zero days are aiming for as big a target audience as possible," Lindgaard said.

While software applications account for the lion's share of vulnerabilities, security professionals should also worry about information devices and networking appliances, as security researchers have renewed their search to find vulnerabilities in those products.

In March, for example, 23 security issues were reported in Cisco IOS, placing the network operating system on a Top–20 list of products with vulnerabilities.

"While the number in itself is nothing spectacular, the fact that an operating system used on many of the routers that operate the Internet, and also on Cisco network switches found in many company networks globally, is interesting enough," the report stated. "It emphasizes the importance of never forgetting that vulnerabilities occur in all kinds of (soft)ware."

While attackers are focused on finding flaws in Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Oracle Java and Adobe Flash, security pros need to focus on more than patching just those five applications, Lindgaard said.

"There are a lot of different appliances and devices that need security updates, so focusing on those big five are not enough," he said. "You have to look into your appliances and make sure that they are up-to-date as well."

Apple's Mac OS X and the Avant browser, a Web browser still very much under development, accounted for the largest proportion of vulnerabilities in the first quarter.


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