Exploits in Cybersecurity: What You Should Know

Exploits are used to carry out cyber attacks against small businesses and consumers. If a hacker identifies a vulnerability in a computer, device or network, he or she may be able to “exploit” it. Depending on the type of exploit used, it may cause serious damage. Some exploits are used to cause direct harm, whereas others are used to steal sensitive information. But what exactly is an exploit?

What Is an Exploit?

In cybersecurity, an exploit is something that leverages a vulnerability in a computer, device or network for malicious purposes.

To better understand how exploits work, you must understand the basics of vulnerabilities. It’s not uncommon for computers, devices and networks to contain bugs or code that allow hackers to perform cyber attacks against them. Known as vulnerabilities, they are used in conjunction with an exploit. Hackers essentially exploit one or more vulnerabilities in a computer, device or network to conduct a cyber attack.

Basically, an exploit is a piece of software or code that allows a hacker to perform a cyber attack using a computer’s, device’s or network’s vulnerability.

Types of Exploits

All exploits are designed to take advantage of a vulnerability in a computer, device or network. With that said, however, there are several different types of exploits, each of which works in a different way.

Some of the most common types of exploits include the following:

  • Local Exploit: A type of exploit in which a hacker has prior administrator access, which he or she uses to increases their privlidges.
  • Remote Exploit: As the name suggests, remote exploits are performed remotely over a network. Unlike local exploits, hackers don’t have prior administrator access when executing a remote exploit.
  • Zero-Day Exploit: Another common type of exploit is zero-day. Zero-day exploits are defined exploits, typically in an operating system, that isn’t known to the developer or vendor.

Protecting Against Exploits

You can protect against exploits in your small business’s information technology (IT) infrastructure by strengthening your cybersecurity efforts. Anti-virus software and firewalls, for instance, are two essential tools that can greatly increase your business’s level of protection against exploits. Anti-virus software will constantly scan your computer or device for potential malware, whereas a firewall will check — as well as block — incoming and outgoing traffic for known cyber threats.

In addition to using anti-virus software and a firewall, you should keep all essential software updated to the latest version. Running the latest version of the operating system is particularly important since outdated versions often contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited.