Hackers Exploiting Vulnerabilities 50% Faster, Within 4.76 Days

Cybersecurity researchers are sounding the alarm that hackers are exploiting software vulnerabilities faster than ever before.

A new report from Fortinet found that in the second half of 2023, the average time between a vulnerability being disclosed and actively exploited in the wild shrunk to just 4.76 days – a staggering 43% decrease compared to the first half of the year.

The accelerating pace gives organizations a concise window to patch exposed systems before falling victim to a breach.

The findings, published in Fortinet’s 2H 2023 Global Threat Landscape Report, paint a grim picture of the cyberthreat landscape as hackers ramp up their efforts to infiltrate networks and deploy malicious payloads before organizations have a chance to patch vulnerable systems.

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“The pressure on already stretched cyber-defense resources has intensified with the time-to-exploit decreasing significantly to just 4.76 days,” said Derek Manky, Chief Security Strategist at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs.

“The ability to quickly sift through a prioritized list of vulnerabilities, effectively managing these ‘ticking time bombs,’ is now more critical than ever.”

The report analyzed data from over 600,000 network sensors capturing threat events across live production environments around the world.

It was found that 41% of organizations detected activity for exploits that were less than one month old, highlighting the rapid dispersion of new exploits.

Ransomware gangs and other threat actors are increasingly leveraging this narrow window of opportunity to breach networks via unpatched vulnerabilities.

In the second half of 2023, Fortinet observed a surge in attacks targeting Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices and networking equipment from vendors like Zyxel, D-Link, Dasan, and MikroTik.

A quarter of high-risk vulnerabilities were exploited on the very same day they were made public. And 75% were weaponized by hackers within a 3-week period.

“A large number of vulnerabilities are being exploited before security teams have any time to implement patches or other mitigations,” said Caitlin Condon, senior manager of security research at Rapid7. Her firm’s analysis showed 56% of vulnerabilities were exploited within 7 days of disclosure in 2022, up from 50% the prior year.

The most widely exploited vulnerabilities in 2023 impacted a range of prominent software platforms and applications, including[4][5]:

  • MOVEit Transfer (CVE-2023-34362) – Exploited by Cl0p ransomware
  • Citrix NetScaler ADC and Gateway (CVE-2023-4966) – Exploited by LockBit ransomware
  • PaperCut NG (CVE-2023-27350) – Exploited by LockBit ransomware
  • Google Chrome (CVE-2023-0699) – Exploited by LockBit ransomware
  • Fortra GoAnywhere (CVE-2023-0669) – Exploited by Cl0p ransomware

One-third of the highest-risk vulnerabilities were found in network devices and web applications, which are notoriously difficult to secure.

Hackers most often gain initial access by exploiting vulnerabilities in public-facing applications and remote services.

The healthcare industry was hit particularly hard by ransomware in 2023, with an estimated 20% of sensitive data impacted in each attack.

Across all industries, 94% of organizations suffered a significant cyberattack last year, with one-third falling victim to ransomware. Of those that had data encrypted, 93% paid the ransom.

To help organizations prioritize patching, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) maintains a public catalog of known exploited vulnerabilities. However, researchers caution that the catalog does not include all dangerous flaws.

“97 high-risk vulnerabilities, likely to be exploited, were not part of CISA Known Exploited Vulnerabilities catalog,” notes the Qualys report. Less than 1% of all vulnerabilities accounted for the majority of risk.

To stay ahead of this accelerated exploit cycle, organizations need to prioritize vulnerability management as part of a proactive, multilayered cybersecurity strategy.

This includes maintaining an up-to-date inventory of assets, conducting regular vulnerability scans, and implementing automated patching processes to ensure timely remediation of high-risk flaws.

“Integrating this prioritization into your patch management process equips you with a clear, time-sensitive strategy for risk mitigation, enhancing your cybersecurity posture in a rapidly evolving threat landscape,” Manky advised.

Security experts advise organizations to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to manage vulnerabilities, including using a variety of scanning and detection technologies, thoroughly inventorying all public-facing assets, and prioritizing patching based on real-world threat activity.

With hackers moving at breakneck speed, the race is on for defenders to close exposures before it’s too late.

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Author: Guru baran