Wednesday 09 April, 2014
Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly refining their methods. In recent years, exploit kits have posed an increasingly serious threat to internet security. Several high profile attacks that hit major companies and cost millions were carried out through the use of exploit kits. If an attack such as this infects your system with malware, it can cost you dearly.
What Is an Exploit Kit?
An exploit kit is the cybercriminal’s business in a box. It’s a kit that contains pre-written code that hackers can use to exploit the weaknesses of popular programs such as Adobe Acrobat. It’s a plug and play hacking system that hackers of any level can use, from beginners to seasoned cyber crooks.
After a software program hits the market, hackers start messing around with it and trying to find its weaknesses. These are vulnerabilities in the program’s code that they can use to gain access to your computer or network through the program. Exploit kits are made by hackers who have found these weaknesses. They’re in effect giving away their secrets on the market, or rather, selling them.
Once exploit kits hit the market, they’re given various names to identify them like the especially tricky Black Hole Exploit Kit and Styx Exploit Kit.
Anyone Can Be a Hacker
Exploit kits allow anybody to become a hacker for the right price. So, why doesn’t the government crackdown on this phenomenon? What makes it difficult is the international nature of the internet. Cybercriminals know no borders.
The vast majority of exploit kits come from Russia, China and Brazil, countries with long histories of cybercrime. By selling across borders, it’s nearly impossible to regulate. Exploit kits are sold in hacker and black hat forums and elsewhere online. They’re not hard to find but the cost can be prohibitive. A hacker licenses a kit on a monthly basis and it can be thousands per month, depending on the program.
How to Protect Yourself against Exploit Kits
The best way to protect yourself from exploit kits is to keep your software programs up to date. Although some kits target zero-day vulnerabilities, the vast majority go after vulnerabilities for which patches exist. This means there’s an update available. These hackers prey on folks who don’t keep their software up to date, so get those updates.
Make sure that you also have a good security program in place and a good firewall. This will protect you from most types of attacks. If an attack hits your computer, this security program will walk you through the steps to get it mitigated. If your system is infected, there are kit-specific programs you can use to remove the malware.
Also, keep up to date on the latest cybersecurity news. When a new kit is identified, security experts analyze it and publish information to help people protect themselves from it.