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Nearly a quarter of exploits sold on cyber criminal underground are more than three years old

Trend Micro research warns of threat from unpatched legacy vulnerabilities.

Johannesburg, 29 Jul 2021
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Global cyber security leader, Trend Micro, has released new research urging organisations to focus patching efforts on the vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to their organisation, even if they are years old.

Trend Micro research found that 22% of exploits for sale in underground forums are more than three years old.

“Criminals know that organisations are struggling to prioritise and patch promptly, and our research shows that patch delays are frequently taken advantage of,” said Mayra Rosario, senior threat researcher for Trend Micro. “The lifespan of a vulnerability or exploit does not depend on when a patch becomes available to stop it. In fact, older exploits are cheaper and therefore may be more popular with criminals shopping in underground forums. Virtual patching remains the best way to mitigate the risks of known and unknown threats to your organisation.”

The report reveals several risks of legacy exploits and vulnerabilities, including:

  • The oldest exploit sold in the underground was for CVE-2012-0158, a Microsoft RCE.
  • CVE-2016-5195, known as the Dirty Cow exploit, is still ongoing after five years.
  • In 2020, WannaCry was still the most detected malware family in the wild, and there were over 700 000 devices worldwide vulnerable as of March 2021.
  • Forty-seven percent of cyber criminals looked to target Microsoft products in the past two years.

The report also reveals a decline in the market for zero-day and N-day vulnerabilities over the past two years. This is being driven in part by the popularity of bug bounty programs, like Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative, and the rise of Access-as-a-Service – the new force in the exploit market.

Access-as-a-Service has the advantages of an exploit, but all the hard work has already been done for the buyer, with underground prices starting at $1 000USD. 

These trends are combining to create greater risk for organisations. With nearly 50 new CVEs released per day in 2020, the pressure on security teams to prioritise and deploy timely patches has never been greater – and it's showing. Today, the time to patch averages nearly 51 days for organisations patching a new vulnerability. To cover that gap in security protection, virtual patching is key. It is based on intrusion prevention technology and offers a hassle-free way to shield vulnerable or end-of-life systems from known and unknown threats indefinitely.

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