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Noxious Zero-Click Attack: What Is It And How To Avoid It

January 19, 2021 / MAHIPAL NEHRA

For years, we have been told that cyber-attacks happen due to human-errors. Almost every person has stressed about training to prevent cyber-attacks from taking place. We have always been on the alert to dodge errant clicks or online downloads that might infect devices with security threats.

However, not all attacks need a user’s oversight to open the door. Although avoiding clicking on phishing emails is still significant but there is a cyber threat that does not need any human error and has been in the recent news. It is known as Zero-Click attack where some vulnerabilities can be misused by hackers to launch attacks even without interaction from the victim.

Rather than depending on the hardware or software flaws to get access to the victim’s device, zero-click attacks eliminate the human error equation. There is nothing a victim can do once coming into the limelight of the hacker. Also, with the flourishing use of smartphones around the world that entails all the personal information and data, this thread has expanded enormously.

How Zero-Click Attacks Occur?

The core condition for successfully pulling off a zero-click is creating a specially designed piece of data which is then sent to the targeted device over a wireless network connection including mobile internet or wifi. This then hit a scarcely documented vulnerability on the software or hardware level.

The vulnerability majorly affects the messaging or emailing apps. The attacks that have begun from Apple’s mail app on iPhone or iPad, have now moved ahead on Whatsapp and Samsung devices. In iOS 13, the vulnerability allowed zero-click when the mail runs in the background. It enables attackers to read, edit, delete, or leak the email inside the app.

Later these attacks moved to Samsung’s android devices having version 4.4.4 or above. The successful attacks provide similar access to the hackers as an owner, entailing contacts, SMS, and call logs.

In 2019, a breach on Whatsapp used the voice call functionality of the app to ring the victim’s phone. Even if the victim didn’t pick the call and later deleted it, the attacks still installed malicious data packets. These grants access to the hacker to take complete control of call logs, locations, data, camera, and even microphone of the device. Another similar attack had happened due to the frangibility in the chipset of WI-FI that is used in streaming, gaming, smart home devices, and laptops. The zero-click attack blooms on the increase of mobile devices as the number of smartphones have reached above 3 billion.

How To Avoid Zero-Click Attacks?

Most of the attacks of zero-click target certain victims including corporate executives, government officials, and journalists. But anyone using a smartphone is a possible target. These attacks cannot be spotted due to the lack of vulnerabilities. So the users have to keep the operating system along with the third-party software updated. Also, it is a must to give minimal permissions to apps that are being installed on the device.

Moreover, if you own a business and are afraid of the zero-click attacks on your company’s app, you can always seek IT consultations from top-notch companies or hire developers that will help in developing applications with hard-to-creep-into programming languages where detecting an attack is efficient.

Mahipal Nehra is a Brand and Marketing Strategist who works with Decipher Zone Software. After spending nearly a decade in the marketing industry and interacting with different technologies, Mahipal has a great interest in writing blogs on different topics. He is a writer in the day and a reader at night. His major interests of reading and writing include Web applications, customer-relationship management, technical trends & insights, operational behavior, data analysis, ranking algorithms, Robotics, AI, and Digital Transformation IT solutions.

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