Spyware: What is “Zero Click” Attacks and Should I Defend?

Spyware: What is "Zero Click" Attacks and Should I Defend? - 2022

Zero Click Attacks – A hacker attack that does not require the victim’s action to install malware is called a “zero click“: how to defend yourself and preserve online security

Avoiding opening suspicious attachments and clicking on links that could hide a hacker attack is not always enough to ensure users’ online safety . 

In fact, there is a type of cyber attack that is much more insidious, because it does not require any user action , i.e. no click , to install malware on the device. 

This type of cyber threat is called “zero click” attacks, precisely because, to be effective, they do not require any action on the part of the target, not even a simple “click”.

Cybercriminals who carry out zero-click attacks use sophisticated techniques to target their victims, who hardly realize they have been infected.

Malware and spyware are installed by hackers on the devices of unfortunate users, starting to act with background processes that are very difficult to detect. 

A user will not realize that he has been hit and in the meantime, the computer virus will have had time to steal personal information. So let’s see what zero click attacks are in detail and how to defend yourself.

Zero click attacks: what they are and who they hit

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What is “Zero Click” Attacks

It has become accustomed to the belief that a hacker attack requires action from the victim to let the virus or malware infect the device, for example by using social engineering techniques. 

When it comes to zero-click attacks, however, the situation is quite different. This type of hacker attack does not require the victim to perform any actions.

But it exploits software vulnerabilities or the presence of uncorrected bugs to make its way into devices and infect them.

This means that the victim is unaware of the malware operating on their PC, smartphone or tablet and has no way of identifying the threat to their online security.

In addition, zero click attacks leave very little trace of the activities of cybercriminals, who exploit a vulnerability that the software developer may not yet have identified. 

This means that discovering this type of cyber threat is really very difficult and in recent years the most affected devices have been mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Which contain a lot of information and personal data and on which different types of apps are downloaded every day.

Usually, these types of attacks are used for espionage and theft, so they target a specific target of victims, such as political activists and dissidents, or wealthy individuals and companies.

Zero click attacks: how they work

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Most software and apps that are downloaded and installed on devices use data verification processes to help identify any vulnerabilities in online security . 

These processes allow us to understand if there are any bugs or exploits that a potential cybercriminal could exploit to attack the device and infect it.

When a developer discovers a vulnerability, he usually releases an update or a security patch to fix it, that is, to fix it and prevent a hacker from taking advantage of it.

In the online security sector, there are vulnerabilities called ” zero-day “, that is, bugs or exploits that have not yet been identified or that have been very recently (often we speak of a few days or even a few hours), and therefore these are security “holes” that have not yet been corrected. 

Hackers probe software and apps for zero-day vulnerabilities , which are then used to land a zero-click attack .

The apps most at risk are those of messaging or e-mail, which are developed to receive and interpret even data that sometimes seems to come from untrusted sources.

A hacker could then insert hidden text or an image file into an e-mail message or conversation that could infect the device with malware that can be controlled remotely. 

Once infected, the attacker deletes the message, call or email used to carry out the attack, so that the victim has no way of identifying the cyber risk they are running.

Each zero-click attack is different from the other because it changes the mode of action depending on the type of vulnerability that is exploited within the software or app. 

An example is the attack carried out using a WhatsApp exploit in 2019: cybercriminals just needed to make a “missed call” through the app to install spyware and have control over the infected device.

How to defend against zero click attacks

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Understanding how to defend against zero-click attacks is not at all simple, because the user is hardly able to identify the traces of a malware that has infected his device, and therefore to realize the threat he is experiencing.

The only way to defend yourself is to follow good online security prevention practices that are valid for all types of hacker attacks . 

The first advice is to constantly update the operating system and installed applications: the updates released often contain security patches that resolve the vulnerabilities that are identified from time to time.

Furthermore, you must always make sure to download applications only from official stores , avoiding suspicious websites, and avoid entering root or jailbreaking settings , intended for developers.

Another good practice is to constantly backup the data on your devices , so you can easily restore them, and keep the memory in order by deleting the apps that are no longer used. 

Finally, you have to use complicated passwords and choose, when available, two-factor authentication , which increases the security in accessing your accounts.

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