What Is the Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Exploit, and Why Is It a Big Deal?

May 7, 2021

Microsoft Exchange—not too big to hack.

In January, cybercriminals dealt Microsoft a swift blow by exposing their customers’ sensitive data to theft. Likely backed by the Chinese government, these hackers had access to thousands of Exchange accounts.

The hack was dubbed the Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Exploit, and it forced customers from all over the globe to install temporary patches until a permanent fix could be created. The fallout from this hack was extensive and threatens the reputation of one of the biggest names in software.

Here’s what you need to know.

History of the Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Exploit

A zero-day vulnerability refers to a newly discovered weakness in software. These vulnerabilities result from unintentional mistakes in the programming or security features.

Cybercriminals exploit the software’s zero-day vulnerability by writing code specifically to attack the vulnerable data. In the industry, these attacks are called zero-day exploits. The zero-day term means that developers have just learned of the opening in their systems and have zero days to fix it.

Last year, Russian cybercriminals targeted major corporations and US government offices through their Solar Winds attack, which exposed highly sensitive data. It was an incredibly damaging event that highlighted the weaknesses in even the most security-conscious systems.

In January of this year, Chinese-backed government hackers attacked 4 zero-day weaknesses in Microsoft Exchange, a popular business and personal emailing platform. They began stealing a few emails in January, escalating their efforts in early March.

Initially, 30,000 clients were likely affected, but the exact number is impossible to determine. Microsoft urged all the users of this platform to install security patches to battle the hacker’s infiltration.

The Importance of the Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Exploit

This cyberattack has the potential for long-term harm. The hackers stole clients’ emails, recorded personal data, and installed malware that allowed them to continue spying on the affected companies.

These companies include military contractors and state and local governments. Experts fear that the Chinese government gained some level of state secrets to use against the US government and multinational corporations.

Small and mid-sized companies aren’t out of the woods, though. The attackers focused on large corporations and let the malware trickle down to smaller companies through fraudulent email links.

Microsoft has announced fixes for all the vulnerabilities, but it’s inevitable that some companies and individuals failed to install the updates. Some may not even know they’ve been hacked.

The Option One Technologies Solution

Businesses everywhere can use Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Exploit as a lesson in cybersecurity. Though corporations like Microsoft are considered tech giants, they’re still not infallible—and ultimately, you’re responsible for your business’s data.

Worried that you’ve been affected by the Zero-Day Exploit? Here’s what you can do to stay secure:

Migrate Your Email Infrastructure to the Cloud

Microsoft products are almost a necessity in today’s world, so it’s unrealistic to disavow the company completely. Instead, move your data to the part of Microsoft that has remained secure throughout this debacle: its cloud.

As the Zero-Day Exploit has shown, emails are brimming with sensitive information. By using Microsoft Office 365 instead of on-premise Exchange servers, you’re more likely to keep that data protected.

Not sure how to make the change? Option One Technologies can help. We’ll create a transition strategy, migrate your data, deploy the applications, and manage them even after the migration is complete.

Host Your Data on Option One Technologies’ Cloud

Though the cloud is rapidly becoming a popular choice for data storage, Microsoft’s cloud isn’t your only option.

Option One Technologies offers cloud services with real-time network detection and response (NDR) protection. We’ll deploy a cloud firewall and create a site-to-site tunnel from our cloud to your on-premise network. That way, your data will constantly and automatically receive NDR protection.

As a leading managed IT company on the East Coast, we pride ourselves on our cloud and security services. Our team of experts will handle all your cybersecurity issues, ensuring that your system has the latest upgrades and is protected at all times.

For more information, fill out our brief online form. The next major cyberattack could be days or hours away. Protect your business now.

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