What is Zero Day Attack?

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Zero Day Attack

A zero day attack is an attack that targets publicly known but still unpatched vulnerabilities.

Software vulnerabilities can be discovered by hackers, by the software vendors themselves, by security companies or researchers, or by users. If these vulnerabilities are discovered by hackers, an exploit will be kept secret for as long as possible and will then get circulated only via the ranks of hackers, until security or software companies become aware of it or of the attacks targeting it. Such attacks are defined by some as ‘less than zero day ‘ attacks.

What is a Zero Day Exploit?

At its very core, a zero day vulnerability is a flaw. It is an unknown exploit that exposes a vulnerability in hardware or software and can give rise to complicated problems much before anyone realizes that something is wrong. At the very outset, a zero day exploit does not leave any opportunity for detection. Let’s break down the stages of the window of vulnerability:

  • A company’s developers create software, but without their knowledge, it actually contains a vulnerability.
  • The threat actor detects that vulnerability either before the developer does or acts on it before the developer gets a chance to fix it.
  • While the vulnerability is still open and available, the attacker writes and implements exploit code
  • After the exploit gets released, either the developer catches it and develops a patch to staunch the cyber-bleeding or the public recognizes it in the form of identity or information theft
  • After a patch is written and used, the exploit is no longer known as a zero day exploit. Very rarely do these attacks get instantly discovered. It mostly takes not just days but months and even years before a developer becomes aware of the vulnerability that resulted in an attack.

Why Zero Day Exploits are Dangerous?

Zero day exploits are extremely dangerous because manufacturers have not had the chance to patch them. For instance, imagine a new version of Microsoft Office has just been released. You go ahead and purchase it for your team to use in order to update and refine the IT operations at your company. However, Microsoft fails to realize that there was an exploitable loophole in Microsoft Word prior to releasing it to the public. This loophole first gets spotted by a hacker, who then goes ahead and writes a malware script that effortlessly infiltrates any device that downloads the new version of Microsoft Word.

Microsoft will now have to develop a security patch capable of addressing the zero day exploit and ensuring that all users download it. That could take months, and in the meantime, hackers can actually bring about a catastrophic mess.

What makes a Vulnerability a Zero Day?

Zero day refers to a flaw in hardware, software, or firmware that is unknown to the parties or party responsible for patching or fixing the flaw. The term zero day can actually refer to the vulnerability itself, or an attack that has zero days between the time when the vulnerability gets discovered and the very first attack. After a zero day vulnerability becomes public, it gets to be referred to as n-day or one-day vulnerability.

How to Prevent Zero Day Vulnerabilities?

Zero day vulnerabilities present grave security risks, which can leave you vulnerable to zero day attacks, thus resulting in potential damage to your personal data or computer.

To keep your computer and data safe, it is always wise to adopt proactive and reactive security measures:

  • Your first line of protection is to be proactive by employing comprehensive security software capable of protecting against both unknown and known threats.
  • You will next have to be reactive and instantly install new software updates when they become available from the manufacturer to help decrease the risk of malware infection.

With regular software updates, you will be able to install necessary revisions to the operating system. These could include removing outdated features, adding new features, delivering bug fixes, updating drivers, and fixing all the discovered security holes.

How to Stay Protected from Zero Day threats?

To stay protected from zero day threats, follow the checklist given below:

  • Implement secure online hygiene.
  • Make sure that all the software is in use and updated with the most recent security patches as it will help in protecting your system from several threats.
  • Make sure to configure security settings for your operating system, browser, and even the security software that you use.

Install a proactive and effective security software which provides effective and reactive features and methods that help block both unknown and known threats.

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