At first glance, a zero-day vulnerability can sound like a good thing. After all, we all want zero days without security issues! However, this type of vulnerability is one of the most dangerous.
So, what is a zero-day cybersecurity vulnerability?
It’s a flaw in software that hackers discover, and developers don’t know about, or one that they know about but haven’t been able to fix yet.
This article covers the basics of these vulnerabilities, the problems they create, and the best ways to identify and fix them.
Why is it called a zero-day vulnerability?
Developers and coders call these weaknesses “zero-day” because they have literally no time to fix them. When a hacker discovers a zero-day vulnerability, they exploit it immediately. These vulnerabilities are not minor issues that can be postponed for weeks or quickly resolved with a patch.
Examples of zero-day attacks
Because of its broad definition, a zero-day attack can happen to a wide variety of online users.
It can target operating systems, web browsers, hardware, and almost anything else that runs on computer code—anything could have a vulnerability.
Over the last few years, big-name providers such as Google, Microsoft Word, Apple, and Sony have all been targets of zero-day attacks, falling prey to hackers’ schemes through vulnerabilities they never knew about.
A prominent example of a zero-day attack targeted Sony Pictures Entertainment. In 2015, hackers known as the Guardians of Peace discovered an undetected vulnerability in Sony’s code. Exploiting this vulnerability, they accessed Sony’s systems, installed undetected malware, and compromised executives’ emails and sensitive studio information.
Sony shut down its entire network for a few days in response to the gigantic attack, proving that no target is too big for hackers looking to exploit zero-day vulnerabilities.
How are zero-days found?
Usually, hackers initially discover a zero-day vulnerability through constant probing.
They’ll take advantage of the weakness by writing new code that infects the system itself or the browsers of unsuspecting users. Good developers–and sound security systems—are always on the lookout for suspicious behavior from the program or code.
In addition, these systems monitor strange emails or texts that look like they could be from a hacker trying to exploit a vulnerability. Without this careful monitoring, hackers can maintain access for days, weeks, or even months without developers realizing the flaw.
Zero-day protection and prevention
The best way to stop a zero-day attack is to make sure it never happens in the first place.
Developers should be vigilant about testing updates, examining code, and even doing penetration testing (ethical hacking) to discover possible vulnerabilities before a hacker can.
Once a vulnerability is found, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Remember, a zero-day attack can even target a flaw that coders know about as long as they haven’t fixed it yet.
You can also guard against zero-day attacks by keeping all your applications and software up to date. Developers may have discovered and patched vulnerabilities, but if you don’t have the latest version, your software is still vulnerable.
Also, be sure to limit the number of applications you use to decrease opportunities for hackers.
A zero-day cybersecurity vulnerability is bad news for any company, exposing it to attacks by hackers. Fortunately, preparation goes a long way toward preventing zero-day attacks.
Stay on top of your security systems to ensure you’re not giving hackers a day to themselves.
If your business needs help assessing security vulnerabilities, contact us today to see how our team of cybersecurity professionals can help your business stay secure and exploit-free.