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What Is Zero Day Exploit? Risks And Why Is It Called Zero Day?

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This post brings you a review on zero day exploit. Herein, we'll be showing you its risks, detection and preventive measures, as well as the rationale behind the term “zero-day”.

A high level of risks is associated with zero-day exploits, with hundreds of software (and hardware) developers falling victim every year; losing millions of dollars in the process.

To get more information about this scourge, follow through this post. Read on!

What Is Zero Day Exploit: Why Is It Called Zero Day?

zero day exploit

Zero day exploit is a cybersecurity breach, which is encountered less than 24 hours after the discovery of a leak or loophole in a program's security setup.

In a typical zero-day exploit, hackers get wind of a security breach before the developers could muster up a fix. This basically occurs in the space of 24 hours; which is the time between discovery (of a vulnerability) and the first cyberattack (via the vulnerable point). This sums up the rationale behind the term “zero day”. When an attack is experienced after 24 hours of leak discovery, it becomes a “one-day exploit” or “N-day exploit”.

Besides, users of software/hardware discover security flaws all the time; and where necessary, such discoveries are duly communicated to the developers, who, in turn, plug the leaks as appropriate.

However, when a security flaw is first discovered by a hacker(s), an exploit is imminent. This is because, developers are unaware of the vulnerability, and thus, have no system in place to prevent resulting breaches.

The question then is: how can developers detect zero day exploits?

How To Detect Zero Day Exploit

How To Detect Zero Day Exploit

Unlike “N-day exploits”, which may continue after a leak has been plugged, zero-day exploit is limited to the first 24-hours. And while it's generally difficult to prevent it, developers can put certain measures in place for early detection.

In addition, intrusion detection systems like IPSes and IDSes are not sufficient for exploit detection/prevention. Hence, most developers adopt the “user behavior analytics” detection system, which analyzes users' behavioral patterns. This analytical system marks out activities deemed “abnormal”, and classifies them as “risks” (of zero day exploits).

Furthermore, developers now have security pacts with prominent cyber researchers/experts. With this alliance, discovered flaws are withheld from the public and reported to appropriate quarters. This allows developers to come up with a patch, before such vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers.

However, while major detection systems have, thus far, recorded massive success, zero day exploit remains a serious cybersecurity issue.

Risks Of Zero Day Exploit

Developers stand to lose a lot from zero day exploits. Basically, hackers are able to breach a software's security without the developers' knowledge. In the process, they gain access to privileged and highly sensitive information, which could be worth millions. Notable tech firms like Adobe and Microsoft have fallen victim to zero day exploits in recent times.

READ ALSO: Is Windows Defender Enough for 2020?

Similarly, it's on record that notorious cybercrime groups like the state-backed Chinese cybercrime syndicateAPT41 – have launched several cyber attacks on some high-profile developers. And as reported by FireEye, game developers could be the next target of these cyber exploits by APT41.

In a nutshell, victims run the risk of losing valuable data, money, and reputation. Hence, all efforts should be made to plug/patch leaks as soon as they are discovered.

How To Protect Against Zero-day Attacks

How To Protect Against Zero-day Attacks

Here are ways to protect your computer device against zero-day attacks:

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is done to discover the holes in your security before an outsider does. The scan can either be performed by your tech team or contracted to firms that specialize in vulnerability scanning. Sometimes, hackers also do it to detect the vulnerability in the network.

There are two ways vulnerability scans can be done and they are authenticated and unauthenticated scan.

It is recommended that both types of scans are carried out to ensure that the software vulnerability is detected and addressed.

Be Aware Of The Latest Threats

When vulnerabilities are discovered in software or network, a security patch should be developed and rolled out. This should be done quickly and the software upgrade made available as this cuts down the risk of zero-day attacks.

Kaspersky has a Kaspersky Threat Intelligence Portal where they have documented over 20 years data on cyber-attacks, threats and also insights. Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack Platform also helps to detect threats at an early stage.

Why Do Vulnerabilities Pose Security Risks? 

When mistakes happen during the development of software and the building of apps and websites, they are referred to as bugs. 

These bugs are harmless, only that it affects the general performance of the software, app, or website. But when these bugs are discovered by hackers and exploited, it becomes a vulnerability and poses a security risk for the whole network.

The exploitation of these vulnerabilities could result in a leak of sensitive data, system failure, deletion, or tampering with data and other risks. And this can impact the finances or the reputation of the company.

What Makes A Vulnerability A Zero-Day? 

When bugs that were considered harmless gets discovered by hackers and exploited it becomes a vulnerability.

When this vulnerability is exploited and exposed by the hackers before the software vendor could update or create a patch, it is referred to as zero-day because the vendor had zero-day to fix the issues discovered and already exploited by the hackers.

Why Are Zero-day Exploits So Dangerous? 

The vulnerability might have been discovered for long and exploited by the hackers before the vendor. When the vulnerability is discovered, updates and patches are worked on, exploitation continues as long as the patch and the update have not been downloaded.

Big corporations usually are the worst hit as they take time before they update their networks when vulnerabilities are discovered and worked on. Hackers look for n-day vulnerabilities to exploit and every software or app that has not been updated or patched is a target.

What Is A Software Vulnerability?

As mentioned earlier, in the process of programming software, some mistakes are made. These mistakes might be a result of tight deadlines and other things.

These mistakes are called bugs and become vulnerabilities when discovered by hackers.

When this software is released, the programmers and developers will get feedback from users to know what the problems are. These problems are then addressed and fixes come in form of patches and updates.

What COVID-19 Taught Us: Prepping Cybersecurity For The Next Crisis?

What COVID-19 Taught Us: Prepping Cybersecurity For The Next Crisis

There are predictions that the next big crisis might be climate crisis and global cyberattacks. The COVID-19 pandemic took everybody unawares including businesses.

The pandemic forced states and businesses into lockdowns and we saw the proliferation of remote work. Remote work initiative employed by most organizations brought with it security challenges as devices used by employers were susceptible to hacks.

One way to prepare for the next crisis is to be prepared, the response time in the case of a global cyberattack is key to arresting it before it spreads too far. This was evident in the quick response of few states and how they were able to arrest the spread.

The world has become a global village and boundaries have been eroded, and the pandemic has shown us that multilateral cooperation is the best way to arrest any pandemic, be it biological or cyber.

There is also a need to plan a strategy that will make it possible for activities of corporations and governments to continue in case of a global cyberattack. The world is going digital and any event of cyberattack will have disastrous effects if there is no backup.

How To Prevent Zero Day Exploit

How To Prevent Zero Day Exploit

As pointed out earlier, it's highly difficult to detect imminent exploits; hence, without a viable detection system, prevention is generally more difficult. Nonetheless, certain measures can be put in place to curb, or at least minimize the resulting effects of these cyber attacks.

Here are some of the preventive measures:

  • Deploy intrusion detection systems.
  • Encrypt network traffic using the IPSec – IP security protocol.
  • Run regular drills and checks to discover potential zero day vulnerabilities
  • Ensure that all relevant systems are up-to-date.
  • Use virtual LAN
  • Make use of a strong antivirus program
  • Deploy NAC to control access to sensitive areas of a program's development hub.

Share your cyber threats experience with us by commenting below.


Daniel Segun
Daniel Segun
Daniel Segun is the Founder and CEO of SecureBlitz Cybersecurity Media, with a background in Computer Science and Digital Marketing. When not writing, he's probably busy designing graphics or developing websites.


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