What is Zero Day Attack?


Zero day attacks exploit software vulnerabilities which developers have yet to address with security patches, giving hackers the opportunity to gain entry and steal sensitive data and information from organizations.

Attackers may be motivated by various motives, including corporate espionage, political activism, social engineering and personal financial gain. Organizations must be ready for these attacks by having unified threat intelligence and robust prevention technologies in place.

What is Zero-Day Attack?

Zero day attacks are software flaws exploited by hackers to break into systems and steal data or money from them. Hackers scour the internet in search of vulnerabilities which they exploit in order to gain access to private information, extract ransom payments from clients or shut down systems entirely.

Once a zero day attack is discovered, software vendors must act swiftly to design and implement a security patch as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if hackers discover vulnerabilities before software vendors do then this constitutes a “zero day attack”, giving attackers “zero days” to exploit it before software vendors discover it themselves.

Software security researchers often work for software companies and report exploits discovered as part of their duties to manufacturers in order to prepare a fix in advance. Alternatively, cybercriminals often discover these holes first through events like Pwn2Own hacking contests or independently; then sell these zero-day attacks for large sums to other cybercriminals.

Threat Intelligence Platforms

Threat intelligence platforms collect and organize data from various sources into an easily consumable format, eliminating duplicate and unnecessary information to give security teams only what’s most useful for threat detection and validation, including details about attacker tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

These platforms can be integrated with other IT systems to detect attacks. Additionally, they may also be utilized with Security Information and Event Management solutions (SIEMs), endpoints, application programming interfaces (APIs), or firewalls.

Cyware’s vendor-neutral low-code Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution offers automated workflows that facilitate investigations and accelerate threat detection. They can also integrate with SIEMs and other IT tools to automatically raise intelligence-based alerts and initiate automatic remediation actions.

Another alternative is IBM’s X-Force Exchange, which offers dynamic intelligence feeds connected through a unified data model and can be automated using API. It combines human research with global security feeds while curating data from both public and gated sources.

Threat Prevention Engines

Zero day attacks are cyberattacks which exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities. Hackers may discover them and sell information about them on the dark web; or software vendors and white hat security researchers might discover them themselves.

Organizations need to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively when zero day attacks are detected; unfortunately this can be challenging with disaggregated security solutions that cannot detect and respond effectively to attacks simultaneously.

An effective defense against zero day attacks is a unified security platform with full visibility over an organization’s IT ecosystem, offering visibility and control across its entirety. This provides context and insight needed to detect distributed attacks as they happen as well as coordinate coordinated responses. Signature-based detection techniques used in an anti-malware solution allow it to recognize variations of exploits used previously by feeding digital signatures into machine learning systems or artificial intelligence engines; additionally CPU activity analysis may reveal any anomalous activity which might indicate emerging threats.

CPU Level Inspection

Many zero day attacks take advantage of a flaw in software or hardware without notifying its developers; threat actors quickly recognize this weakness and exploit it before any security solution can be created to mitigate it.

Cyberattackers have found ways to bypass traditional detection methods like signature-based and in-memory monitoring by employing techniques like Return Oriented Programming (ROP) to bypass CPU defenses. In order to combat such threats, security solutions must combine threat intelligence with advanced malware detection technologies like Sandboxing and CPU level inspection to combat these types of evasive threats.

Intel TDT uses performance telemetry data from your CPU’s performance management unit (PMU) combined with advanced machine learning heuristics to detect malicious activities on your network, such as ransomware that uses your CPU to encrypt files or cryptominers that take advantage of your processor to mine cryptocurrency. Furthermore, Intel TDT helps detect suspicious activities outside normal user behavior patterns to help trigger additional scanning and remediation workflows to protect against potential infections.

Threat Emulation and Extraction

Zero day attacks are file-borne malware threats that infiltrate an organization’s applications, operating systems, firmware and/or system memory and allow criminals to steal data or commit other forms of malice – usually without detection by standard malware detection tools.

These vulnerabilities often take advantage of complex issues like missing data encryption, broken algorithms and bugs which are difficult to identify – an attractive target for cybercriminals.

Malicious actors can spread zero day exploits via spam and phishing campaigns or by attacking vulnerable websites with scripts. When an unsuspecting target clicks or opens a malicious link or attachment, their device becomes vulnerable and the zero day exploit can be deployed onto it.

Threat actors can use stolen code to develop sophisticated, hard-to-detect malware and viruses that are hard to detect – usually manifested as polymorphic worms, viruses, Trojans or dangerous software such as ransomware.

Security Consolidation

Companies increasingly are consolidating their security platforms, with several advantages including reduced complexity, enhanced staff productivity and integration improvements. A consolidated platform also can offer additional features while decreasing total cost of ownership costs.

Consolidation should not solely be pursued for its ability to reduce complexity; according to a recent survey by Dimensional Research1, 69% of respondents indicated their intention was to enhance organizational risk posture rather than cost optimization.

Security tool consolidation provides greater levels of automation. This can be particularly beneficial in times of talent shortages when qualified cybersecurity professionals may be harder to come by. Consolidated tools can automatically recognize and respond to threats without human intervention, manage routine tasks such as patch management automatically and more. They may also serve as a single point of integration with other systems which is simpler and cheaper to manage than multiple integration points; additionally consolidated solutions may combine specialized functionality into one product for greater comprehensive security capabilities.

Protecting Against Zero Day Attacks

Zero day attacks can be difficult to defend against as attackers often learn of vulnerabilities before the vendor does. Software developers typically take days, weeks, or months before discovering and patching vulnerabilities discovered during testing; hackers have an open doorway into systems between when an exploit is discovered (t0) and when users may update their systems (t1a).

Zero day attacks happen despite our best efforts as cybersecurity teams, and they can cause irreparable harm. Attackers may take control of systems or hardware devices, steal sensitive information or release it publicly – all which could compromise customer trust or reduce revenue streams for businesses.

Implementing a unified security platform is crucial to mitigating the risk of zero day attacks, providing visibility and control necessary to detect fast-paced cyberattacks and coordinate response across infrastructure. Furthermore, machine learning-powered detection of suspicious activity provides context and insight into suspicious activity within systems as it detects patterns that deviate from normal system behavior and suggests patterns which might suggest compromised assets or malicious intent.

Final Thoughts

Zero-day vulnerabilities can be weaponized into malware, ransomware, botnets, DDoS attacks and other cyberattacks. Malware using zero-day exploits may be difficult for security software solutions to detect because attackers don’t need to create unique attack signatures for each instance of attack.

White hat or ethical hackers usually report zero day flaws directly to software vendors and, under certain conditions, withhold details until after some time has passed – giving the vendor time to fix the flaw before criminal hackers exploit it themselves.

Zero day vulnerabilities come in various forms, from missing data encryption and broken algorithms, password security issues, URL redirects and bugs to web redirects – making them hard to spot proactively; however, at least they don’t offer the anonymity that zero day attacks do.

Zero-day attacks cannot be completely stopped; as long as software developers overlook vulnerabilities that could be exploited by bad actors, such attacks will continue. But by employing appropriate security tools your organization may be better protected against them.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.