What Is Zero-Day Protection? And Why It Is Necessary To Protect Your Information Assets From ‘Zero-Day’ Attacks

Any software system, however secure it might be, is vulnerable to threats from hackers and other cybercriminals. Hence, software developers and users alike should always be on their guard to overcome such risks. A vulnerability remains hidden in the code, unless it is found out, fixed and tested by the software vendor or the organization who owns the code. In information security jargon, the day on which the software or device vendor/target organization learns about the vulnerability is known as ‘Zero-day’.

It requires immediate addressing from the vendor/target organization’s side to prevent it from becoming a threatening issue. Adopting a proactive threat hunting program or developing a patch management program can help plug the hole in the network or software security and provide zero-day protection. Such protection from unknown vulnerabilities is generally referred to as zero-day protection.

what is a zero day attack

Why Is It Known As Zero-Day Protection?

Until the day of its identification, the vulnerability is unknown to the software vendor or the users. On learning about such a threat, the vendor creates a patch or advises workarounds to mitigate it. Since the developer was unaware of the threat, they have zero days to work on the official patch to fix the issue. And, the day on which the vendor becomes aware of the threat is known as zero-day. Protection from such vulnerabilities is hence called zero-day protection and is necessary as adversaries can exploit these vulnerabilities even before it is fixed.

A Zero-Day Attack Example

One of the best zero-day attack examples is Stuxnet, the virus that caused considerable damage to Iran’s nuclear program. This virus, a self-replicating computer worm caused extensive damage to Iranian atomic plants by altering the speed of centrifuges, forcing them to shut down.

Windows Zero-Day Threat

Many Zero-day attacks have taken place due to vulnerabilities existing in the Windows Operating System. For instance, Stuxnet mentioned above acted by exploiting four different zero-day vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows OS. Hence, it is also known as the Windows zero-day attack.

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zero day attacks and prevention strategies

How To Ensure Zero-Day Attack Prevention?

Zero-day vulnerabilities can present severe security risks, thereby exposing your systems to zero-day attacks. The damages can be far-reaching, which necessitates zero-day attack prevention.

  • Install a robust antivirus/antimalware software (preferably an AI-ML based solution) that can protect against both known and unknown threats.
  • Ensure to update the Operating systems, software and applications whenever the developer releases the updates. Delaying the updates can cause your systems to become vulnerable to zero-day attacks.
  • Ensure that your employees, clients, and vendors practice adopt reasonable online security practices.
  • Ensure security settings are configured appropriately for the OS, security software/solutions, and the internet browser for zero-day protection.

Some Recent Zero-Day Attacks In 2019

It would be great to have the perfect software working for you. However, even the most secure software systems can develop vulnerabilities. Some of the most recent zero-day attacks in 2019 are as follows.

CVE-2019-1458 – Privilege escalation in MS-Windows

This zero-day attack allows a local user to escalate privileges in a system. This threat is because of a boundary error that occurs when processing objects in memory within the Win32K component. Thus, a local user can create and launch a malicious application and execute arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. Anton Ivanov and Alexy Kulaev reported this attack on December 10, 2019.

CVE-2019-13720 – Remote Code execution in Google Chrome

This vulnerability enables a remote attacker to create a specially crafted webpage, thereby tricking the victim into visiting it. It triggers a ‘use-after-free’ error and executes arbitrary code on the target system. This vulnerability was discovered on October 31, 2019.

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zero day attack

How Are Zero-Day Attacks Discovered?

Generally, software vendors, security analysts, or security researchers are always on the lookout for zero-day vulnerabilities in the systems to address it before hackers take advantage of it. They adopt measures like penetration testing, security analysis, etc. to identify zero-day vulnerabilities. It enables organizations to design, develop and adopt effective patch management and change management programs to mitigate the risk.

Final Words

Zero-Day Protection is a necessity to safeguard valuable information assets of any organization. Many global, as well as small-medium enterprises, have been victims of zero-day vulnerabilities. The very nature of the zero-day vulnerabilities warrants taking all precautionary measures an organization can adopt and steer clear of any malicious attacks driven by it.

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