What is a Zero Day and how do I guard against it?

You can read about how to protect yourself against zero day vulnerabilities with ESET. And ask us about ESET Dynamic Threat Defense and ESET Protect to guard against zero-days.

Maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about the “Zero Day” lately, with the Hafnium hack on Microsoft in the news everywhere.It’s a huge deal, and definitely the wrong reason to be in the headlines.

Basically, a zero day vulnerability is a flaw. It is an unknown vulnerability in in software programs or operating systems. It’s sort of like a small hole or weakness in a piece of fabric. And it can create real problems well before anyone realizes it’s even there.

Why do Zero Day vulnerabilities pose security risks?

Hackers write code to target specific security weaknesses. They package it into malware called a zero day exploit. The malware takes advantage of the vulnerability to compromise a computer system or cause an unintended behavior. Usually, a patch from the software developer can fix this.

Exploit malware can steal your data, allowing hackers to even take control of your computer. Software can also be used in ways that were not originally intended. Like installing other malware that can corrupt files. Or, accessing your contact list to send spam messages from your account. It could also install spyware that steals sensitive information from you.

For everyday users, a vulnerability can pose serious risks. The reason is, because exploit malware can infect a computer through otherwise harmless web browsing activities. Things like viewing a website, opening a compromised message, or playing infected media.

Vulnerability timeline

A zero day attack happens once that flaw is discovered by the bad guys. Attackers exploit it by releasing their malware before a developer has a chance to patch the vulnerability. They beat them to the punch. Hence “zero-day.” Here’s the way it works. First, developers create software. But unknown to them it contains a vulnerability. Then, the threat actor spots that vulnerability before the developer does, or acts on it before the developer has a chance to fix it.

After doing that, the attacker writes and implements the exploit code while the vulnerability is still open. At some point, one of a couple of things happens. Either the public recognizes it in the form of identity theft, or the developer catches it. They would then create a patch to stop the cyber-bleeding.

Once a patch is put in place, the exploit is no longer called a zero-day exploit. These attacks are rarely discovered right away. In fact, it often takes not just days but months. Sometimes even years before a developer learns of the vulnerability that led to an attack.

Why is it called a zero day?

“Zero-day” refers to the fact that the developers have “zero days” to fix the proble. And perhaps has already exploited by hackers. Once the vulnerability becomes known, the vendor has to work quickly to fix the issue to protect its users. However, the software vendor may fail to release a patch before hackers manage to exploit the security hole. That’s a zero-day attack.

Naturally, it’s best to be proactive about these threats.

How do I protect myself?

There are very good stand-alone products like ESET Dynamic Threat Defense and ESET Protect series. These are designed to stop zero days, among other things. There are also comprehensive XDR approaches involving Sophos Intercept X with EDR, FortiEDR, and Sophos XG and FortiGate appliances.

In addition to these solutions, be sure to immediately install new software updates when they become available. This will help reduce the risk of malware infection. Software updates allow you to install necessary revisions to the software or operating system.

Corporate Armor has several options to help keep you safe from zero day exploits. So why not email us, or call 877-449-0458 and let our experts help you craft a plan to keep from becoming another victim of ransomware? Thanks for reading!

Highlights of ESET Protect Advanced

Cloud-based console
Full disk encryption
Cloud sandbox
Lightweight, easy to set up and use