Zero-day attacks are used by adversaries to exploit vulnerabilities in software or systems. For software developers zero-day attacks are a difficult setback. Until developers can detect and fix the vulnerability, cyber attackers wreak damage on critical software.
The types of vulnerabilities exploited are previously unknown and unidentified to the developers. All software products are liable of being exploited. Vulnerabilities are actively pursued by hackers. A detected weakness serves as a backdoor through which a data breach takes place or malware is inserted.
The term “zero-day” is used for an attack when a software developer or engineer is unaware of the vulnerability and has in reality no time (zero days) to fix the defect. Technically a zero-day exploit does not differ much from most cyber attacks. Zero-day opportunities are lucrative for hackers providing the opportunity to evade detection while the vulnerability resides in the background.
Software vulnerabilities can exist without hackers recognising them. Any software vulnerability that is undetected by both developers and adversaries is not categorised as a zero-day threat.
Why do software vulnerabilities exist?
The presence of software vulnerabilities indicates a serious flaw in the design, development and security of any software. When software developers discover a defect, the issue is usually fixed in a new software update known as a patch. Patches are used to remove existing vulnerabilities from the software before adversaries can discover them.
How do cybercriminals identify vulnerabilities?
Hackers hunt for vulnerabilities in new software releases. A range of mechanisms are used by adversaries to detect weaknesses in the software code from automated scripts to sophisticated phishing techniques.
Why are zero-day attacks effective?
Zero-day attacks are effective due to the long period of time in which the exploit payload remains undetected. Another danger with the zero-day exploit is that any software patch does not fix anything for a device already compromised. The patch acts as preventative measure to support unaffected systems from being exploited by the same vulnerability.15