A zero-day exploit is a term for a recently discovered software security flaw that hackers exploit to attack systems. These threats are tremendously dangerous as only the attackers are aware of their existence.
An exploit can remain unnoticed for years. The exploits are frequently sold in the black market for huge sums of money. The term zero-day refers to the vulnerability, or an attack, which has zero days between the time of discovery of a vulnerability and the first attack. When a zero-day vulnerability is made public, it is called as one-day or n-day vulnerability
When a company or person detects the potential security issue in software, they notify the software company so that an action could be taken. The company will then fix the code and distribute a software update or a patch. So, even when a potential attacker hears about the vulnerability, they will take time to exploit it. Till then, the company would fix the issue. However, sometimes, it is the hacker who discovers the vulnerability. And since the company is not aware of the vulnerability, it cannot guard against it.
Zero-Day Exploit Period
Several zero-day attacks have been linked with advanced persistent threats (APT) and cybercrime groups affiliated to national governments. Attackers, especially organized cybercrime groups or ATPs are believed to hold the zero-day exploit for a high-value target.
N-day vulnerability continues to live on and is prone to exploits long after it has been fixed by the vendors. Similarly, researches keep on finding zero-day exploits in the Server Message Block protocol, employed in the Windows OS for many years. Users should patch their systems once a zero-day vulnerability is made public. It is because attackers continue to abuse the vulnerabilities until the time the unpatched system remains exposed on the internet.
How To Detect A Zero-Day Exploit?
A zero-day exploit is very difficult to detect. Intrusion detection systems (IDSes), intrusion prevention systems, and antimalware software are mostly ineffective, as no attack signature yet exists. Therefore, the best way to detect a zero-day exploit is user behavior analytics.
Majority of the entities authorized to access networks show certain behavior patterns and usage that are considered as normal. Activities that do not fall inside of the normal scope of operations can indicate a zero-day exploit.
For instance, a web application server responds to requests in certain ways. In case outbound packets exiting the port of that application are discovered to be different from what ordinarily is generated by the web application, it signifies that an attack is going on.
Let us explore detection techniques in detail:
- Signature-based detection employs existing databases of malware as well as their behavior as a reference when detecting for threats. After utilizing machine learning to create and analyze signatures for existing malware, using the signature to scan previously unknown attacks becomes possible.
- Statistics-based detection uses machine learning in order to gather data from previously found exploits and form a baseline for safe system behavior. Although this method is subject to negatives and has limited effectiveness, it might work well in a hybrid situation.
- Behavior-based detection finds malware on the basis of its interaction with the target system. The solution evaluates its interaction with current software rather than looking at incoming files’ code to predict if it is a result of malicious attack.
- Hybrid detection combines all the three techniques mentioned above to mitigate their weaknesses while taking advantage of their strengths.
Zero-Day Exploit Recovery
It is not possible to prevent zero day attacks because their existence stays undiscovered even after the vulnerability is exploited. However, emerging technologies can provide protection against these threats. You can undertake the following steps to mitigate damage after an exploit is discovered.
- Disaster Recovery Strategy: You must have a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy in hand to mitigate the damage if you are affected by a zero day exploit. This contains a concoction of cloud-based and on-site storage for data backup.
- Content Threat Removal (CTR): It is a detection-based technology, which intercepts data coming to its destination. It infers that all data is hostile and prohibits its direct delivery, only letting business information to be carried by the data. Remaking the data into this new form helps establish its safety because it eliminates any potentially dangerous components of the original data.
- Access Removal: One of the most used recover methods is to physically eliminate all access from those who can exploit it. For instance, if WordPress was exposed to a zero-day exploit that granted unauthenticated, full write/read access, one option would be to shut the website off until a patch is released.
These were all the details that you should know about the zero day exploit. For any queries that you have related to this topic, you just need to drop it in the comment box and we will more than happy to answer all your questions.