A Zero-day Vulnerability is a security hole in the network or in a computer program which is undetected for a period of time. It is a flaw or weakness that can be related to software or hardware systems. A zero-day vulnerability should be patched and resolved by developers and cyber security teams because attackers use the weakness to exploit the systems.
What is a Zero-day Vulnerability?
When there is no official patch for a flaw in software programs, we say there is a zero-day vulnerability. Software developers or cybersecurity teams may or may not be aware of the problem and it may be unexplored until attackers carry out a disastrous attack.
In most cases, zero-day vulnerabilities appear at the same time they are exploited by attackers. It’s called zero day vulnerability because security vendors have limited time to explore the threat.
Note that not having a comprehensive strategy to monitor systems regularly and analyse the network allows attackers to succeed. They spend a lot of time trying to find the best opportunity to make use of a flaw or weakness. If there is no protection strategy, a malicious program developed by attackers can target the systems by exploiting the unknown 0-day vulnerability.
Differences Between Zero-day Vulnerability and Zero-day Exploit
A 0-day vulnerability is a system weakness that attackers first discover before software vendors become aware of it. At the time, there is no patch for the flaw, and zero-day vulnerabilities are more likely to succeed and negatively impact the system.
Other than that, there is a term called a zero-day exploit. A 0-day exploit refers to a technique or method used by attackers to penetrate systems with zero-day vulnerabilities. 0day attacks are categorised under the most harmful threats since defences are unavailable at the right time. However, cybersecurity team members can use helpful practices and threat protection tools to minimise the risks of 0day attacks.
Issues Related to Zero-day Exploit and Zero-day Vulnerability
When there is a 0-day vulnerability in your software systems, it allows hackers to exploit the weakness with zero-day malware or a curated computer virus. Issues related to a 0-day vulnerability are unknown, and they remain hidden until the attack through the zero-day vulnerability is made. A big data loss or data breach might result in significant financial losses in all types of companies.
On the other hand, a 0day vulnerability opens the doors for hackers to use different methods, such as phishing tools or malicious programs and launch zero-day attacks.
Zero-day exploits can have different results on the system in an organisation, including data theft, unauthorised control takeover, or fundamental damage to communication systems. From a higher viewpoint, the adverse impacts of a 0-day attack are also uncertain, as the name implies.
How Does a Zero-day Attack Occur?
Zero refers to the time period when a security vendor is aware of the flaw in the software, but there is not enough time to fix it. In the real world, there are high amounts of spendings dedicated to developing and securing software programs. But coding is complex, and there might be bugs hidden inside the software programs. These bugs and flaws can remain undetected for years, which provides an opportunity for hackers to steal sensitive data or get control over your systems.
There is a defined timeline from the introduction time of a vulnerability to the last stage which involves fixing the issue. It takes a few hours to provide a security patch for medium-level weaknesses and months for complex coding problems. The faster the cybersecurity team and software vendors can provide the fix patch, the less damage a vulnerability can cause.
Zero-day Vulnerability, Exploit, and Attack in Timeline
Succeeding in fixing zero-day vulnerabilities depends on the type of flaw that exists in the software system and the agility of the cybersecurity team. If there is a complex coding problem, software development and IT teams may need more time to perform the required actions. Overall, the timeline of zero-day exploit from the introduction of a vulnerability to the deployment of security patches is as follows:
- Vulnerable software program: The vulnerable code is a part of a software program that can be spread by the network.
- Attackers start their work: If attackers detect a flaw, they start developing techniques or malicious software tools to attack the target system.
- Vendors discover the issue: Vendors become aware of software bugs that can be harmful, and they need to take urgent steps to protect their systems.
- Cybersecurity researchers disclose the vulnerability: The critical step after detecting a vulnerability is the quick announcement about the issue so that users become aware of the problem.
- Security protection: Security software tools such as antiviruses can protect the systems until a reliable patch is created for the weakness. Note that these protection tools aren’t the ultimate solution, and there is a need to fix the flaw by creating the patch.
- Patch release: Successful release of a fixing patch can take time, and this is a crucial problem when attackers can take advantage of the situation and exploit the vulnerability by designing new techniques.
- Patch deployment: Patch deployment is one of the most important steps. Vendors and the cybersecurity team should notify that the patch has been released, and the IT team should update the software to fix the issues.
Why Is It Important to Discover Zero-day Vulnerabilities?
While there are high risks related to a zero-day vulnerability, organisations need to pay much attention to these types of threats and cybersecurity teams need to come prepared for such security issues. 0day vulnerabilities target a wide variety of systems, and there is a broad range of potential victims. These are among the most notable examples that hackers would like to target and exploit vulnerabilities and perform a zero-day attack:
- Operating systems
- Hardware related firmware
- IoT devices and software tools
- Web browsers
- Office applications
- Open source components
A 0day vulnerability can be challenging because it would combine a wide range of malicious programs and practices to exploit a weakness in the network. These types of cyber attacks can take multiple forms, and cybersecurity teams should deal with many issues. Potential victims include:
- Individuals who use a vulnerable system software, such as a browser
- Government agencies
- Small, medium, and large businesses
- Hardware devices and firmware tools
Attackers can use a 0day vulnerability to target infrastructures, such as control systems, telecommunications, financial services, and water facilities. From a broader viewpoint, these types of cyber attacks can damage primary industries. Technical damages during a conflict include taking control of systems and hardware devices, data loss, data exposure, and unauthorised access.
A zero day vulnerability often results in a substantial financial loss. This difficulty is a result of the following:
- Stealing sensitive information of a company
- Stealing the financial data of employees
- Theft of money
- Interrupting business processes and workflow
More importantly, a company may lose trust and reputation among customers after a cyber attack. This will damage the customer relationship in your company and significantly lead to a loss of customers and a reduction in revenue.
How Can Cyber Security Teams Discover Zero-day Vulnerabilities?
Note that a 0day vulnerability can take several forms, so cybersecurity teams should make use of multiple practices to block these types of cyber threats. Generally, zero-day exploits cannot be detected until a real-world attack is planned and carried out. This is because antiviruses or security software tools lack fixes and signatures at the time.
But, there are a variety of techniques and practices defined by CISOs for discovering such threats before they can damage systems and software programs fundamentally.
- Hiring cybersecurity experts: Cybersecurity professionals have a wealth of experience in examining systems in terms of cyber threats and providing on-time solutions for them. An experienced Chief Information Security Officer plays a critical role in every cybersecurity team by designing a well-defined and foolproof cybersecurity strategy.
- Vulnerability scanning: Regular scanning is a primary technique for cybersecurity teams to identify security flaws in the software code of applications.
- Monitoring activities: We can prevent systems from zero-day attacks by monitoring the network and checking unexpected traffic. As a result, experienced cybersecurity teams can find anomalies in the network and restrict suspicious activities that may originate from different sources.
- Investing in bug bounty programs: Organisations can define their own bug bounty programs and encourage creative cybersecurity professionals to find undetected vulnerabilities in their systems. This is a proven and resultful technique if you want to protect your organisation against 0day vulnerabilities.
- Threat intelligence: Threat intelligence combines multiple practices, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to understand potential issues, detect cyber attacks, and respond to them right away.
- A database of malware: Exposing systems to a database of malware provides us with a helpful insight into how our systems react when a real-world attack is performed. So, cybersecurity teams can take advantage of existing databases of malware and malicious programs to test systems and examine their weaknesses.
CISOs Play an Important Role
CISOs take responsibility in organisations to provide a good defence strategy and employ the right tools, technologies, and cybersecurity techniques. Because zero-day vulnerabilities are carried out in a small period of time, it requires expertise and experience to deal with these worrisome cyber threats.
CISOs and security teams at small or large organisations are on alert for these types of cybersecurity threats. The thing is that we need to take urgent steps when a cyber threat is reported. So, only CISOs and security teams with prior knowledge and professional skills can conduct reliable and on-time solutions.
What is the Proactive Cyber Security Strategy for Detecting Zero-day Vulnerabilities?
Proactive cybersecurity implements a constant review model for detecting anomalies in the network, which is the basic strategy against zero-day exploits. This approach is based on the idea of: Monitoring regularly, checking network traffic, and updating everything frequently.
There is also an essential consideration in terms of proactive cybersecurity strategy; Training employees and organising regular events to teach them about cyber threats is one of the most important approaches for any organisation that wants to be ahead of the competition.
Tools and Services to Block Zero-day Vulnerabilities
Security teams make use of several tools and services to proactively be prepared against 0day attacks. These are the primary tools and services that help us prevent zero-day attacks:
- Threat intelligence platforms
- Web application firewalls
- Threat prevention engines
- Advanced solutions for email security
- Cloud-based computing
How Vulnerability Intelligence Services Help Us Discover Zero-day Vulnerabilities
Vulnerability intelligence is the next generation of cybersecurity that is based on intelligent technologies and trustworthy services. Vulnerability intelligence is a specific form of threat intelligence that provides solutions before any difficulty hits our systems.
It’s an ongoing and regular process for collecting information, assessing data, and reporting based on the collected data. Vulnerability intelligence provides early alerts on critical vulnerabilities to allow decision-makers to take the required steps and protect systems urgently.
It delivers the following benefits through highly-reliable cybersecurity practices:
- Improved security and control
- Efficiency in cyber threat detection
- Top-level visibility and reporting
Which Methods Can be Used to Handle Zero-day Vulnerability?
Our innovative approach to secure systems and software programs is taking intelligence into account when dealing with zero-day attacks. Vulnerability management works on the 4 primary rules to strengthen your organisation’s security level:
- Watch: Eagle-eyed cybersecurity teams can spot issues when they are constantly monitoring the network in the case of abnormal traffic.
- Detect: When there is a never-ending monitoring strategy and vulnerability scanning solution, team members can identify security issues and reduce the risk of zero-day attacks.
- Ethical hacking: Ethical hacking allows cybersecurity teams to perform intrusion tests on the system and analyse its response when a malicious program or motivated hacker wants to enter the system.
- Defensive security solutions: Defensive security solutions include a wide range of techniques, such as system hardware upgrades and technology improvements.
Nordic Defender focuses on 2 critical topics in terms of 0day vulnerability management: Incident response and patch management are the important strategies every cybersecurity team should consider to minimise the risks of 0day attacks.
Security engineers explain incident response clearly: Responding quickly and effectively to any cyber threat or cyber attack. Incident response is the process by which a security team manages a data breach or a cyber attack. The term refers to methods that a cyber security team uses to control the negative consequences of cyber attacks.
Releasing a timely patch for 0day vulnerabilities becomes a priority when a flaw is detected. Once a vendor detects a vulnerability, it works on the issue to provide a security patch. A fast process is required in this stage to manage everything. Not having a timely patch allows hackers to exploit the security hole.
How Does Training the Security Team Work for Discovering Zero-day Vulnerabilities?
Cybercriminals always design new techniques to enter systems and exploit weaknesses. Consequently, security team members need to always learn more to stay updated with the latest cyber threats and their reactive solutions.
CISOs can handle this and define a good plan for organising training events and courses for team members.
Vulnerability Intelligence Services
Vulnerability intelligence is information about systems or software programs’ vulnerabilities that helps organisations prevent adverse results of cyber attacks. Vulnerability intelligence is a valuable entity for managing zero day vulnerabilities and providing on-time solutions for them.
Nordic Defender employs the latest technology tools and practices to provide vulnerability intelligence services for small-large companies. We endeavour to deliver the best services and provide the following benefits for your organisation:
- Helping organisations manage zero-day attacks
- Allowing organisations to identify weaknesses at the right time
- Enabling organisations to respond quickly to cyber attacks
Nordic Defender Cyber Security Team
With a team of over 15 years of experience and a large crowd of security experts, Nordic Defender aims to keep your organisation secure and protected against different cyber threats. Cybercriminals are always designing innovative techniques to be able to enter victims’ systems and perform malicious activities.
Nordic Defender helps your organisation get rid of such issues and keep track of suspicious activities and mitigate the risks posed by 0day threats.
An inclusive strategy is required to secure systems against a zero day vulnerability. CISOs play an important role in designing such a strategy and forming a foolproof security model in your organisation. This depends on the expertise and proficiency of CISOs, and it needs a proactive security practice to check weaknesses and hinder security threats. Feel free to contact our experts to get insightful recommendations on how you can reform your systems to become highly secure and dependable.