A Beginner’s Guide to Zero Day Attack

In this article let us look at:

  1. What is a Zero Day Attack?
  2. How is Zero Day Attack Vulnerabilities Discovered?
  3. How to Detect Zero Day Attack?
  4. How to Prevent Zero Day Attack?
  5. Zero Day Attack Example

1. What is a Zero Day Attack?

In the world of cybersecurity, vulnerabilities are unexpected flaws found in software programs or operating systems. It can be due to an improper computer or security configurations and programming errors, and if it is left unaddressed, it creates security holes that intruders can exploit.

A zero day vulnerability is a flaw in the software security system or device that has been disclosed but is not fixed yet. 

2. How is Zero Day Attack Vulnerabilities Discovered?

The term ‘zero day’ applies to a newly discovered software vulnerability. Since the developer has just learned of the flaw, an official patch or updates to fix it have not been released.

So, ‘zero day’ indicates that the developers have zero days to fix the problem that has just been revealed — and perhaps already exploited by cybercriminals.

When the vulnerability becomes publicly known, the vendor must work immediately to fix the issue to protect its users. However, the software vendor may fail to release a patch before hackers succeed in exploiting the security hole. That is known as a zero-day attack.

  • Hackers race to exploit these vulnerabilities to cash in on their schemes
  • Exposing vulnerable systems until the vendor issues a patch.

Zero day attacks are typically involved in targeted intrusions; however, many campaigns still use old vulnerabilities.

3. How to Detect Zero Day Attack?

While zero day attacks are, by definition, complicated to distinguish, numerous strategies emerge to show: 

  • Statistics-based detection: Employs machine learning to gather data from previously discovered exploits and generate a baseline for dependable system behavior. While this method has limited effectiveness, it usually works well in a hybrid solution.
  • Signature-based detection employs existing malware databases and their behavior as a reference when scanning for threats; it is possible to use the signatures to detect previously unknown vulnerabilities or attacks.
  • Behavior-based detection identifies malware based on its interactions with the target system. The solution analyzes its interactions with existing software to predict if it results from a malicious attack.
  • Hybrid detection merges the above three techniques to take advantage of their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

4. How to Prevent Zero Day Attack?

Hackers communicate in code to target specific security weaknesses. They arrange it into malware called a zero day exploit. This malicious software takes advantage of the vulnerability to compromise an operating system or cause unusual behavior. 

Zero day attack prevention is an uphill battle, as their presence can stay hidden even after the vulnerability is exploited. However, emerging technologies can provide a layer of protection against certain threats, and there are steps one can take to lessen damage once an exploit is detected.

Content Threat Removal (CTR)

CTR is a detection-based defense technology that obstructs data on its way to its destination. It considers all data to be hostile and limits its direct delivery, allowing only the business information carried by the data. Reassembling the data into this new form helps secure its safety, as it rejects any potentially dangerous components of the original data.

Disaster Recovery Strategy

If a system is affected by a zero day attack, it is critical to have a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy to minimize damage. It includes an aggregate of on-site and cloud-based storage for data backup.

Access Removal

One of the most well-known recovery methods for zero day attacks is to physically remove all access from anyone who would have the ability to exploit it. For instance, if WordPress were vulnerable to a zero day exploit that granted full, unauthenticated read/write access, it would be best to shut off the website until a patch is released.

5. Zero Day Attack Example

Multiple zero day attacks commonly befall every year. In 2016, there was a zero day attack (CVE-2016-4117) that misused a previously undiscovered flaw in Adobe Flash Player. In the same year, more than 100 organizations succumbed to a zero day bug (CVE-2016-0167) that was exploited for an elevation of privilege attack targeting Microsoft Windows.

Stuxnet is a highly contagious computer worm that disrupted Iranian nuclear plants. It’s reproducing nature took control of computers – by altering the speed of centrifuges in the plants to shut them down.


We are all aware that digital business creates new risks and often requires a successful enterprising mindset. As one would expect, malicious actors are known to capitalize on every opportunity they get. The attacks will only get bigger and bolder, as experts believe the frequency of zero day attacks will rise to one per day by 2021 instead of one per week in 2015. The bottom line can only mean that the threat landscape is evolving, and attack surfaces keep shifting.

Most CISOs see this as an indication to fight risk aversion and sequentially clarify the business’ risk appetite and effectively balance risk with business goals.

Given the situation, the importance of cybersecurity seems set to increase. Jigsaw Academy’s Cybersecurity program, supported by HackerU, covers most cybersecurity concepts for learners to be at the top of their game. The Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team), ranked #1 Cyber Security Course In 2020, allows you to work on offensive technologies on the simulated interface, prepare for the real threats in virtual environments, and get successfully placed at the end of the program.

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  • What is Keylogging: Beginner’s Guide

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