Zero Day Exploit: A Beginner’s Guide In 4 Points

Ajay Ohri


Software vulnerabilities are the unexpected flaws of a security system that will affect the system’s performance and security level. A zero day exploit is a random attack that is intended to destroy vulnerable systems. In zero-day exploit, Hackers try to attack the system before the creators fix the flaw, and they will invade the user’s privacy and data. To escape from the attack, security measures should be proactive and strong.

  1. Definition
  2. Detection – Timeline of a zero-day attack
  3. Examples of a zero-day exploit
  4. Recovery – Security measures against zero-day exploit

1. Definition

A zero day exploit is a cyber-attack that happens when the attackers use software vulnerabilities and release malware programs before the developer creates a security patch to fix it. A zero-day exploit is sudden such that it happens almost the same day of weakness is revealed. The zero-day exploit occurs on zero awareness, and there will not be any defensive mechanism in place, which increases the success rate.

The developers only have zero days to address and patch the vulnerability. If a software vulnerability became known to the public, the authorities need to work quickly and come up with a patch before the hackers exploit the security hole. If they fail in it that, it is called a zero-day exploit.

2. Detection – Timeline of a zero-day attack

  • An organization will come up with software that possesses vulnerabilities and make it available for users.
  • The attacker spots this vulnerability side before the developer verifies and clears it.
  • The attacker uses malicious codes and input against this vulnerable software and succeeds in the zero-day exploit.
  • Either the public or organization knows this when the attacker uses the stolen data against them. The data will bleed until the organization comes up with a security patch. 

3. Examples of a zero-day exploit

  • Stuxnet

Zero-day exploit happened in many countries such as India, Iran, and Indonesia, in which the worm affects the manufacture of computers. The first target was a uranium plant in Iran, and the motive was to disrupt the nuclear program of the country. It affected through the vulnerability existed in industrial computers called program logic controllers of Microsoft windows. 

  • Sony zero-day attack

The multinational company, Sony, is also a victim of a zero-day exploit. It leads to the revelation of the company’s top-secret data and important information. The exact reason for vulnerability is still unknown.

  • Operation aurora

The zero-day exploit also targeted companies like Google, Yahoo, and Adobe. In their case, vulnerabilities were existed in internet explorer and perforce.

  • RSA

Hackers attacked the Adobe flash player to get access to RSA, the security network company. They sent a flash file installed with poison ivy remote administration tool to the employees of the company. This file provides them with access to the network through which they stole confidential data and sensitive company information.

4. Recovery – Security measures against zero-day exploit

A zero-day exploit is a severe cyber-attack that happens at zero awareness. So, the security measures adopted should be vivid and intense to prevent it.

  • Time to time vulnerability scanning

Scanning for vulnerability from time to time can avoid most of the possibilities of a zero-day exploit. They will detect the errors in software code and correct them. It also helps to deal with the new vulnerabilities which are raised due to software updates. It may not withstand zero-day exploits completely, but organizations should perform scanning and reviewing of code health to prevent exploitation. Always the discovering of weakness and arriving at a solution should be quick enough. If the firm acts slowly, then it makes it the hackers easier to perform the zero-day exploit. 

  • Managing security patch

Coming up with quick security patches for the latest vulnerabilities is very important. Applying of security patch as soon as possible and software up-gradation minimizes the risk of zero-day attack to a certain point. While coming to patch management, developers need to take care of three factors. First and foremost is to discover the weakness and its path. For that, the developers must go through all the code and working of the software, which, of course, is a big-time consuming process.

The second step is to build the security patch against the expected zero-day exploit. The last step is to distribute the patch to the users. The time taken for this whole steps directly depends on the success rate of a zero-day exploit. The more time taken makes the organization more prone to attack.

  • Validating input and sanitization

Validating inputs makes the software more secure, and it ensures the protection of organizations while they are going through scanning and patch creation processes. All inputs to the system are validated by a team of experts, which makes the system proactive to new real-time threats, which makes it less vulnerable towards the zero-day exploits.

The web application firewall is an effective way to sanitize the whole software system. It acts as a filter and stands against all the malicious inputs. Whereas, run time self-protection (RASP) is an advanced security measure that deals with all the incoming requests and defends the malicious ones.

  • Zero-day initiative

It is a wise and tactical strategy to save the value of software. In this program, the organizations reward the people who find out the vulnerabilities of software and informing them. The vulnerability researchers look for the holes in software and directly inform the creators instead of selling them in the black market. In this way, the security team of the organization will be alerted and come up with a solution that protects the system from the zero-day exploit.


A zero-day exploit is a severe cyberattack that results in a lot of damages and loss of data. The major problem associated with this zero-day attack is that it happens with zero awareness. The whole system will be exploited before the creator come up with the fix. Hackers can make use of this stolen information and data to blackmail users. To avoid a zero-day exploit, the security team should always be alert.

They must validate all the incoming inputs and perform scanning and review the system health without any fail. They also need to discover the holes in the system. They want to quickly come up with strong security patches whenever they realize any vulnerabilities in the system before the attacker performs and zero-day exploit. 

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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