What is a zero-day?
Combating and understanding an unknown vulnerability
A zero-day (also known as a 0-day) is a vulnerability unknown to those responsible for fixing it. A zero-day exploit takes advantage of this vulnerability to harm additional computers, data, programs, or a network.
Software vulnerabilities can be used to gain access to sensitive information. Since many countries use the same software, it is possible to exploit one specific vulnerability against thousands of people. To reduce the risk of exploitation, it is important to keep software updated and patch any vulnerabilities as soon as possible.
Usually, government institutions handle this issue. However, in many countries, such institutions are likely to conflict with the desire of the government to obtain people's personal information to combat crime. Consequently, national security agencies and criminals hide specific software vulnerabilities from users and developers.
The three stages of Zero-day attacks
Malicious attackers seek loopholes to exploit infrastructure, critical data, and applications. An attacker can easily access systems through multiple cyberattack methods, such as JNDI attacks, injection, and cross-site scripts.
Operation Aurora, a series of cyberattacks in 2009, was a high-profile zero-day exploit that targeted enterprises such as Adobe Systems, Google, Yahoo, and others. This vulnerability was designed to compromise the source code of these companies so attackers could modify them.
In late 2014, Sony Pictures was hit by a zero-day attack that left the company unusable and allowed private company data to be released on public file-sharing sites. The email addresses of Sony executives, details of upcoming movies, and business plans were among the information compromised. However, it is unclear how the Sony attack used the specific vulnerability.
An organization's zero-day vulnerability strategy is crucial to the safety of its customers, employees, and business data.
Working against it
Detecting the unknown software vulnerabilities is now possible
It is often possible for zero-day attacks to remain undetected after being launched, even against secure networks. Therefore, users of so-called secure systems must exercise caution and practice good computer habits. Patches or antivirus signatures are not yet available for zero-day exploits, which makes them difficult to detect.
Buffer overflows: It limits the effectiveness of zero-day memory corruption vulnerabilities. Modern operating systems such as macOS, Windows Vista, Linux, Solaris, Unix, and Unix-like environments feature these protection mechanisms. Desktop and server protection software can also mitigate zero-day buffer overflow vulnerabilities. Heuristic termination analysis is usually used in these technologies to prevent attacks before they can cause any damage.
In-depth system monitoring: Companies need to monitor as many events as possible to detect modern zero-day attacks, which include all network traffic, all hidden system processes, all existing hooks, all floating code, and so on. A behavior analysis algorithm can effectively process events in streams rather than individually. It detects and records the relationships between different sets of acquired data. However, it demands a lot of time and effort.
Baseline with behavior analysis: In behavior analysis algorithms, all monitored data and any previously recorded data are further analyzed in real-time to establish a baseline of normal behavior. Behavioral analysis algorithms must be able to analyze all future events as a unified stream instead of treating them individually to predict future events. A larger dataset can establish a more accurate baseline, which, in turn, allows to detect deviations from the stated baseline with greater accuracy. This also enables the creation of a baseline that includes both malware and non-malware attacks, which is time-consuming and expensive.
Web Application Firewall (WAF): It is intended to be the fastest method to filter out malicious traffic and prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. Zero-day attacks are a major problem for security. Flaws must be found, patched, and made safe, but web traffic can still target vulnerabilities. To stay updated, WAF must be able to act in real-time and keep adapting.
A program that would offer a monetary reward to security researchers who choose to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities instead of selling the information to the highest bidder could potentially solve this problem. By working together and sharing the information they discover with software vendors, security researchers can help to combat the threat of hackers before they have a chance to exploit the vulnerabilities. Companies should apply patches as soon as possible to reduce the exposure window for any given vulnerability.
The detection of previously unknown software vulnerabilities can be accomplished through several strategies.