2021, our planet experienced the highest number of Cyber-attack this year.
Do you know what term is hiding behind this dangerous news? It is the term “Zero-day” that is a nightmare for any individual or organization in the matter of the safety of their devices. Cyberattack is a well-known term for all of us but unfortunately, we don’t have any details of this terrible thing. Tech giants like Google, Apple have already suffered from the zero-day attack of hackers.
For your brief knowledge about the zero-day exploit, here we discussed it shortly.
The zero-day attack means that hackers have found flaws in the developers’ software to inject any malware/Adware/Spyware virus into the software and exploit it. This can be a great threat to the vendors as their software can be exploited by hackers to steal and sell information to third parties. The term zero-day means the vendor has zero-day remaining to secure the security of their software as hackers have already exploited the program to take the advantage of developers’ unawareness.
There are some more terms that you should definitely know regarding the zero-day.
- Zero-day Vulnerability is the flaw/hole in the particular software found by the hacker and the vendor is totally unaware of it. This weakness is the point where a hacker works to manipulate the software.
- Zero-day Exploit means when a hacker takes the advantage of the weakness of the software by using any particular method.
- Zero-day Attack is the time when a cyberattack occurs using the exploit to damage the software or steal information.
Well, software developers always try to Patch up the vulnerabilities of their software which means developing any flaws or holes in the software. However, these attacks begin using these vulnerabilities by the hackers. The danger comes when a hacker finds the flaws unbeknown to the developer and manipulates the program with a malware /adware injection, in other words, with a zero-day exploit. Hackers mainly get these malware codes from the dark web or might write exploit codes to track the vulnerabilities.
Once the weak point is spotted, cyberattackers ties to reach that software by using social engineering techniques or phishing, for example, unwanted emails or drives in the social sites. Software users do not have any idea about this neither the developers. As soon as hackers get any successful download of that particular email or drive in a device, the zero-day attack is executed. This attack can include-
- Installing any malware to steal personal information
- Sending spam messages to contacts of the device.
- Spying the users’ activity in the web browser.
- Manipulation and corruption of the data.
- Installing corrupted files.
The most unpleasant thing about a zero-day attack is that it cannot be spotted or recognized by the vendors so easily. In fact, it takes weeks, months, or even years to find the flaw and patch it. So, the hackers can take full advantage of the duration to steal so much sensitive information of the software users. And even the software is patched by the developers, not all users are quick enough to update their software.
Well, there are types of these malicious actors according to their focus of action. Here they are-
- Cybercriminals/Hackers are those who earn revenue for doing this malicious job
as their key target is to earn money from this.
- Hacktivists are the type of hackers whose target is to display his/her cause to draw attention socially or politically.
- Corporate espionage is mainly motivated to spy on companies.
- Cyberwarfare Attackers are independent malicious hackers or a country that spies on another country’s cyberinfrastructure.
Various digital devices and systems can be the victim of zero-day attacks. Such as Operating systems, Web browsers, Hard drives, firm drives, Office Applications, the Internet of Things(IoT), etc. Therefore, hackers do have too many options to accumulate people’s data by using this wide range of sources.
First of all, a vulnerable system user, for example, a vulnerable browser or operating system, can pave the way to a hacker by allowing emails, spam messages, files from unknown sources.
People who handle valuable data of a particular business, servers of government agencies, popular local or international organizations, banking systems, etc remain on the top of the list.
However, we can differentiate zero-day attacks in two ways.
- Targeted attacks: Here the hackers create exploit to any particular organization like government agencies, multinational business companies, popular organizations, VIPs, etc.
- Non-targeted attacks: These attacks are mainly occurred focusing on the subscribers of different web browsers and vulnerable operating systems.
Note: Non-targeted attacks are applied to catch as many users as possible. As a result, most of the user’s data can be manipulated.
Your device might act differently if any malicious activity occurs on your PC. You might notice different forms of vulnerabilities such as problems in data encryption, problems with password security, bugging, missing authorization, etc. So, it is hard to detect a zero-day vulnerability before the attack occurs. However, here is some information to identify a zero-day attack.
- Many business companies can face unwanted traffic or scanning from a client or other sources.
- Scan your device frequently to keep unexpected traffic away.
- Use previous malware databases and use it as a reference on how it reacts. Malware databases are upgrading day by day so it will be easy to detect any new zero-day exploit.
- Examining the codes of incoming files, leveraging the malware detection can be another effective way to detect a zero-day exploit.
- Moreover, the application of machine learning is to catch data from the previous zero-day exploit. It is effective to create a fence against any attack for a better system.
There are some ways to prevent your device system from a zero-day attack. These can be useful for both individual users as well as organizations.
- Keep your device updated with all its software and operating systems. Updating will increase the performance of your device as well as the safety of your device.
- Avoid using unnecessary apps as it increases the chances of having new vulnerabilities within the app.
- Install a firewall. Using a firewall is very effective for your pc to fight against a new zero-day exploit and ensures you with maximum protection.
- Recruit efficient users for your organization. A well-trained and expert user can highly help you to keep your organization’s system safe and secure from hackers’ evil eyes.
- Use antivirus software to maintain a full security fence that keeps your device safe from unknown attacks.
You will be shocked to know some examples of the worlds leading tech companies that were attacked by zero-day exploits in recent days.
- Zoom App, 2020, this video conferencing online platform suffered from a series of zero-day threats as the hackers made the way to control the app remotely.
- Apple, 2020, the most secured system in the world, unwillingly allowed cyberattackers to maintain their devices from other locations.
- Microsoft Windows, 2019, In the Eastern Europe region, some government agencies noticed unusual activities in the system as data changed, unknown programs being installed, programs manipulated, etc.
- Microsoft Word, 2017, this attack was made to get users’ personal banking information by installing malware in the victim’s device. The victim just opened a word document on his/her pc and the rest was a disaster.
- Stuxnet in 2010, the most known cyber attack, was manufactured to disrupt Iranian nuclear plants systems, taking control of digital devices especially computers, to change the functions of centrifuges and ultimately destroy the systems of the plant.
Can you imagine how much revenue can anyone earn from selling information of zero-day vulnerabilities? Well, It varies on the seller, buyer, and the demand for the zero-day information. The market value might range up to a few thousand to million-dollar of revenue that is creating an attractive market to follow in.
In the Dark market, cybercriminals connect to share vulnerable software information and find/create exploits to break through the software. Their key intention is to steal or manipulate the information of the user.
Whereas, in the grey market, different government authorities such as militaries, secret agents, law enforcements connect with cyber specialists, companies, organizations to sell zero-day information.
On the other hand, white market common companies, organizations hire/pay cybercrime specialists/hackers to secure their systems by finding the weak points of the software, patching it with more secure codes, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Black market?
A platform where cybercriminals act, share software vulnerabilities, search for the way to go through vulnerable software, sell and buying of cyber arms, weapons, etc.
- What is 1-day exploit?
This term is used to follow the current patches of different software and find the vulnerability from the patch.
- Are these illegal?
Using or transaction of the knowledge of zero-day to save any software is completely legal. But if the intention is to exploit any other software then it is totally against the law. Researching of zero-day to secure own software is absolutely fine.
- Is there any defense against zero-day attacks?
Generally, there is no protection to defend against zero-day attacks in place. The way a zero-day exploit is made, there remains no patch to solve the problem instantly.
As we are living our lives depending on technology greatly, we must ensure the safety of our virtual world. To defend against the growing cybercrime activities one must know all the ins and outs of the term Zero-day attack/exploit. Complete knowledge about cybercrime fulfills at the time when we are aware of the hidden threats. To mitigate the risk of getting the victim of a Zero-day attack, we need to be more cautious and take proper safety measures. To do this, hope our article was informative enough.