Zero Day

What does Zero Day mean?

Zero day, in IT, refers to the first day that something is known or anticipated. This term is applied in various ways: for example, the first day that a team of security workers or other party discovers a virus, it is called a “zero day” virus. In other words, zero day is that first day that someone identifies a problem and tries to address a security threat or other IT issue.

In addition to a “zero day virus,” IT professionals may talk about a “zero day attack” or a “zero day threat.” Zero day is used as a benchmark: often, security teams continue to keep careful track of the number of days that a security issue has been addressed. This is usually done in order to track progress, until a security issue or other IT issue is resolved or closed.

Another role of the term “zero day” is to describe the processes that security workers encounter. Someone might talk about how many “zero day” attacks or threats they found on a given day. Another example is of specific “zero day” vulnerabilities found in the workings of an operating system. As a core software resource, the operating system has a lot of context, and that means that zero day issues carry a lot of this context also. The kinds of new security problems that pros find can be politicized, and affect an OS brand while generating the same kinds of controversy and collaborative fixes that other zero day finds typically involve.


Definition – What does Zero-Day Exploit mean?

A zero-day exploit involves targeting specific computer vulnerabilities in tandem with a general announcement that identifies the explicit security vulnerability within a software program. When software vulnerability is identified, information about its nature is relayed to a specific person or software company and a secure remedy is urgently implemented. It is during this precious time period that an attack may occur should the vulnerability be announced to the entire public. The time involved it takes to combat the problem may be longer than it takes to spread the word about it, providing a tip to hackers who may be on the lookout for this type of opportunity.

Once a computer vulnerability is exposed to the general public, there is a very real danger that malicious parties will exploit the vulnerability before it can be repaired. In other instances, the hacker may be the very first to discover the vulnerability and may announce it to the general public. In this case, the software company or individual may not be notified in time to fix the vulnerability, giving hackers just enough time to exploit it. To guard against this type of exploitation, companies can enlist various protection measures including network access controls, lockdowns of wireless access entries, virtual local area networks and intrusion detection systems.

Definition – What does Zero Day Vulnerability mean?

A zero day vulnerability is a type of unknown or unanticipated software flaw or security hole in an IT system that can be exploited by hackers. On a given day, IT professionals may refer to a number of zero day vulnerabilities.

The term relies on the common use of the term “zero day” to describe the first day a specific IT problem is recognized. Zero day also serves as a benchmark for addressing these kinds of software problems. In the tech world, a zero day vulnerability describes the urgency of these types of IT problems.

Typically, IT and security professionals should look for upgrades or patches that resolve zero day vulnerabilities before the fact, or alter systems to tighten data and asset security. In short, when a vendor does not provide security for an issue that is discovered and branded a zero day vulnerability, it is born into the consciousness of developers and security communities, enabling future rapid responses required by organizations for adequate network security.

Definition – What does Zero-Day Threat mean?

A zero-day threat is a threat that exploits an unknown computer security vulnerability. The term is derived from the age of the exploit, which takes place before or on the first (or “zeroth”) day of a developer’s awareness of the exploit or bug. This means that there is no known security fix because developers are oblivious to the vulnerability or threat.

Attackers exploit zero-day vulnerabilities through different vectors. Web browsers are the most common, due to their popularity. Attackers also send emails with attachments exploiting software attachment vulnerabilities.

A zero-day threat is also known as a zero-hour attack or day-zero attack.

Zero-day exploits are often put up by renowned hacker groups. Typically, the zero-day attack exploits a bug that neither developers, nor the users, know about. Indeed, this is exactly what the malicious coders anticipate. By discovering a software vulnerability before the software’s developers do, a hacker can make a worm or virus that can be used to exploit the vulnerability and harm computers.

Not all zero-day attacks actually take place before the software developers discover the vulnerability. In certain cases, the developers discover and understand the vulnerability; however, it may take some time to develop the patch to fix it. Also, software makers may occasionally postpone a patch release to avoid flooding users with several individual updates. If the developers find that the vulnerability is not extremely dangerous, they may decide to postpone the patch release until a number of patches are collected together. Once these patches are collected, they are released as a package. However, this strategy is risky because could invite a zero-day attack.

Zero-day attacks occur within a time frame, known as the vulnerability window. This extends from the first vulnerability exploit to the point at which a threat is countered. Attackers engineer malicious software (malware) to exploit common file types, compromise attacked systems and steal valuable data. Zero-day attacks are carefully implemented for maximum damage – usually in the span of one day. The vulnerability window could range from a small period to multiple years. For instance, in 2008, Microsoft revealed an Internet Explorer vulnerability that infected a few versions of Windows released during 2001. The date in which this vulnerability was initially discovered by the attacker is unknown, but the vulnerability window in such a case might have been as much as seven years.

Definition – What does Zero Day Attack mean?

Zero day or a day zero attack is the term used to describe the threat of an unknown security vulnerability in a computer software or application for which either the patch has not been released or the application developers were unaware of or did not have sufficient time to address.

Since the vulnerability is not known in advance, the exploits often occur without the knowledge of the users. A zero day flaw is considered as an important component when designing an application to be efficient and secure.

The salient features of the zero day or day zero attacks are:

  • Zero day attacks usually occur between the time the vulnerability is first found and exploited and the time the application developers releases the necessary solution to counter the exploitation. This timeline is usually termed as the vulnerability window.
  • Zero day attacks are capable of devastating a network by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the applications involved.
  • They are not always viruses and can assume other malware forms such as Trojan horses or worms.
  • For home computer users, the zero day attack is extremely difficult to diagnose as the nature of attack is through a trusted entity.
  • Update of latest anti-malware software are often recommended, though it can only provide a minimum security against a zero day attack.

Effective methods for protecting against zero day attacks:

  • Different access controls and restriction including virtual LANs, firewalls can provide protection against zero day attacks.
  • Single packet authorization can help in providing effective protection in a network with fewer users against zero-day attacks.
  • Restrict privileges for user accounts. This could mitigate the impact of any possible attacks.


Definition – What does Zero-Day Malware mean?

Zero-day malware is a specific kind of malware or malicious software that has only recently been discovered. In general, a zero-day phenomenon is one that is not previously known about or anticipated. Security teams respond to zero-day malware and other zero-day events, tracking their ability to resolve them in real time.

Zero-day malware can affect specific operating systems in specific ways. Some types of malware infiltrate a system attached to e-mails or otherwise disguised as harmless files. Others manipulate security protocols for wireless or IP networks. For example, many instances of zero-day malware affecting the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser have been addressed by Microsoft in the past. Many instances of zero-day malware are resolved with security upgrades or software patches.

In general, IT professionals will use the term zero-day malware to indicate that malware is brand new and that, as a result, teams may not have many resources with which to fight it. Over time, the developer and security communities build up these resources.

The term zero-day malware is a helpful marker to show that there is a new threat and that it needs to be documented and resolved as quickly as possible.

Definition – What does Zero Day Virus mean?

A zero day virus is a malicious software program that is not documented prior to a given day. When the virus is officially recognized and identified by an organization in the anti-virus community, it becomes a zero day virus. Professionals use zero day as the benchmark for responding to a computer virus.

A zero day virus has a particular application to the anti-virus industry. Anti-virus software makers work from specific key principles, including the need to protect their clients from as wide a range of viruses as possible, and to limit, as well as mitigate, cyberattacks. This is a very competitive metric within the industry, as business/government clients and individuals seek to obtain the best anti-virus protection for their networks.

One problem with a zero day virus is that because it is not previously documented, it does not have a signature. Signatures involve reviewing the method and coding of a virus to anticipate and protect systems against the virus. One method of working against zero day viruses is the heuristic anti-virus method, which, using experience-based analysis, looks at other factors besides a signature for a virus to try to predetermine what a system needs protection against and what might be a virus.

Definition – What does Java Zero Day mean?

Java zero day refers to a threat that surrounds the Java programming language and Java objects, such as applets that work with various Web browsers. It also represents an important issue for Java users and systems that are vulnerable to cyberattacks because they use Java functionality.

With its straightforward syntax and a versatile application to Web design, many developers use Java to build applications for the Web.

Java has come under fire for a variety security problems. On zero day, a Java security problem is identified, and IT professionals begin working to resolve the issue. Some experts see the emergence of Java zero day security problems as an epidemic.

Many Java zero day issues include malware and virus attacks, which have led to a new kind of analysis of Java as a dangerous aspect of IP connected systems. Oracle, Java’s developer, has delivered patches and security upgrades for some of these problems, but as Java zero day threats continue emerging, some experts have suggested disabling Java on all browsers and otherwise limiting the use of Java applets or objects.

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