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What is a Zero-Day Attack

What is a Zero-Day Attack

A zero-day vulnerability, in essence, is a flaw. It is an unknown exploit in the wild that exposes a vulnerability in software or hardware and can create complicated problems well before anyone realises something is wrong.

Vulnerability timeline

A zero-day attack happens once that flaw, or software/hardware vulnerability, is exploited and attackers release malware before a developer has an opportunity to create a patch to fix the vulnerability—hence “zero-day.” Let’s break down the steps of the window of vulnerability:

  • A company’s developers create software, but unbeknownst to them it contains a vulnerability.
  • The threat actor spots that vulnerability either before the developer does or acts on it before the developer has a chance to fix it.
  • The attacker writes and implements exploit code while the vulnerability is still open and available
  • After releasing the exploit, either the public recognises it in the form of identity or information theft or the developer catches it and creates a patch to staunch the cyber-bleeding.

Once a patch is written and used, the exploit is no longer called a zero-day exploit. These attacks are rarely discovered right away. In fact, it often takes not just days but months and sometimes years before a developer learns of the vulnerability that led to an attack.

HoneypotsAlso see: What are Honeypots


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