What is a zero-day attack? Why do these represent a significant threat to information systems?

A zero-day threat is a threat that exploits an “unknown computer security vulnerability.” 9

The term “zero-day” is used to indicate that the software faces threats on the very day (or “zeroth”) day of its release. It is also used to denote the threats to a software for which there are “no known security fix because developers are oblivious to the vulnerability or threat.” 9. This could be well after Day-Zero.

They represent a significant threat to information systems as-

  • Attackers exploit zero-day vulnerabilities through different vectors.
  • Renowned hacker groups and malicious coders anticipate zero-day vulnerabilities, detect them as soon as the software is released, and exploit them with worms, virus, and infected code before the software’s developers can patch them.
  • A just-released software is out of the sand-box and completely exposed to the public. A zero-day threat could cripple the software and break it on the very day of its release
  • Zero-day attacks give almost no time for the developers to react and to safe guard the software and systems.
  • If the software team has failed to anticipate the threat, and are attacked, they are pretty much doomed and forced to take down the system and patch it before going live again
  • Zero-day attacks can cause severe financial loss, data breaches, compliance violations, and prove very expensive to organizations and can even permanently cripple them.
  • Zero-day attacks attract a lot of attention and negative press and can damage the credibility of organizations and software providers.

Zero-day attacks have no solutions at hand, as they were attacks no one anticipated and expected. The sheer factor of their being “unknown” make them a formidable threat.