Zero-day attacks or threats refer to attacks that exploit previously unknown software vulnerabilities. Having been found “in the wild,” that is, before security researchers and software developers become aware of them and create a fix, or patch, they pose a higher risk to users than other vulnerabilities.

  • A vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 led to a zero-day exploit against the US Department of Labor website
  • Zero-day exploits in high-profile applications are usually rare, but not in the first quarter of 2013. Multiple zero-day exploits were found targeting popular applications like Java and Adobe Flash Player, Acrobat, and Reader.

In January 2013 there was a lot of news about a new vulnerability affecting Oracle’s Java. Because this was a zero-day situation, there was no patch available from Oracle at the time. The vulnerability was deemed so risky that the United States Department of Homeland Security recommended disabling Java entirely until a patch could be released.

How do you protect yourself from an “unknown” vulnerability exploit? Using security software from a vendor who has the ability to gather and analyze huge amounts of threat data, with products that can access the resulting protections instantly in the cloud, can go a long way as the malware the exploits deliver can be quickly identified and blocked.

But if you fall victim to a social engineering scheme, and haven’t kept your security software up to date with the latest version, you may be the next victim.

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