What You Need to Know About Zero-Day Attack Protection

No matter how much you know about implementing cybersecurity best practices, the field is constantly evolving. Every day, cybercriminals become more sophisticated. This means that staying on top of vulnerabilities — and learning how to patch them — is a full-time job in itself. And while it’s certainly helpful to establish comprehensive training programs for your employees, it behooves any company to have highly-skilled IT professionals provide some assistance. 

One of the most recently discovered cybersecurity vulnerabilities are zero-day attacks. It is often used for a wide array of criminal activity, ranging from corporate espionage to hacking for money. But, what exactly, is this type of attack? How do they work? And how can you learn to recognize it?


What is a Zero-Day Attack? 

A zero day attack is an umbrella term that can refer to many different types of cyber attacks. It entails a hacker finding a weakness/vulnerability in a software program before the manufacturer discovers it exists. 

It’s important to note that there are three modalities to zero day issues: 

  • Zero day vulnerabilities refer to the actual weakness in the software.
  • Zero day exploits refer to the means a cybercriminal uses to infiltrate a system
  • Zero day attacks refers to when the damage is already occurring — such as when a hacker has already accessed your data or installed malware. 

The name zero day is used to describe these scenarios because once they are discovered, the software manufacturer has zero days to patch the vulnerability. Once they find it, it’s crucial to fix it now

How Do Zero Day Attacks Work? 

Every time a new software is developed, it goes through quality assurance. But even within this process, it’s possible for someone to either make a mistake or fail to discover possible loopholes. Or maybe the exploit didn’t exist at the time the software was developed, but a hacker figures it out before there’s a new software update. 

The longer the vulnerability exists without the software manufacturer discovering it, the easier it becomes for cybercriminals to exploit it. And sometimes, they can exist for extended periods of time before the manufacturer realizes it. 

A cybercriminal may become aware of it and develop exploit code to take control of a device — and then an entire network. They can also develop the code and sell it on the dark web. And if they aren’t able to develop exploit code they can then trick someone with access to the software to infiltrate it, as explained below. 

What Makes You Vulnerable to Zero Day Attacks?

Ok. So let’s take a closer look at the ways hackers can trick people into providing access to their networks: 

Weak Passwords

This is one of the most common ones, precisely because people get tired of remembering complex passwords. As a result, they succumb to using easy-to-guess ones, or still easy to decipher through a dictionary attack — which is why 30% of security breaches are caused by weak passwords.

In order to mitigate this risk, it’s good practice to use different passwords for different accounts, and to reinforce their use by requiring other security measures, such as biometrics or multi-factor authentication

Unencrypted Data

Data should always be encrypted, both while in transit and while at rest. Failing to do so means it’s only a matter of time before your information is compromised — and that scare is only the tip of the iceberg. Security breaches due to unencrypted data are often the culprit of fraud and identity theft. This leaves your business exposed to hefty fines, a ruined reputation, and in certain scenarios, may even lead to litigation and/or prosecution. 

This is even more of a bigger risk in a modern world, where people access sensitive information from mobile devices, or work remotely by connecting to unsecured networks

Outdated Software

There are several reasons for updating software — faster service, better features, and improved security. Sometimes this is due precisely because of a missed vulnerability during its initial QA process. However, it’s also possible that hackers simply discovered a new way of infiltrating the software. Therefore, it’s good practice to install updates as soon as they become available. 

Phishing Scams

While most people have become discerning enough not to click on suspicious links (or those who are sent from unknown sources), the practice still poses a significant security threat. Cybercriminals use more advanced tactics, such as psychological manipulation and social engineering in order for their messages to appear to be coming from legitimate sources. 

A good way to alert coworkers of potential phishing threats is to inform them of suspicious information requests and links you’ve received, as often, several employees from the same company receive phishing scam attempts from the same sender. 

Social Engineering

This type of cyber crime involves doing some background research into victims. Hackers learn their names, devices they use, and sometimes even the names and titles of people the victim regularly interacts with — such as a boss, coworker, or client. They then use this information to gain the victim’s trust and get them to share confidential information. 

Another method of doing so is to send alerts that their device has been compromised, causing the victim to click on a call to action to install virus protection. This is why it becomes even more crucial to provide continuous training. If your team knows which firewalls and other cybersecurity tools you use, they are less likely to panic and click on any other legitimate-looking solutions. 


When spyware infiltrates a device or network, it gathers information such as login credentials, online activity, stored files, keystrokes, screen shots, and other communications and sends it to third parties. This is a common method used to steal data, as well as to commit fraud. And often, victims don’t become aware of it until after extensive damage has already been caused by the cybercriminal. 

It’s important to be mindful to only download content from trusted sources, to grant cookies permission exclusively from reputable websites, and to not grant permissions to apps that don’t need it — especially those requesting camera, microphone, or location access. 

How To Identify a Zero Day Attack

Identifying vulnerabilities, exploits, and attacks requires technology. Relying on a human to notice there’s something amiss means discovering the malware after it’s too late. Some of the tools you can use include: 

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing are simulated cyber attacks against your own networks to determine whether there are any vulnerabilities you haven’t detected yet. It involves several stages, starting with defining its goals and the systems you’ll test. It then involves attempting to gain access to your networks through backdoors, SQL injections, or through web applications. If successful, the testing then determines whether they can maintain access to your networks. Once these stages are completed, you can gain insights as to these vulnerabilities, the data that was accessed, and the extent of damage which could have been caused. 

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scans go through all of your networks and devices, then checks each of the operating systems within them against a database of known vulnerabilities. While this is helpful to help identify recently discovered zero day attacks, they can still miss those that the manufacturers still aren’t aware of. Therefore, this method should be used in conjunction with other cybersecurity measures. 

Malware Monitoring

Malware monitoring involves keeping track of all activity within a network, and categorizing them as par for the course or suspicious. It does so in real time, enabling organizations to deploy cybersecurity methods the moment a threat is identified. 

Best Zero Day Attack Solutions

There are several ways to prevent zero day attacks in the first place. While no solution is infallible, every entity should be proactive with the following practices:

Employee Training

Start with the basics. Have specific cybersecurity policies and thoroughly train employees on how to implement them. This includes topics such as password security, safeguarding devices, how to identify suspicious activity, whom to inform, confidentiality requirements, and security courses. And ensure to provide continuing education so that everything stays fresh on their minds and they learn about new developments within cybersecurity. 

Install a Firewall

Firewalls are an effective way to monitor the traffic within your networks. You can preset it to only allow certain IP addresses and individuals to gain access and automatically block the rest. While you should still implement additional security practices, this is an effective first line of defense.

Update Software

Never put this on a backburner; especially since they are created by manufacturers who may have just found out about an existing vulnerability. No matter how busy you are, software security should always be a priority. At the end of the day, a data breach can have catastrophic consequences for a business.

Use Only Applications You Need

Delete all applications you’ve downloaded but seldom (or never) use. This will reduce the points of entry for cyberattacks. This is especially important if you or any of your team members have downloaded an app that is already infected with malware. 

Get Custom Cybersecurity Solutions With Compuquip

For over 40 years, we’ve been providing technology and cybersecurity solutions worldwide. We fully manage cybersecurity, as well as educate your employees on how to best keep your data protected. 

Our highly skilled and experienced are certified with a long list of cybersecurity credentials, and we can help you design the best solutions that are specific to your business needs. 


Contact us and let’s talk about how we can keep your networks secure.