As its name implies, a zero day exploit cannot be detected beforehand because its function does not provide such an opportunity. Once a system is exposed, and an attacker is successful in injecting it with malicious code, security at the architectural level is circumvented and a solution can no longer be easily obtained. Such scenarios illustrate the worst possible outcome of a zero day exploit but are in no way exaggerated.
In fact, it is of utmost importance that stakeholders (specifically, a project’s developers and systems analysts) fully understand similar case studies in order to prevent or fight against these attacks. Every software program, whether proprietary or open source, is susceptible to an exploit or outright failure. Threat providers can often spot these weaknesses when others can’t. A zero day exploit is unique in that its barometer for potential damage is time-sensitive. Threat providers must strike while the weakness is available and then wager that the exploit code will go unrecognized.
For the stakeholder’s part, it is important that the exploit is brought to light and resolved as soon as possible. But it is extremely rare that these attacks are discovered as soon as—or even moments after—they take place. Some zero day exploits have taken days, months, even years to fully understand, and thus, resolve as it relates to a system in its production environment.
Only a well-established management foundation is capable of recovering applications and data from a zero day exploit. This includes ensuring that top-level data is recorded so that any abnormalities have a better chance for being detected. Tracking network activity, including traffic and monitor logs and key system metrics, is as good for security as it is for availability, or operational impact. Anomalies are often cascading and can affect one or more layers in a technology stack.
Suspected breaches of any kind should be immediately reported to security and system analysts, who will investigate the matter and implement a solution, if necessary. Another important factor in the process of protection is identifying priorities and security measures beforehand. An organization’s priority should always be the safety and protection of customer data, but other system components should be identified and documented to make the process of recovery as seamless as possible.
Even with so many precautions and security measures in place, a zero day exploit of your application or system may still occur. Usually by law, you are obligated to inform your employees and/or customers of such attacks. But being proactive, or, having a strategy or protocol in place for investigating, diagnosing and taking action to resolve any attack is key to your system’s survivability of remaining available and mission-capable.
Click here for a running log of recent zero day exploits.