This past March, WikiLeaks dumped 8,761 CIA documents collectively known as “Vault 7”. These documents contained information about what was essentially the government agency’s armory of cyber threats. They included malware, viruses and Trojans used for espionage purposes. More importantly, they had information about zero day vulnerabilities the CIA had been using to hack computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices for intelligence gathering purposes. Frighteningly, all of it was made available to hackers in one fell swoop. Wired called it “a one-stop guide to zero day exploits.”
On the bright side, cyber security researchers have access to the same information, which means they have some time to steel the rest of us against any fallout that could ensue from these previously undisclosed cyber weapons. Nevertheless, these zero day threats are out in the open now, and they can be used against us.
With that in mind, there’s no better time than now to dive into the world of zero day exploits. This post looks at how zero days behave, assesses some of the most infamous examples of them, and perhaps most importantly, provides best practices for how to deal with these elusive threats.
Part 1: The Evolution of Zero Days A Sinister and Growing Cyber Threat
A zero day threat is a vulnerability that developers and security researchers have known about for less than a day. In many cases, these threats are first identified by penetration testers and white hats, which gives them time to issue emergency