A zero day vulnerability refers to a hole in software that is unknown to the vendor. This security hole is then exploited by hackers before the vendor becomes aware and hurries to fix it—this exploit is called a zero day attack. Uses of zero day attacks can include infiltrating malware, spyware or allowing unwanted access to user information. The term “zero day” refers to the unknown nature of the hole to those outside of the hackers, specifically, the developers. Once the vulnerability becomes known, a race begins for the developer, who must protect users.
In order for the vendor to rectify the vulnerability, the software company must release a patch. Often patches are released on a regular basis, one example being Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday. On the second Tuesday of each month, Microsoft releases security fixes that resolve identified holes. If, however, a critical vulnerability is discovered, a patch may be released outside of schedule.
Browsers are similarly vulnerable; it’s a good idea to update your browser often, for updated security as well as features. To check if any updates are available for your browser of choice, open the browser and click either “Help” or the browser name, depending on which browser you’re using. A quick online search will provide step-by-step instructions. Alternately, you could set up automatic updates, again, depending on browser.
Zero day vulnerabilities can be serious security risks. When searching for an appropriate antivirus solution, look for security software that protects against both known and unknown threats.