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Hiranmayi Pai
Neeraj Jain
Table of Contents

Evolution of Vulnerabilities and Threats
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Characteristics of Zero-day attack
Detecting a Zero-Day Compromise
Prevention of Zero Day Infections

What is a Zero-day attack?

A zero-day or zero-hour attack or threat is an attack

that exploits a previously unknown vulnerability in
a computer application
Evolution of Vulnerabilities and Threats

In the past, IT security professionals, researchers

and developers would publicly announce they
found a vulnerability, primarily to motivate the
vendor to release a patch.
The average time to identify a vulnerability using
reverse engineering techniques is only nine days
from the time the patch is released.
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 1(Windows 2000 dll)
The earliest known zero-day exploit was discovered
in March 2003 when the military realized one of their
web servers had been compromised. The exploit
involved an unchecked buffer overflow in the
Windows 2000 dynamic link library, Ntdll.dll
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 2 (Internet Explorer)
In October 2003, a zero-day exploit known as the
Qhosts Trojan surfaced. The exploit attacked the
Internet Explorer Object Data Remote Execution
The Trojan horse would automatically be downloaded
and executed on an unsuspecting victims system
only when specific code embedded in a banner ad
was accessed with Internet Explorer.
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 3(Adobe Reader)
Cybercriminals are using a new PDF exploit that
bypasses the sandbox security features in Adobe
Reader X and XI, in order to install banking malware
on computers.
The attack fails in Google Chrome because Chrome
provides additional protection for the Adobe Reader
component, while the attack is successful using IE or
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 4(Java Zero day )
When a compromised page is accessed, it forces the
system to download an arbitrary payload, for
example, a keylogger or calc.exe, without requesting
any prior confirmation.
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 5 (Internet Explorer)
The attacks install the Poison Ivy backdoor Trojan
when unsuspecting people browse a compromised
website using a fully patched version of Windows XP
running the latest versions of IE 7 or IE 8 and the
Trojan hijacks the system.
Propagation of Zero-Day Threats
Example 6 (RSA)
Characteristics of zero-day attack
The most dangerous and likely vector of
propagation for zero-day threats is a blended threat.

Blended threats combine the characteristics of

viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, and malicious code
with server and Internet vulnerabilities to initiate,
transmit, and spread an attack.
Characteristics of zero-day attack
Causes harm
Propagates by multiple methods
Attacks from multiple points
Spreads without human intervention
Exploits vulnerabilities
Detecting a Zero-Day Compromise
Behavior-based systems (IDS and IPS) alerts
Antivirus software alerts as a result of heuristic scanning
Unusual events in the system log files (i.e. failed logons)
Poor system performance
Unexplained system reboots
Network traffic on unexpected ports, especially on ports known to be
ports for known blended threats (i.e. MyDoom: TCP ports 3127 through
Increased network traffic on a legitimate port
Increased scanning activity
Unusual SMTP traffic, especially originating from systems that should not
using SMTP
Prevention of Zero Day Infections
Prevention of Zero Day Infections
Border Protection
System Hardening
Antivirus Software
Patch Management
Vulnerability Management
Application Hardening
Blocking Attachments
Zero-day threats are only in the beginning stages.
If the history of vulnerabilities and exploits is any
indicator, zero-day threats will progressively get
worse and present the biggest challenge to guard
New technologies that actively protect against
Zero-day threats need to be developed by vendors.