Skip to main content

The Anatomy of Zero-Day Malware

Zero-day malware is called such because it takes advantage of zero-day vulnerabilities, which are newly discovered flaws that have yet to be patched. The time when the vulnerability is discovered is referred to as “Day 0”. These vulnerabilities provide cyber attackers with a window of opportunity to launch their attacks, often catching victims- and their security systems- off guard. In the time that it takes for a patch to be deployed across an entire enterprise malware can already be siphoning critical information from your system.  

The Zero-Day Malware Threat Landscape

The proliferation of zero-day malware poses significant risk across various sectors, including government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare organizations. Cybercriminals capitalize on zero-day exploits to carry out a range of nefarious activities from credential theft to data encryption and extortion. 

Zero-day attacks erode client trust in your ability to protect sensitive data, disrupt business continuity, and can have far-reaching consequences for critical infrastructure. Beyond inconvenience and reputation damage, data breaches result in immediate financial damage. Just think of the financial and business impacts from shutting down a system central to business operations to comb through any potential malware left from a successful zero-day breach, which can often take months.

Traditional malware detection solutions typically rely solely on signature matching to determine if code is malicious. Zero-day malware is developed in response to a unique flaw, so its code is tailored to a threat that likely remains unknown. Because of this, malware databases will not contain the sample necessary for traditional identification systems to properly flag zero-day malware as malicious.

How do you Prevent Zero-Day Attacks?

The common approaches recommend making patches a top priority, running more comprehensive testing on newly developed software (and software updates), and increased information sharing so organizations affected by zero-day attacks can warn others. While these solutions are all steps in the right direction, they can be difficult to execute regularly and are highly dependent on having enough time and SOC resources - a shortage of both being a challenge most security teams face today. 

Immediate patching would require a dedicated team member or the halt of all other security team functions in response to every identified flaw. Many companies consider the added time testing newly developed software to be debilitating to their business function: in the time it takes to assess all aspects of the code the benefit attributed to the update may have already become redundant. 

Increased information sharing has been a focus of recent cybersecurity initiatives but is unlikely to be 100% efficient without further legislation. As it currently stands, companies are hesitant to reveal that their system was breached in an effort to avoid tainting their reputation, especially if the vulnerability was patched before lasting damage was done.  

The CodeHunter Solution: Advanced Malware Detection & Analysis Automation

CodeHunter’s automated malware detection does not rely solely on signature matching to correctly identify malware. Instead, its patented detection and analysis engine streamlines deep file analysis, automating static, dynamic, and binary analysis techniques to uncover unknown malware like zero-day attacks  in minutes ... not months.  Security teams get actionable threat intelligence to speed up remediation and reduce vulnerabilities. CodeHunter’s ability to catch never-before-seen malicious code allows companies to proactively protect their systems.

Learn more about how CodeHunter minimizes the attack surface here: