Zero Day Attack Protection: 9 Methods To Be Using in 2023

Companies pay millions of dollars for information on zero day exploits, and the reason for that is simple: one undetected exploit could ruin their reputation – let alone their customer base. Protection from these issues is a must. So, what’s the best zero day protection?

Zero day attack protection requires users to use as few apps as possible, update their software when a patch is available, and monitor for suspicious activity to stop any 0-day exploits. Developers should shift left, employ third party vulnerability scans, and put up bug bounty programs.

Are these measures enough to fight against zero day exploits? It’s hard to tell! 0-day attacks are always a surprise, though that doesn’t mean developers should wait until bad news comes knocking on their door. Understanding how zero day attacks work is the key to preventing them.

What’s a Zero Day Attack?

A zero day attack is the use of an exploit both developers and users don’t know about. The name comes from having zero days to fix it – because such a thing is an urgent matter that could prove devastating.

It’s impossible to develop the perfect piece of software, especially in corporate environments involving deadlines and management pressure. Companies often release software, hoping developers will patch any issues as they detect them.

Unfortunately, hackers also find issues after a release, often before a developer can. A zero day attack takes place when a hacker uses one of these undetected issues to cause harm.

Issues With Zero Day Protection

  • Zero Day Attacks Are Unexpected. The true nature of zero day attacks involves an element of surprise. Both developers and users have no idea what’s happening until it’s too late. Threat actors bid their time and prepare to attack, hoping to cause as much damage as possible – thanks to that element of surprise we just talked about.
  • Zero Day Attacks Could Remain Hidden. Imagine you have a secret door to your house that nobody knows about – not even yourself. One day, a criminal comes looking for houses to rob – and finds that secret door. You can probably imagine they’ll manage to steal as many valuables as possible without you knowing (in fact, they could get in multiple times undetected). That’s what zero day attacks are like.
  • Zero Day Attacks Tend To Be Difficult To Detect. There’s a long road between finding a zero day exploit and patching it. It can take months (and up to years) to detect these issues. Worst-case scenario, a threat actor finds out about it and abuses that exploit until someone finds out what’s going on – long after the damage has been done.

Is Protection From Zero Day Attacks Possible?

It’s difficult to protect your software from zero day exploits, though that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Developers have many tools at their disposal (such as third party vulnerability scans and bug bounty programs) to detect and prevent issues.

Users have tools to protect themselves from zero day attacks too. They can monitor for suspicious activity and use essential software alone: monitoring activity is always a must, and using fewer apps reduces the risk of attacks.

We often recommend following cybersecurity best practices to mitigate risks – and this time is no exception. Backing up data, being diligent about data privacy, and building strong security protocols are key in a zero day attack scenario.

9 Zero Day Threat Protection Strategies

1. Use as Few Software Programs as Possible

What’s the best way to prevent a zero day attack? Only use the bare essentials – that have stood the test of time. Users (and companies) tend to go after the latest shiny thing, hoping to boost productivity or increase the profit line, though that often leaves you wide open for an attack.

We recommend sticking to the essential stuff, the very basic things you need to thrive in your line of work. You should also wait until you install an app, especially if it was released a little while ago. A patch or two later, and you’re ready to go!

2. Update Your Apps Whenever You Can

A recent survey showed us close to 60% of data breaches could’ve been prevented if users had installed a patch – that was already available by the time the attack happened! Close to 40% of these users knew they were running unpatched apps.

Using unpatched software is the same as putting a “hackers welcome” sign. People are not to blame when a zero day attack with no patch takes place, though they have nobody to blame but themselves when they forget (or refuse) to patch things up.

3. Monitor and Detect Suspicious Activity

Companies often use monitoring software, though the average user is far from doing so. We invite everyone (companies and users alike) to research the best monitoring software they can afford – because it can save you from a lot of things!

For example, companies often have no way of detecting an insider threat other than monitoring for suspicious activity. Companies and users alike can spot zero day attacks using this method too. Hackers tend to wait until using a 0-day exploit (because it’s often a one-and-done opportunity), so you need to be ready to detect unusual activity to stop that attack.

4. Train Employees (And Yourself)

Do you know what the most effective resource against threat actors is? Training! We have recommended time and time again to train employees at least once every quarter: people need to refresh basic cybersecurity practices and learn about the latest attacks to defend themselves.

Zero day attacks fall under both categories. Users should know what a zero day exploit is – and learn about the latest ones in the industry, so they can better prepare if they should find themselves on the receiving end of one.

5. Shift Left When Developing Apps

Users are not the only ones who need to better prepare themselves against 0-day exploits. Developers should shift left to improve their chances of mitigating cybersecurity issues, including the topic we’re talking about.

Developers put security first when shifting left, sometimes even before writing the first line of code. Doing so reduces the chance of suffering a zero day attack for obvious reasons: your software has fewer bugs when you put cybersecurity first.

Shifting left is not a magic bullet, meaning issues may arise later on anyways – and you have to be ready for that.

6. Pay For Vulnerability Scans From Third Parties

Third party audits and vulnerability scans often help your reputation – as well as your chances of having fewer bugs and exploits when you release your software. You can hire ethical hackers and other cybersecurity experts to test things out before release. It’s also a good idea to do the same after releasing your product.

Can you run vulnerability scans yourself? You should! That doesn’t mean you should rely on your own testing and not much else. More experienced ethical hackers will find issues and poke holes in places you won’t even think about.

7. Put up a Bug Bounty Program

Paying for a vulnerability scan is a great idea – but what if the cybersecurity professionals miss something the same way you may miss an exploit? It could happen – but you can hedge your risk by starting a bug bounty program.

Bug bounties are simple to understand: you put up a reward for anyone who finds (and reports to you) an exploit in your software. Big companies like Apple and many others employ these programs to encourage hackers to provide information about issues instead of selling it on the black market.

8. Check for Issues From Time to Time

Third party vulnerability scans and bug bounties will probably deal with the vast majority of exploits you haven’t found yourself, though that doesn’t mean you have to release on third parties alone to prevent 0-day exploits.

You should play your part too! Roll up your sleeves and read code, put on your working boots and pick apart your software, and do your best to build a zero-day-attack-proof product.

9. Release an Update as Soon as Possible

Finding a 0-day exploit is the first step in solving any issues your software may have – and it’s far from the last step. You have to study the issue, find a way to solve it, and release a patch.

It’s a rush job: you have to release a patch before more threat actors learn about it – or have your customers fall for a devastating cyberattack. Zero day attacks are a great way to lose customers.

We’ve explained it above: zero day exploits means developers have zero days to solve the issue – because it’s a critical point of failure. Fixing it is always a priority.


Zero day protection is complicated but far from impossible. Users should use as few apps as possible to prevent zero day attacks, monitor for suspicious activity, and update their software as soon as a patch is available. Developers should shift left, check for issues, and rely on bug bounties to improve their chances of mitigating issues.

Herman McCargo

Herman is a Microsoft Certified Security Engineer and Cybersecurity Specialist. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has expertise working with the most critical technology infrastructures. He has a deep understanding of cyber risks, threat mitigation and prevention, and overseeing infrastructure.