What is a zero-day vulnerability?
A zero-day vulnerability is a vulnerability for which no patch has been developed as of yet. This could be either because the developer does not know about it, or the developer knows but the patch is still a work in progress.
If made public via an unauthorized security advisory, zero-day vulnerabilities can be especially dangerous because no patch or mitigation fix would have been identified yet, making it easier for malicious users to exploit the vulnerability in the wild with little to no effective resistance.
How do zero-day vulnerabilities work?
Hackers are looking for vulnerabilities at any given time. These people can be classified into one of two categories.
White hat hackers are honest people who report vulnerabilities to the vendor first and foremost, then release an advisory once a patch has been released. As long as nobody else discovers the vulnerability, no harm is typically done in this scenario.
Black hat hackers are malicious actors who seek to discover and exploit zero-day vulnerabilities, either by attacking victims themselves or selling the vulnerability details on underground forums. Either way, when a black hat discovers a zero-day vulnerability, there is the potential for severe damage – depending on the nature of the vulnerability.
Why are zero-day vulnerabilities dangerous?
Zero-day vulnerabilities are especially dangerous. This is due to the fact that there are no fixes for it. Indeed, in many cases, only the person who has discovered the vulnerability knows about it. As such, it leaves systems and applications such as WordPress websites vulnerable and open to attacks.
How zero-day vulnerabilities can be introduced to WordPress
Zero-day vulnerabilities can be introduced to WordPress just like any other security vulnerability – the difference here is that it’s a newly-discovered vulnerability.
Nulled WordPress themes and plugins are an exceptional risk. These are premium products that have been cracked and offered for free. It’s worth noting that such themes and plugins do not receive any updates and as such are more susceptible to vulnerabilities without much hope of a fix.
How to protect your WordPress website from zero-day vulnerabilities
Protecting your WordPress website from zero-day vulnerabilities requires more than installing updates. Just like many other things in WordPress (and in life), prevention is better than cure – and it starts with taking a 360-degree approach to WordPress security.
Securing and hardening WordPress can make your website more resilient to attacks. We should equally recognize that a continuous WordPress security process is essential to ensure proper risk management. While no system is 100% foolproof or secure, we can still tip the scales in our favor through proper management of security processes.
Choosing WordPress plugins and themes from reputable and responsible developers will also help you make sure that products undergo adequate testing before they are released to the general public. Equally, it will also help you ensure the timely release of patches, fixes, and updates when these become a necessity.