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Episode #9: What is a Zero Day? - Interview with an Artificial Cyber Intelligence

Episode #9: What is a Zero Day?

We learn what a Zero Day cyber attack is, why it's a risk for companies and the people that use their services. Our conversation with the AI takes an interesting turn, and even leads to the creation of a wonderful song about hackers and patching!


Episode #9: What is a Zero Day?

What is a Zero Day?

A zero day (also known as a "zero-day vulnerability") is a previously unknown vulnerability in a computer system, software, or hardware that can be exploited by cyber attackers to gain unauthorized access or perform other malicious actions. These vulnerabilities are particularly dangerous because they are unknown to the system's manufacturer or administrator, which means that there are no patches or fixes available to prevent or mitigate attacks that exploit them. Because zero days are unknown, it is very difficult to protect against attacks that use them.


Can you give me a recent example of a zero day vulnerability and how it was used to compromise computers?

Here is an example of a zero day vulnerability that was discovered in 2020:

In September 2020, a zero day vulnerability in Microsoft's Exchange Server software was exploited by a group of hackers known as Hafnium. The vulnerability allowed the hackers to gain access to the email accounts of thousands of organizations, including government agencies and private companies. The hackers were able to steal sensitive information and plant malware on the compromised servers.

Microsoft released a patch to fix the vulnerability soon after it was discovered, but many organizations had already been hacked before the patch was available. This highlights the importance of keeping software up to date and regularly applying security patches to prevent zero day vulnerabilities from being exploited.


So, applying security patches and windows updates will prevent me from being compromised due to a zero day vulnerability?

Applying security patches and windows updates is one way to protect yourself against zero day vulnerabilities. These patches and updates can fix known vulnerabilities in your software and operating system, so that attackers cannot exploit them. However, it's important to note that zero day vulnerabilities can still exist in your system even if you apply all available patches and updates. To further protect yourself, you should also follow good cybersecurity practices, such as using strong passwords and avoiding suspicious links and attachments.


How often are zero day exploits found and what is the average exposure window for zero day vulnerabilities?

Zero day vulnerabilities are discovered quite regularly, and the average exposure window can vary widely. Some zero day vulnerabilities are discovered and patched within a matter of days, while others may go undetected for months or even years. It is important to keep all of your software and operating systems up to date with the latest patches and updates in order to protect yourself against zero day exploits.


What are companies doing to ensure their products do not have zero day vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a hacker?

There are several things that companies can do to ensure that their products do not have zero-day vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. One approach is to implement a comprehensive and thorough testing and quality assurance process, which includes regularly testing the product for vulnerabilities and fixing any that are found.

Additionally, companies can work with researchers and security experts to identify and fix vulnerabilities, and can also implement secure development practices to reduce the likelihood of vulnerabilities being introduced in the first place. Finally, companies can also invest in bug bounty programs, which reward individuals for finding and reporting vulnerabilities, as a way to incentivize the discovery and reporting of vulnerabilities.


So, companies pay cyber criminals through bug bounty programs for finding weaknesses in their software?

Yes, that's correct. Many companies have established bug bounty programs that reward security researchers for finding and disclosing vulnerabilities in their software. This helps the companies fix the vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious hackers. These programs can also help deter cyber criminals from selling zero-day vulnerabilities on the black market, because they can make more money by disclosing them to the company through the bug bounty program.


Is there such a thing as a 'good hacker'? Or are they all cyber criminals?

There is a distinction between "good hackers" and "bad hackers." Good hackers, also known as white hat hackers, use their skills to improve security by finding and disclosing vulnerabilities. They work to protect organizations and individuals from cyber threats.

On the other hand, bad hackers, also known as black hat hackers, use their skills for malicious purposes, such as stealing sensitive information or causing harm to systems. It's important to note that both types of hackers have advanced technical skills and knowledge, but they use them for different purposes.


Is it possible to make a living as a white hat hacker? Do bug bounties really pay that well?

Yes, it is possible to make a living as a white hat hacker, also known as an ethical hacker. Many companies have bug bounty programs that pay out to individuals who can find vulnerabilities in their software and report them to the company so they can be fixed.

Some bug bounties can pay very well, with some payouts reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, it is important to note that not all bug bounty programs pay out such high amounts, and it can be competitive to find and report vulnerabilities to companies.


What have been the largest bug bounties in history? Tell me some stories!

There have been several very large bug bounties in history. One of the biggest was paid by Google in 2010, when they offered a bounty of $20,000 for the discovery of a major vulnerability in their Chrome browser. This bounty was eventually claimed by a Russian security researcher who discovered a way to bypass Chrome's security measures and execute arbitrary code on the user's computer.

Another big bounty was paid by Facebook in 2013, when they offered a reward of $33,500 for the discovery of a vulnerability that allowed an attacker to take control of a user's account. This bounty was claimed by a security researcher from Poland, who found a way to bypass Facebook's login system and gain access to any account.

Bug bounties have become an increasingly popular way for companies to incentivize security researchers to find and report vulnerabilities in their products, and they have helped to make the internet a safer place for everyone.


How do I become an ethical hacker?

If you're interested in becoming an ethical hacker (also known as a "white hat" hacker), here are some steps you can take:

  • Learn about computer systems and networks: It's important to have a solid foundation in the basics of computer systems and networks before you start learning about ethical hacking. You can start by taking online courses or earning a degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field.

  • Learn about programming: Ethical hackers need to be proficient in at least one programming language, as well as have a good understanding of how different types of software work. You can start learning programming by taking online courses or earning a degree in a related field.

  • Learn about cybersecurity: In order to become an ethical hacker, you need to have a strong understanding of cybersecurity principles and techniques. You can start by taking online courses or earning a degree in cybersecurity.

  • Get certified: Earning a certification in ethical hacking can help demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers. Some popular certifications include the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP).

  • Practice your skills: As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you'll become. You can practice your ethical hacking skills by participating in online hacking challenges and learning about new tools and techniques.

  • Join a community of ethical hackers: Connecting with other ethical hackers can be a great way to learn from others, share knowledge, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques. You can join online forums or attend local meetups and conferences.

  • Find a job: There are many companies that are looking for ethical hackers to help them secure their systems and networks. You can start by looking for internships or entry-level positions at cybersecurity firms or companies with large IT departments. With experience and a strong skillset, you can eventually work your way up to more advanced positions.


Sounds great! Can you sing an old time sea chanty about patching ships and ethical hacking?

Oh ho ho and a bottle of rum

I'll patch my ship till the morning comes

I'll close every hole and tighten every lug

To keep my ship seaworthy and snug

But in the world of cyber, I'll do the same

I'll close every hole and ease every pain

I'll be an ethical hacker, a white hat pro

Protecting all the ships in the cyber flow

So hoist the sails and let the sea breeze blow

I'll be an ethical hacker, I'll make it so

I'll patch and fix and keep everything right

And sleep soundly at night


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