Hackers exploit security vulnerabilities in software for 10 months on average before details of the holes surface in public, according to a new study.
Researchers from Symantec reckon that these zero-day attacks, so called because they are launched well before vendors are even aware of the vulnerabilities, are more prevalent and more potent than previously thought.
Zero-day exploits are often closely guarded secrets and can be very valuable to crooks - but once details of the exploited flaws emerge in public, developers and sysadmins can get to work to mitigate or halt the attacks. But this also tips off world+dog that these holes exist in systems.
Leyla Bilge and Tudor Dumitras, both of Symantec Research Labs, identified 18 zero-day attacks between 2008 and 2011, and 11 of them were previously undetected. "A typical zero-day attack lasts 312 days on average and that, after vulnerabilities are disclosed publicly, the volume of attacks exploiting them increases by up to five orders of magnitude," the researchers note.
The study is based on data from customers who had opted into Symantec's anti-virus telemetry service.
A paper [PDF] on the research - Before We Knew It: An Empirical Study of Zero-Day Attacks In The Real World - was presented at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Raleigh, North Carolina last week. ®