What are they and how to protect yourself from harm

Q: I hope you can give me some information about the zero-day virus. I try to follow technology news and malware threat trends, and they often mention the zero-day threat. Any information you can provide will be appreciated.

– John R., Crestview, Florida

A: I feel like I’m being tricked here, but just in case I’m not, and for my readers who may not be familiar with zero-day threats, I’ll do my best to avoid it to explain.

Zero-day is not the name of a specific virus or malware threat. Rather, the term refers to any previously unknown threat or potential threat. It literally means that the cybersecurity community (of which you, the end user, are a part) has zero days to prepare the systems under their responsibility to deal with a new threat.

Jeff Werner

The concept of zero-day doesn’t even have to refer to something that already exists. The mere discovery of a fatal flaw in some commonly used software is enough for it to be considered zero-day, although no actual instances of it have been discovered “in the wild”, which is common geek jargon for computers installed and running in homes and shops everywhere. The so-called “wilderness” encompasses both connected and disconnected systems, and the vast array of devices that many people often don’t even consider: the Internet of Things, or IOT for those in the know. These are devices that are not computers in the traditional sense, but are still connected to the Internet. The list is practically endless, but includes things like security cameras, smart TVs, home assistants (Alexa and Google Nest), thermostats, and I’ve seen an increasing trend towards home appliances – refrigerators, washing machines, even toaster ovens with built-in internet capabilities. All of these devices are being exploited.