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Exploit definition

An exploit is a piece of code, a chunk of data, or a program designed to take advantage of computer system bugs or vulnerabilities. Hackers typically use exploits for malicious purposes, such as to cause unintended behavior or install malware. They usually target the so-called “CIA triad,” which stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. An exploit isn’t malware itself — rather, it is the method or process used by cyberattackers to infect a system or device with malware.

Types of exploits

  • Known exploits. This type of exploit is usually well-documented, meaning developers can prepare for them and fix the vulnerabilities they are trying to target. Known exploits appear on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) index.
  • Unknown exploits. These are also known as zero-day exploits and haven’t been discovered by developers yet. Created by cybercriminals, zero-day exploits often attack the same day. When an unknown exploit happens, developers and digital security researchers aim to understand how the exploit works and find ways to patch up the vulnerability.

How to prevent exploits

  • Use reliable software
  • Keep software up to date
  • Use stronger passwords
  • Use end-to-end encryption

Further reading

Ultimate digital security