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A Zero-day attack can be defined as an attack in which the perpetrator targets unknown threats and weaknesses. These threats or weaknesses can be expected to exist in many forms for any given platform or system. Attackers generally abuse an unknown vulnerability in some general application, such as any usual back-office application, thus compromising the system until some available patch is developed. While this can at times take a lot of time to be resolved, it can take simply one ill-intending attacker to compromise their intended targets by taking advantage of an unknown vulnerability. This unpredictability is what makes zero-day attacks a significant threat to information systems anywhere in the world. Just as with any other kind of attack, zero-day attacks also depend on system type, environment, the level of security, etc.
Zero-day attacks can also be understood to be similar to insider threats in terms of security planning. The firstsimilarity is that an insider threat could materialize in the form of an employee with malicious intent. Now, notice that there is no guaranteed way with which an insider threat can be expected to take shape. This unpredictable and always-changing nature of insider threats make them very similar to zero-day attacks due to the fact that zero-day attacks also do not take any one pre-determined shape or direction which could be predicted or planned for in terms of security.
Penetration Testing is one of the testing methods that provide likely clues for any potential zero-day attacks. Penetration testing itself implies the analysis of a particular system for determining its vulnerabilities, potential exploits, and areas that could serve as a target for attackers to compromise, so as to reverse their effects prior to deployment. Also, this method can be made use of when forming a plan for overall security. Penetration testing by itself is not comprehensive and thorough enough to identify all possible potential zero-day attacks because of the respective natures of the process and the attack. This testing method makes known to our certain vulnerabilities and potential areas that could be exploited, but zero-day attacks involve zero-day threats which are unknown to us.
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