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20 need-to-know cybersecurity buzzwords

When it comes to cybersecurity, there are some crazy words out there associated with it – honeypot, phishing, and zombie are just a few quick examples.

It’s easiest to just ignore buzzwords, but in today’s increasingly digital landscape, understanding what they mean is crucial for protecting yourself and your company. Here are 20 cybersecurity buzzwords everyone should know:

  1. Backup – To protect digital data, a consistently updated copy of files should be stored safely offline, in case a system is hacked and data is encrypted or lost.
  2. Blackhat Hacker – A type of hacker. A blackhat hacker is an individual that uses their skills to cause damage like breaking into a computer system and stealing confidential information.
  3. Botnet – Computer systems that have been infected by malware. The malware then allows the hacker to connect infected computers creating a network. This network, instructed by the hacker, can be used to carry out malicious attacks. 
  4. Brute Force Attack – Hacking technique used to break into a computer system by guessing passwords, either manually or with technological assistance. 
  5. Command-and-control Server – Application used by hackers that controls all the computer systems in their botnet.
  6. DDoS – Form of cyber attack, DDoS stands for distributed denial of service. The goal of this type of attack is to cause a service, like a website, to be unusable by visitors. This is done by bombarding the website with hostile traffic.
  7. Encryption – Algorithmic technique utilized to change the contents of a file into something unreadable by anyone outside a specific chain of communication.
  8. Firewall – Defensive computer technology, software or hardware-based, created and installed to keep hackers and malware out. The firewall filters interactions with a computer, allowing or denying entry, to keep systems secure.
  9. Honeypot – Cybersecurity strategy used by organizations to attract hackers in an attempt to learn the best ways to protect against them. Typically, the organization’s administrator sets up a server to look like a legitimate computer on the network. The goal is to entice hackers to pay attention to breaking into this server instead of actual high-value computers or information.
  10. Phishing – Hacking technique used to gather sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account information. Phishing utilizes a disguised email, seemingly from a legitimate source, to trick the recipient into replying with the desired information or clicking on a dangerous link.
  11. Malware – General term describing all kinds of malicious software. The term malware can be used when referring to ransomware, trojan horses, viruses, and worms.
  12. Ransomware – Type of malware that prevents access to computer files. When a computer is infected with ransomware, the malicious software will encrypt files and request a ransom for decryption.
  13. Spoofing – Hacking method used to fool individuals into giving out sensitive data. A common example is domain spoofing, where a fake website is designed to trick visitors into providing personal information.
  14. Trojan Horse – Type of malware used by a hacker to gain remote access to a computer. Via remote access, the hacker can then download files or watch a user’s keystrokes.
  15. Updates – It’s nearly impossible for developers to eliminate all vulnerabilities from a software program. When vulnerabilities are found by users, developers, or hackers, software providers will release product updates, also known as patches, to fix the problem.
  16. Virus – Malware used to cause damage on personal computers, aimed at changing, erasing, or modifying data.
  17. Vulnerability – A weakness in computer software that can be leveraged by a hacker to launch an attack. The most common vulnerability is an outdated software system.
  18. Worm – Malware that clones itself to spread infection to connected computers. This type of malware vigorously hunts out weak systems that it can exploit, making spreading faster and easier. 
  19. Whitehat Hacker – A type of hacker. Whitehat hackers use their skills for good, helping organizations test their cybersecurity measures and find vulnerabilities.
  20. Zombie – Computer system that has been infected by malware and is now part of a hacker’s botnet.

There are many cybersecurity terms beyond these 20, and there will surely be more created in the future. However, this list will give you a broad idea of important cybersecurity terms, what they mean, and how they relate to the safety of digital data.

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