The Complete Cybersecurity A-Z Glossary

If you don’t understand what threats are out there nor what cybersecurity measures you can implement, how can you begin to protect yourself? Arming yourself with knowledge is one of the most important first steps you can take in leveraging a 360-degree cybersecurity program that has you covered.

While cybersecurity holds critical implications for you and your company, the solutions available often rely on technical terms or jargon to explain themselves. That’s why we decided to write an exhaustive list of terms you’ve always wanted to (and should) understand better.

Need a quick cybersecurity overview before you dive in? Visit this blog post for a simple guide.

Today, we are bringing you the first installation of a two-part series, covering all the cybersecurity terms you need to know from A-M.

Subscribe to our blog for updates and to be sure you don’t miss part two (N-Z) coming soon!

Pro-tip: Press Ctrl+F or Command+F to search for a specific term you want to know more about. With over 50 terms, the odds are that it’s here!

A

Administrative Privilege

Access granted to an account that has the ability to make major changes to a system, such as an operating system or software program. Changes made are considered authorized and often require authentication or for the user to supply a password. Also known as admin privilege or Privileged User Account.

Advanced Persistent Threat

This occurs when an unauthorized user i.e., a sophisticated hacker, has entered a system or network and stays undetected for an extended period of time. In order to remain unnoticed, these attacks generally do not cause damage to the network and instead try to access sensitive data.

Adware

A type of software which automatically displays and/or downloads additional material such as unwanted advertisements or pop-ups containing false information. See example below.

Attack Vector

The path and specific techniques used by hackers or adversaries in order to gain access to a computer or network and carry out an attack. (Also known as attack path).

Authentication

The process for validating the identity and/or attributes of an authorized entity (user, process or device).

Availability

A security goal which refers to information or information systems that are timely and reliably accessible without denial of service. See also DoS.

B

Backdoor

An undocumented way of accessing a program, network, service or computer system which bypasses the standard authentication measures. Written by the developer, the backdoor or trapdoor poses a potential security risk for unauthorized user access.

Backup

A copy of files and programs that can help in a data loss or disaster recovery or the recovery period following a cyber attack or incident.

Black hat hacking

Hacking done with malicious intent, such as gaining access to a computer or network to steal data or spread a virus.

Bot

A compromised computer running on an automatic program that executes a simple task or activity under the order of a remote control point or administrator. Programmed in advanced, these can belong to a larger collection of compromised devices known as a botnet. Also called zombies.

Botnet

See Bot.

Brute force attack

An attempt made by a hacker to correctly guess a password by entering and inputting as many password attempts as possible in the hope that one is eventually correct.

Read more about other password hacking techniques used by hackers here.

Bug

An often unexpected or unanticipated defect, error, fault, flaw or imperfection within a computer program or system that can cause performance issues with the code.

C

CAPTCHA

A test used to distinguish between humans and robots when using a website to prove you’re not a robot. These might ask you to type out the text seen above or to identify which images from a set contain a certain item e.g., a traffic light.

Ciphertext

Data or information in an encrypted form that has been run through an algorithm or encryption program.

Clickjacking

A technique used by an attacker to inject malicious or dangerous code within clickable content on websites. This can occur when you click on an invisible button on a webpage or when you intend to click on one link but are rerouted to an unintended link. Also known as a UI redress attack.

Closed source

In contrast to open source or public software, closed source refers to proprietary software where code is hidden from general public access

Cloud Access Security Brokers

Cloud access security brokers, or CASBs, are cloud-based software solutions that sit between a business and cloud service provider in order to enforce security, compliance and governance policies. These solutions are often times proxy servers which sit between an organization's internal network and devices and the external cloud services.

Wondering if you need a CASB or trying to understand how to find one? Start here.

Cloud Computing

A model that enables on-demand network access conveniently to a shared pool of configurable computing resources, such as networks, servers, storage, applications and services that can be rapidly provisioned. This model also allows resources to be released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud Security

The tactics, strategy and policies used to protect data applications and/or cloud system applications. Cloud security should be firmly in place for any business operating on a cloud computing model.

Confidentiality

Restricting information access and disclosure to protect data and ensure only authorized or authenticated access. Confidentiality attacks refer to malicious activity that seeks to access information systems without authorization.

Content Spoofing

A trick played by hackers that lures victims into visiting a fraudulent site that resembles a more trustworthy or legitimate one. Spoofing attacks are different from phishing attacks because they don’t seek to retrieve or request user data. Instead of phishing for information, spoofing can directly deliver malware.

Cookies

Segments of data (e.g., IP Addresses, passwords, page views, username, browsing history, etc.,) that are sent to a browser by an internet server. This data is placed inside a web browser’s memory and returned every time the browser accesses the server. This data helps websites identify and track users. Cookies were initially used to help users stay logged in but have since become a common way for websites to track visitor activity.

Although harmless on their own, some third-party cookies may actually be bot or zombie cookies that continue to reappear even after they are deleted. Another risk are cookies that track passwords or browsing histories, data that can be hijacked during cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity

The techniques, strategy and policies in place that protect computers, cloud system applications, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or hacking exploits.


Don’t forget to download our free checklist of cybersecurity topics to cover when onboarding new employees.


D

Data Breach

An incident where sensitive or confidential information has been disclosed or moved to an unauthorized and often external party. Also known as data leakage, data theft or exfiltration.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service. A DoS that uses multiple devices or hosts to carry out the attack. Also known as a global attack. See DoS.

DoS

Short for Denial of Service, this occurs when the users and administrators who are actually authorized to use a system or service cannot access computing resources which can delay or disrupt a service. The time lost and effort spent recuperating from this incident also poses a financial cost.

E

Email Archiving

The process of preserving all emails to and from an individual and making them easy to search. In many cases, email archiving solutions capture email content directly from an email application or during transport, stores the data on a physical hard drive and indexes the data to make it searchable for lawyers and regulators.

Email Spoofing

A technique used in combination with phishing emails where hackers trick users into opening or clicking on links inside malicious emails by crafting subject lines or email content that mimics a trusted sender or source.

Email Virus

A computer virus delivered to users via email.

Encrypted Cloud Backup

Similar to cloud storage systems like Google Drive or Dropbox, backup providers store data within a cloud. The key differences are that data is backed up and stored remotely to provide a secure, second copy of data in the event of an accident, hardware failure or cyber attack and that access can only be gained by entering an encryption key. Also known as Encrypted Cloud Storage or Encrypted Backup.

Encryption

The process of converting or changing plaintext into ciphertext. See also ciphertext.

Ethical hacking

The identification of vulnerabilities, weaknesses and potential security risks within computers and information systems by replicating the actions or intent of hackers in order to discover where system gaps can be exploited.

F

Fileless Malware

Malware that operates without a file or download by operating inside random access memory or your computer’s RAM. These types of threats are a type of advanced persistent threat that often go undetected and are capable of turning an operating system or computer against itself.

Firewall

A gatekeeper that serves as a computer and network security system. They monitor both incoming and outgoing network traffic and can be configured to allow or block specific traffic based on certain security rules. Firewalls are considered as a first line of defense against cyber attacks and can exist as both software or hardware.

Here is what you need to know about firewalls for small businesses.

Firmware

Code embedded into computer hardware, typically on the flash read-only-memory (ROM) of a device.

Form Grabber

Malware targeted to record sensitive information, most often financial data, provided by users on online forms.

G

GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation

A data privacy legal framework shared by all countries in the European Union (EU) that regulates the transmission, storage and use of personal data of users who are based in the EU. Even if your company is located in the United States, if your product has users in the EU, the GDPR is applicable to your business.

While no specific set of cybersecurity measures are explicitly laid out, businesses are made responsible for the processing of individual data and asked to take ‘appropriate’ measures. Similar legislation, called the CCPA, was recently passed in California.

H

Hacker

An adversary, cyber attacker or unauthorized user who attempts to steal or gain access to sensitive data, information or computer networks.

Hardware

Any part of a computer that is physical or tactile, like its monitor, keyboard, screen, etc.

Hash

An algorithm which encrypts data or bits of any length by turning the original input into an output with a fixed length that represents the initial data.

A key example of this is password storage. Password management tools such as Team Password store sensitive information like login credentials by taking the original data and hashing it so that passwords are not stored in a system as plaintext but instead are encrypted for greater security and protection.

I

Identity Check

See authentication.

Identity Theft

When an attacker or hacker has collected personal and highly sensitive data in order to impersonate another individual. This information can be used in fraudulent activity such as opening illegal bank accounts, obtaining credit lines or carrying out transactions as the identity that’s been stolen.

Information Technology

Any device, equipment or interconnected system that processes, sends, receives or exchanges data or information. Most commonly known as IT.

Insider Threat

A malicious threat that comes from within an organization, such as an internal employee or contractor (which can be caused by negligence as well as harmful intent). The threat is due to this individual having insider information or authorized access to a company’s data, systems or cyber security measures.

J

JavaScript

The most popular computer programming language since its creation in the 1990s. JavaScript is used to control website content and improve its functionality. If a website is taken over by a hacker, it can be programmed to produce or run a malicious functionality against website visitors. This language is considered one of the best cybersecurity programming languages you can learn.

K

Kernel

The central or core part of a computer’s operating system which houses the computer’s most essential functions.

Keylogger

A computer program, such as a software or hardware that secretly monitors and tracks keystrokes made by a user on their keyboard. Often a part of spyware, this is one of many techniques hackers can use to steal your password.

Read the other techniques here.

L

Local Area Network or LAN

A computer network located within a small geographic area, like an office building or group of buildings, for example. Devices on the network are able to access and share information, such as shared data and files, and access devices like printers, scanners or data storage devices. All equipment is connected to a communications link to enable network access.

More devices on a network means more potential points of entry or security holes to the network. Active Network Protection solutions can ensure your business is secure and protected.

M

Malware

Any type of software delivered to a user with the intent to cause damage or gain unauthorized access to computer systems and information. Short for malicious software.

Metadata

Data that describes data and its characteristics. For example, the metadata of a document would be file size, storage location and the “Date Last Opened” fields.

While it may seem insignificant, this article covers how metadata can pose risks to your security.

Mitigation Defense

A software that can be implemented in order to mitigate or minimize the damage caused by hacking.

N

Network access

Think of the employees who have access to your company’s intranet or shared files. The user permissions given to these individuals grants them access to the company’s shared network so that information can be transmitted, stored and secured more seamlessly.

Want to make sure that your employees have the cybersecurity basics down? Send them our glossary or even train them yourself!

Network defense

The tools, activities, programs and policies in place to protect an organization’s network which can include its hardware, software, data, communication system, or infrastructure that is physical or virtual.

National Security Agency or NSA

The NSA is the official United States cryptology organization housed underneath the Department of Justice or DOJ. The NSA is responsible for maintaining foreign and domestic intelligence by monitoring, collecting, and processing information and data on a global scale.

O

Off-site backup

Has your phone ever sent you an alert that you haven’t done a cloud backup over a certain period of time? This is the exact same idea but at the scale of your business! An off-site backup is a copy of all your company’s data located in a cloud system or other physical storage location where it can be accessed in case you happen to lose your records.

You can read more about preventing data loss with cloud backups here.

Open source

Software that has its code listed freely as a template to use, share, and modify.

Compare to closed source.

P

Password management

The practice of centralizing, securing and authenticating passwords so that they are challenging to decipher. On the other hand, password management can also help make passwords readily available between team members so that information as sensitive as a password is shared safely.

Here are 7 Signs You Need A Password Manager like Team Password.

Patch management

A strategy put in place to manage upgrades or updates to software applications.

Pharming

This occurs when a user is redirected to a fake website without realizing it. In most cases, the fake website looks exactly similar to the actual website that the user intended to visit.

Pharming is often undetected because the change to the original website URL is so subtle.

Phishing

The method of soliciting user information via fraudulent communications targeted. This social engineering is usually done with emails disguised as coming from a legitimate source but will deliver the target’s information back to the hacker’s actual source.

Most email clients will flag suspicious emails like Gmail has done above, but always double check with someone in person if you receive an email from them requesting any type of information (especially the kind they should already have access to)!

Piggyback programs

These programs are bundled into another program that a user downloads with the goal that the user will select “next” by force of habit and install a virus or malware intentionally.

PII

Personally identifiable information. This is any data that links you back to your identity. It could be as accessible as your full name to something as sensitive as your social security number. This is the type of information that is often compromised during data breaches.

Plugins

These customizable additions to browsers or software add extra functionality. As with anything you download, be sure to vet the program before installing it!

Polymorphic Virus

Basically the superbug in technology, a polymorphic virus is a malicious program that can modify itself when it replicates. This adaptive technique allows it to evade detection by standard security software.

Keep hackers and viruses out with Jungle Disk Network Protection.

Private data

Also known as PII. Examples of this kind of data include your name, address, phone number, email, zipcode or Social Security Number.

Q

QAZ

A network worm with backdoor capabilities.

See also worm.

Quality of Protection

This refers to your network’s ability to maintain operational service according to what is expected of the product during an attack.

R

Ransomware

A form of malware that can be easily installed on a victim’s computer. Ransomware prevents a user from being able to operate their computer as they normally would unless they comply with the hacker’s demands. To regain access to your laptop and files, you typically have to pay a ‘ransom’ – to the attacker in exchange for unlocking your system and returning normal access.

RAT (Remote Access Trojans)

A malicious program which can allow hackers to overtake a system from a separate physical location. Using this malware, the attacker can access and steal confidential and personal data from the infected machine."

ReCAPTCHA

A CAPTCHA service from Google that protects websites from spam and fake traffic caused by bots.

Rootkit

One of the most dangerous and hard-to-detect types of malware, rootkits are defined by their ability to mask its own existence, control the operating system, and prevent its detection even further. Rootkits are most commonly used by hackers to access a system and steal information.

S

Sandboxing

A strategy that isolates development from live production in order to enhance security and further organize code.

Script

A simple form of code that can be written in plain text within word editors.

Secure Password Encryption

The process of converting or changing a password’s plaintext into ciphertext.

Learn more about Secure Password Encryption.

Session Hijacking

An attack where a hacker literally hijacks or takes control of a computer session in order to perform illegal activities such as taking over the victim’s online accounts.

Software

The programs and other operating systems used by computers. This can be delivered online or via a physical storage system such as a CD.

Spam

Unwanted or unexpected emails sent in bulk. For the most part, spam is used to distribute malware.

Spoofing

An attack in which a person, or program, disguises themselves as someone else by forging data to gain an advantage or trust of someone else.

Spyware

A term coined in the mid-1990s to describe malware that was used to gain access to a user’s systems and monitor their data, files, and behavior. Often used to disable firewall or anti-malware software while consuming CPU activity to increase an endpoint’s vulnerability to attack.

SSL certificate

Standing for Secure Sockets Layer certificate, this certificate authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts the information sent to the server using secure technology.

T

Trialware

Software that can only be run for a limited amount of time (i.e. trial) before it expires.

Trojan

A form of malware disguising itself as a harmless computer program but providing hackers with the ability to execute a variety of attacks that steal information, disrupt functionality or damage data. Just like the Trojan Horse in Roman history!

U

Unauthorized Access

Unauthorized access is when a person gains local, physical or even remote access without permission to a network, system, application, data, or other resource.

URL Spoofing

See Spoofing. This type of spoofing technique is used by hackers to redirect users to malicious URLS like phishing sites. This is achieved by creating a fake URL which impersonates or mimics the URL or domain of a legitimate and secure website that is seen as trustworthy to users.

V

Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network, commonly referred to as VPN allows you to establish a secure connection to another network via internet.

Virus

A malicious program typically attached to a legitimate or seemingly harmless program, such as files, applications or downloads. When the program runs, the virus gets executed and performs activities that can piggyback onto the original program. The consequences can include data corruption, virus expansion throughout a network and company wide systems and machine damage. A virus spreads by copying itself and attaching to other files.

Vulnerability

A vulnerability is a flaw that allows someone to operate a computer system with authorization levels in excess of that which the system owner specifically granted.

W

Whale Phishing

A hacking campaign targeted at wealthier individuals or high-ranking employees within a specific company. Also known as whaling.

(See also spear phishing)

White hat hacking

Hacking that is usually done out of curiosity or exploration and only causes minimal collateral damage.

Worm

A precursor to viruses, worms have been infecting systems since the days when mainframes were the only existing computers. Worms can also self-replicate and spread via social engineering or by exploiting flaws in applications.

(See also virus, social engineering.)

X

XMT

XMT is also called transmit. XMT is the method of sending data to an alternate computer or device.

Y

Y2K

An abbreviation for Year 2000 or Year 2000 bug. As the new millennium approached, many feared that problems would arise given computer programs were storing year values as two-digit figures (ie 99 for 1999) instead of four-digit figures. Many feared that electronic devices would cease working causing hysteria amongst some groups. While Y2K proved to be a non-issue, it is one of the first recorded phenomenons where we see cybersecurity and prevention measures being brought to a societal level of awareness.

Z

Zero-day

See Zero-day Vulnerability.

Zero-day Exploit

An attack that happens when hackers identify and take advantage of the zero-day vulnerability. Oftentimes, hackers will develop an ‘exploit’ or malicious code or release malware before the flaw can be patched, or fixed.

Zero-day Vulnerability

A flaw or bug that exists in the software, hardware or firmware that it is unknown to the developers who launched or created it. This flaw creates a security vulnerability which hackers can take advantage of via Zero-day Exploits.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to protecting your data and your company, you can never know too much. If you’re interested in diving into the world of cybersecurity terms further, we recommend the Computer Security Resource Center for more information!

Finally, even though we get excited to share what we think will be useful for your protection, we understand that all this talk of hackers and malware can potentially be overwhelming. For that reason, our team is always available to consult with you about any questions or concerns you may have! At the end of the day, we want you to walk into this new decade feeling armed against cyber threats. If you think you could benefit from a comprehensive cybersecurity suite to support you on this, please be in touch with us!

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