Cybersecurity Basics: A Glossary of Terms

Before we get started with a basic discussion of cyber-security we need to understand the basic terms of data security. Here is a quick list of various threats, malware terms, and general security terms to help define jargon:

  • Adware – Pop-up advertising programs that are commonly installed with free software.
  • APT – Advanced Persistent Threat; An Internet-borne attack usually perpetrated by a group of individuals with significant resources, such as organized crime enterprises or nation-states (unusual for small-medium businesses).
  • Backdoor – Malware that enables an attacker to bypass normal authentication to gain access to a compromised system.
  • Bot – A target machine that is infected by malware and is part of a botnet (also called a zombie machine)
  • Bot-herder – The owner or individual that controls a botnet.
  • Botnet – A broad network of infected machines (bots) working together usually to perform a Ddos attack.
  • DdoS – Distributed denial-of-service is a large-scale attack that typically uses bots in a botnet to attack and overwhelm a targeted network, URL, or server.
  • Drive-by-download – Software, often Malware, downloaded onto a computer from the Internet without the User’s knowledge or permission.
  • Malware – Malicious software or code that typically damages or disables, takes control of, or steals information from a computer system. Broadly includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, logic bombs, rootkits, bootkits, backdoors, sypware and adware.
  • Phishing – A deceptive attempt to pose as a reputable entity or person in an electronic communications such as e-mail, Instant Messaging (IM) or social networking messages.
  • Rootkit – Malware that provides privileged (root-level) access to a computer.
  • Spear phishing – A targeted phishing attempt that seems more credible to its victims and thus has a higher probability of success. For example, a spear-phishing e-mail may spoof an organization or individual that the recipient actually knows.
  • SSL – Secure Socket Layer protocol is a transport layer protocol that provides session-based encryption and authentication for secure communication between clients and servers.
  • Trojan Horse – A malicious program that misrepresents itself as useful, routine, or interesting in order to persuade the victim to install it.
  • Virus – A piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.
  • Worm – A computer worm is a standalone malware program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers in a network. Often it relies on security failures on the target computer and the networks to spread. Unlike viruses, it doesn’t need to be attached to an existing program.

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