Cybersecurity Terms 101

October 16, 2023

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. New attacks and attack methods are increasing at a rapid pace, putting sensitive information and systems at risk for both individuals and organizations. This growth is fueling the need for more cybersecurity professionals with the unique skill sets required to thwart these increasingly sophisticated attacks. 

As the complexities and frequencies of cyber threats expand, so too has the terminology surrounding the field. Cybersecurity professionals use a distinct glossary of terms to communicate about threats and mitigation strategies, providing a unique view at how the industry operates and its most pressing challenges. 

Here’s a look at a few of the most common terms used in cybersecurity. 

finger pointing to word in book

Authentication: The practice of verifying the identity of users, devices, and entities within a computer system. Authentication is often used as a prerequisite for granting access to digital resources, such as a network or database. 

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) Attack: An attack in which multiple compromised computers are used to engulf a target system or network with an overwhelming volume of traffic, rendering it unavailable to users. DDOS attacks are cybercrimes regularly used to disrupt online services and websites. 

Encryption: The process of converting plaintext data into a scrambled, unreadable format called ciphertext by using algorithms and keys. Encryption helps to ensure data remains confidential and secure during its transmission or storage by making it unrecognizable to unauthorized users. 

End-to-End Encryption: A security measure that ensures data remains encrypted from the sender to the recipient, with only the endpoints possessing the encryption keys. End-to-end encryption is a common practice for securing messages and data storage by encrypting the information on the sender’s device and decrypting it on the recipient’s device. 

Ethical Hacking: The practice of legally and systematically attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems to identify and correct security weaknesses. Ethical hackers, also known as "white hat" hackers, are employed by organizations to improve their security, often working in vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. They work to understand the methods and techniques of “black hat” hackers that take malicious actions to disrupt operations, steal data, or install malware. 

Firewall: A network security device or software that filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predefined security rules. Acting as a barrier between trusted and untrusted networks, firewalls are used at network perimeters to block malicious and unauthorized traffic. 

Malware: A broad term encompassing various types of “malicious software,” such as viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware. Malware is designed to harm or compromise computer systems and is often delivered through phishing attacks. 

Patch: An update or modification to software or hardware designed to fix known security vulnerabilities or improve functionality. Companies regularly apply patches to maintain secure systems, and the process is critical for providing the best defenses for software and systems. 

Penetration Testing: A process in which security professionals test a system or network for vulnerabilities by attempting to exploit them. Regularly used by ethical “white hat” hackers and “red team” cybersecurity experts, penetration testing is a proactive effort aimed at identifying and fixing an organization’s security weaknesses.  

Phishing: A cyberattack method in which attackers impersonate trusted entities to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial data. By using social engineering methods like sending emails impersonating others or creating fake websites, phishing attacks are used to gain unauthorized access or commit fraud. 

Red Team/Blue Team: A Red Team is a group of cybersecurity experts who simulate cyberattacks to assess an organization's security defenses and vulnerabilities, acting as adversaries in security testing to uncover weaknesses. A Blue Team acts as the defensive side responsible for maintaining and improving an organization's security. They work to detect and defend against red team attacks. 

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management): A comprehensive solution that combines security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM) to provide real-time analysis of security alerts and data. SIEM is used by organizations to monitor and respond to security incidents before they disrupt operations. 

SOC (Security Operations Center): A centralized facility within an organization that is responsible for monitoring and responding to security incidents. It's typically staffed by cybersecurity professionals who use tools and technology to protect the organization from cyber threats. The work of a Security Operations Center is integral to continuous security monitoring and incident response. 

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): A security process that requires users to provide two forms of identification to access an account. These two forms are typically something the user knows, like a password, and something they have, like a smartphone. 2FA enhances security by making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access accounts and systems. 

Vulnerability Assessment: A systematic review of an organization's systems and infrastructure to identify and classify potential security weaknesses or vulnerabilities. This proactive risk identification and mitigation effort is a critical component of how organizations manage risk and evaluate their security operations. 


Cybersecurity at Capitol Tech 

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