25 Cybersecurity Terms You Should Know

Do you know what a Trojan virus is? How about a RAT? No, we don’t mean the kind that scurries around on the sidewalks, making a nuisance of themselves. We’re talking about the computer term, Remote Access Trojan, a special kind of malware that opens a back door on the network and allows a hacker to gain control of your computer from the comfort of their own laptop or device.

This is just one of many terms that you need to understand. How can you best protect your data and online searches from unauthorized access, if you don’t know what to look for? The best prevention is education.

Here are 25 cybersecurity terms you’ll run into a lot when you get serious about digital protection!

Cybersecurity A to Z

  1. Application. This doesn’t refer only to the apps you have on your smart phone, but also encompasses programs downloaded to your computer such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Windows Movie Maker, etc.
  2. Browsers, or web browsers, are downloadable software programs that connect you to the internet. They take all that coding that makes the Internet run and translate it into formats that you can understand and see. Common examples include Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera.
  3. Cloud computing saves your data on an off-site, secure Internet server that’s password-encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Disaster recovery can be automated to monitor your data storage systems for breaches, run backups and launch recovery protocol as soon as a cyber incident occurs.
  5. Email reply chain attack. If a colleague’s account is breached, the hacker can send messages that appear completely legitimate. Then they can more easily convince you to click on malicious files. Be wary of anything that seems suspicious, even if the source appears trustworthy!
  6. Firewalls are hard- or software that decides what is or isn’t allowed through to your network, and can block flagged programs automatically.
  7. Geotags tell where and when pictures were taken, and are often embedded into the photos themselves. Be careful about what you post online, because you could be leaving a trail that you don’t want followed!
  8. HTTPS appears in the search bar before the URL of safe websites. Sites that are not secured will show HTTP instead of HTTPS.
  9. Insider threats refer to bad actors operating inside of the at-risk organization. If you go into your coworker’s account because they have higher security clearance so you can steal confidential files, you’re an insider threat, as opposed to an outside party looking to break into the network.
  10. JavaScript is a programming language that makes up the coding for most websites you’ll encounter (your browser then interprets this script and shows you the content in a readable format).
  11. Keyloggers are a specific type of malware that tracks every keystroke you make. The keylogger then relays everything you’ve typed back to the hacker who put it there, giving them insight into account passwords and search history.
  12. Linux is a type of operating system, alternative to others you may know like Windows, iOS and Mac OS.
  13. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires two or more forms of identification to sign into an account. Common MFA requirements include one-time passcodes, face or fingerprint ID, SMS messages and voice verification. This way even with your credentials, cybercriminals can’t get into your accounts!
  14. Networks are made up of the systems that connect to each other and take the same route to the internet. They include all of the devices, data and communication pathways that intertwine.
  15. Operating systems are usually abbreviated ‘OS’ and manage all of your soft- and hardware. From storage to CPU, your OS keeps your computer data straight for easy use.
  16. Pirating doesn’t just refer to salty sailors on the sea. It is also the illegal download or access of digital media or programs, which can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and even prison time.
  17. Qwerty keyboard refers to the traditional keyboards used by most computer users. It gets it name from the top row of keys, QWERTYUIOP.
  18. Rogueware, also known as rogue scanners, fake AV and fake scanners; disguise themselves as antivirus software that’s noticed an attack on your system. However, when you run the rogueware, that’s when the virus really enters your computer system.
  19. Smishing is phishing done over SMS messages. Instead of posing a lure via email, where phishing is typically conducted, the hackers send out text messages with links or files they want you to click with your IoT device since these tend to have fewer protections.
  20. Trojans are a malware that reflect the mythology. They appear to be safe but are just waiting to deploy secret, malicious files onto your system covertly once you download.
  21. Users are whomever has access to the system or device in question. It’s a broadly-used term in tech, and depending on context, can refer to a person or organization (you and all your coworkers might be users of the same company WiFi, for example).
  22. Virtual private networks (VPNs) hide your IP address so you can browse the web surreptitiously. They’re recommended for when you use public WiFi, which tends to be less secure. It helps hide what you search online.
  23. Web filters detect unprotected websites and either warn you to beware going forward or stops you from seeing the content entirely.
  24. XHTML is a type of HTML, and simply differentiates which base code and standards that it uses.
  25. Y2K is what we called the turn of the 21st century, but the information security sector remembers it for another reason. It was a legacy system problem, which recorded the year by just the last two digits and was going to be thrown into chaos by the turn of the millennium. Many people effectively patched their systems before this issue took place, however.
  26. Zero-day exploit refers to software vulnerabilities that hackers can use to breach the network before there is time to patch the security risk in the next update.


This list is just a primer for all of the new terminology awaiting you as you continue your journey toward greater digital data protection. There is so much more to learn still: Do you know what a vulnerability or penetration test is? How about white versus black hat hacking? Data leak prevention? Security awareness training and why you should regularly refresh your understanding of the cyber-threat landscape at least once every year? These are all important terms that you’ll want to know to continue your cyber-education.

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