Cyberattacks continue to grow in scale, ferocity, and audacity. No one is safe. Large corporations are a target because hackers see the potential payoff as huge. Small companies are vulnerable too because they don’t have the financial muscle needed to invest in sophisticated security systems. Now more than ever, businesses must do whatever it takes to keep their data and tech infrastructure safe. If non-techie employees understand key cybersecurity terms, they’ll have a much better chance of making the right security decisions. There are thousands of cybersecurity terms but no one (techie or otherwise) is under obligation to know all of them. Some terms are, however, more important than others and these are the ones all staff must be aware of.
Note that knowing these cybersecurity terms is more than just mastering the definitions. Rather, it’s being able to understand the patterns and behavior that define them.
Adware is a set of programs installed without explicit user authorization that seek to inundate the user with ads. The primary aim of adware is to redirect search requests and URL clicks to advertising websites and data collection portals.
While adware mainly aims to advertise a product and monitor user browsing activity, it also slows down browsing speed, page-load speed, device performance, eats into metered data, and may even download malicious applications in the background.
Botnets are simply a collection of several (and they can number in the millions) Internet-enabled devices such as computers, smartphones, servers, routers, and IoT devices that are under a central command and control.
Botnets are infectious and can be propagated across multiple devices. Botnet is a portmanteau of “robot” and “network.” Some of the largest and most dramatic cyberattacks in recent times have involved botnets, including the destructive Mirai malware that infected IoT devices.
When you hear the term espionage, what first comes to mind is the world in a bygone era. But espionage is as alive today as it was a century ago. The difference is that thanks to the proliferation of information technology and the ubiquity of the Internet, espionage can now be executed electronically and remotely.
Cyber-espionage is the gathering of confidential information online via illegal and unauthorized means. As you’d expect, the primary target of cyber-espionage is governments as well as large corporations. China has been in the news in this regard though other world powers such as the United States and Russia have been accused of doing the same at some point.
Defense-in-depth is a cybersecurity strategy that involves creating multiple layers of protection in order to protect the organization and its assets from attack. It’s born out of a realization that even with the best and most sophisticated technical controls, no security is ever 100 percent impenetrable.
With defense-in-depth, if one security control fails to prevent unauthorized access, the intruder will run into a new barrier. It’s unlikely that many hackers will have the knowledge and skills to surmount these multiple barriers.
5. End-to-end encryption
End-to-end encryption is a means of securing and protecting data that prevents unauthorized third parties from accessing it during rest or transmission. For instance, when you shop online and pay with your credit card, your computer or smartphone has to relay the credit card number you provide to the merchant for authentication and payment processing.
If your card details fall into the wrong hands, someone could use it to make purchases without your permission. By encrypting the data during transmission, you make it harder for third parties to access your confidential information.
A firewall is a defense mechanism that is meant to keep the bad guys from penetrating your network. It’s a virtual wall that protects servers and workstations from internal and external attack. It keeps tabs on access requests, user activity, and network traffic patterns in order to determine who can and cannot be allowed to interact with the network.
Hashing is an algorithm for encrypting passwords from plain text into random strings of characters. It’s a form of security method that transforms fixed-length character strings into a shorter value that represents it. That way, if an intruder somehow got through to the password file or table, whatever they see will be text that is useless to them.
8. Identity theft
Identity theft is sometimes referred to as identity fraud. It’s the No. 1 reason why hackers seek to access confidential information and customer data especially from an organization. An identity thief hopes impersonate an individual by presenting the individual’s confidential records or authentication information as their own.
For example, an identity thief could steal credit card numbers, addresses, and email addresses then use that to fraudulently transact online, file for Social Security benefits, or submit an insurance claim.
9. Intrusion detection system (IDS)
It’s relatively uncommon for a cyberattack to be completely unprecedented or unknown in its form, pattern, and logic. From viruses to brute force attack, there are certain indicators that point to unusual activity. In addition, once your network is up and running, all network traffic and server activity will follow a relatively predictable pattern.
An IDS seeks to keep tabs on network traffic by quickly detecting malicious, suspicious, or anomalous activity before too much damage is done. The IDS blocks malicious traffic and sends an alert to the network administrator.
10. IP spoofing
IP address forgery or spoofing is an address-hijacking mechanism in which a third party pretends to be a trusted IP address in order to mimic a legitimate user’s identity, hijack an Internet browser, or otherwise gain access to a restricted network. It isn’t illegal for one to spoof an IP address. Some people do so in order to conceal their online activity and maintain anonymity (using tools such as Tor).
But IP spoofing is more often associated with illegal or malicious activity. So organizations should exercise caution and take appropriate precautions whenever they detect that a third party wants to connect to their network using a spoofed address.
Keylogger is short for keystroke logger. It’s a program that maintains a record of the keystrokes on your keyboard. The keylogger saves the log in a file, then encrypts and distributes it. While a keylogging algorithm can be used for good (some text-to-voice apps for example use keylogging mechanism to capture and translate user activity) keyloggers are often a form of malware.
A keylogger in the hands of nefarious persons is a destructive tool and is perhaps the most powerful weapon of infiltration a hacker can have. Remember, the keylogger will capture all key information such as user names, passwords, PINs, pattern locks, and financial information. With this data, the hacker can easily access your systems without breaking a sweat.
Malware is one of the cybersecurity terms you will hear the most often. It’s a catch-all word that describes all malicious programs including viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, ransomware, and keyloggers. It’s any program that takes over some or all of the computing functions of a target computer for ill intent. Some malware is just little more than a nuisance but in many cases, malware is part of a wider hacking and data extraction scheme
13. Password sniffing
Password sniffing is the process of intercepting and reading through the transmission of a data packet that includes one or more passwords. Given the volume of network traffic relayed per second, password sniffing is most effectively done by an application referred to as a password sniffer. The sniffer captures and stores the password string for malicious and illegal purposes.
Pharming is the malicious redirection of a user to a fraudulent site that has colors, design, and features that look very similar to the original legitimate website. A user will unsuspectingly key in their data into the fake website’s input forms only to realize days, weeks, or months later that the site they gave their information to was harvesting their data to commit fraud.
Phishing is a form of social engineering and the most common type of cyberattack. Every day, more than 100 billion phishing emails are sent out globally. Phishing emails purport to originate from a credible recognizable sender such as e-Bay or Amazon or financial institutions. The email will trick the recipient into sharing their username and password on what they believe is a legitimate website but is in reality a website maintained by cyberattackers.
Knowing these cybersecurity terms is a first step in preventing cyberattacks
While technical controls are crucial, employees are the weakest link in your security architecture. Nothing makes employees better prepared for a cyberattack than security training and awareness. For most organizations, the IT department represents only a fraction of the entire workforce.
Tech staff can therefore not be everywhere to explain cybersecurity terms and help each employee make security-conscious decisions. Therefore, making sure your non-techie staff is familiar with these cybersecurity terms is fundamental.