50 Basic Cyber Security Related Terms You Must Know

50 Basic Cyber Security Related Terms You Must Know

50 Basic Cyber Security Related Terms You Must Know:

Here is a collection of basic virtual world related terms that you must know about. These terms keeps growing with time, but here is a more or less comprehensive list to start with. The terms have been broadly divided into basic terms, cyber security related terms and cyber crime related terms for convenience of users.  

Basic Terms:
Software: Softwares are set of programs that command a computer to perform a specific task. E.g., Microsoft Excel is one such application software. 

IP Address: We receive our postal letters because the address uniquely identifies our home, right? Similarly, every system on the internet has a unique logical address, to route the data properly. Even within the private networks, every system has a unique IP-address, for machines to communicate with each other. 

IP addresses are currently 32-bit binary strings, normally seen by us in dotted decimal format, for example, The decimal numbers here have no meaning in isolation. They specify a particular connection in a network, which can be retrieved by RARP (Reverse Address Resolution Protocol). 

Backup: Backup is a copy of virtual data usually kept in physical form. It ensures that even if the online data is deleted or encrypted by ransomware attacks, the user can easily recover it. 

Cloud: It is a collection large number of computers with huge storage capabilities. They remotely serve the requests made by users from anywhere and anytime. E.g., Amazon AWS cloud, Microsoft Azure etc. 

Closed Source: A proprietary technology which hides it’s source code and forbids its distribution or modification. These are usually copyrighted and meant for financial gains. E.g., Skype, Java, Opera etc.  

Open Source: A free technology that displays it’s source code and allows its study, distribution and modification. Examples include Bitcoin, Mozilla Firefore, Linux etc. 

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): BYOD refers to company’s security policy that allows personal devices to be used in the company premises. The BYOD policy often sets limitations and restrictions like whether the personal device can connect to LAN. 

Insider threat: A threat to data that stems from someone within the organization, usually an employee or another insider. 

ReCaptcha: ReCaptcha is a technique invented by Google that uses Alan Turning test to prevent spamming and brute force attacks by bots. ReCaptcha essentially determines whether the user is a human or robot.  

Encryption: It is the process of encoding data to prevent data theft, as data can only be accessed with a private key.  To read the encoded (encrypted) file, you must decode it by using a decryption key. 

FTP: FTP is acronym for File Transfer Protocol. It’s meant for uploading and downloading files. For example, any two systems that use the same network can transmit files using the FTP protocol.  

Patch: A software update, also known as a “patch” or a “service pack,” is a piece of software released by software vendors, mainly to address security vulnerabilities in their products. Software updates occasionally contain fixes for bug and product enhancement. These updates are installed over the current installation and do not require un-installation or re-installation of the software in question. In simple words, when you update a program, you don’t need to do anything other than let the updater do its thing.

OSINT: OSINT stands for Open Source Intelligence. It is data and information that is collected legally from open and publically available resources. Obtaining such information does not require any hacking or clandestine efforts. Information is already present in different forms like file, text, image, video, audio etc. we only need desired tools to capture and analyze them. 

OSINT is one of the most hottest areas in policing, investigation, military etc. The frameworks helps in making informed decision, forecast changes, gauge public opinion, change public perception, for reputation and brand management, market penetration, area analysis and much more … 

White hat hackers: They are also known as ethical hackers. They use their computer skills to protect and secure the systems from malicious elements like black hat hackers. They are generally recruited by firms and government, and in turn are paid for exposing and rectifying the vulnerabilities found in the system. They breach into the system with prior authorization and are defenders of the virtual world. 

Black hat hackers: They are also known as crackers. They have malice in their hearts and hack into an entity for personal gains. They are evils of the virtual world, who are to be defended against. 

Grey hat hackers: They are ambivalent. They become white hat or black hat hacker as per the situation. As such, they are not trustworthy. In most situations they are self proclaimed ethical hackers.   

Virus: A computer virus is a malicious code or program which alters a computer negatively. It may attach itself to a legitimate program or document and execute itself remotely. Email viruses can travel as an attachment to an e-mail message, and usually replicate by automatically mailing themselves to the contacts in the victim's e-mail address book. Some e-mail viruses don't even require a double click to launch themselves. They can also spread through downloads and social media links.

Firewall: A firewall is simply a program or hardware device that filters the information coming through the internet connection or computer system. It filters the incoming and outgoing network traffic using some pre determined criteria. Thus, a firewall forms a barrier through which the traffic going in each direction must pass. The firewall’s security policy dictates which traffic is authorized to pass in each direction.

Easter Egg: It’s a non malicious code embedded in a program, to surprise users. They are usually found in video games in the form of hidden message or images.  

Script Kiddie: It’s a term used for newbies in cracking and hacking. They lack skill-set to write their own script, and therefore use the scripts developed by other hackers. 

One-Way Encryption: Hashing and encryption serve the same purpose - secure transmission of data between the sender the receiver. However, in hashing, you can’t reverse the process to retrieve the un-hashed original string but in encryption, you can. Thus, hashing is one-way encryption as it’s irreversible.

Dark Web: Dark web is a small part of that is not visible to the regular users. It’s a vast network of websites that are not indexed by search engines like Google. You can only access them using specialized browsers like TOR. 

Bot/ Botnet: Bot is a software application or script that performs tasks on command. A collection of infected computers is known as botnet and is controlled by a hacker or bot-herder. 

Honeypot: A technique aimed to distract hackers with a fake target (a computer or data) and thus make them pursue a low value target instead of a high-value one. It also enables the data owners to observe the hackers, to take pro-active remedial steps. 

Cyber Security Related Terms:
Zero-Day: Zero day are computer software vulnerabilities unknown to security professionals and it’s creators but known to hackers. Before the concerned parties can detect and mitigate these vulnerabilities, hackers exploit them to their advantage.

Detection Deficit: It refers to the time taken to detect a breach into the system, network or organization. The shorter the detection deficit time, better it is. 

Brute force attacks: Brute force attack is an act of trying every possible combination of a given key-space or character set for a given length. Thus, the attacker first exhaustively tries all the single character passwords i.e, "a to z", "A to Z", "0 to 9", all the special characters etc. If the password is not compromised, it then moves on to all the possible combinations of two character sets and so on until it gets broken. This process may take even billion of years to break the password with the current processing speed we have in case of crazy long random passwords.

Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN extends a private network across a public network such as the internet. When we browse normally, the website knows the IP address, the approximate location, ISP and the type of connection (cable, DSL etc). However, when we use VPN, website only sees the IP address of one of the VPN’s servers. The VPN connects the device to one of its servers and the data flow is then encrypted. 

VPN provide privacy not anonymity, because the VPN server can see everything like ISPs sees normally. Worst, some VPNs log this information especially the free ones. 

Exploit: Exploits are malicious applications or scripts that are used to take advantage of computer’s vulnerabilities. E.g., slow Loris attack exploits. 

Pen-testing: Pen-testing is an acronym for penetration testing. It refers to practice of evaluating security of an organization with aim of discovering vulnerabilities in the system and network. The ultimate aim is to patch them before hackers take undue advantage of them. 

Malware: Malware, short for malicious software, are used for malicious purposes including gathering sensitive information, disrupting computer operation, generating pop-ups, creation of backdoors etc. While, it’s often a software, it can also be in the form of script or code. Malware is a general term referring to a variety of intrusive, annoying or hostile softwares. It includes trojan, viruses, worms, adware, spyware, rootkits and other malicious programs. 

Most of them disguise themselves as genuine softwares, having benign functions. They may also have the ability to re-install themselves after removal, or can hide deep within the system, making them very difficult to detect and remove.  

Worms: Worms spread by exploiting the Operating System's vulnerabilities. They consume band-width and over-load the web servers. They may also contain “payloads” to damage the host computer. Its special feature is the ability to replicate itself on other computers. 

Ransomware: Ransom-ware is a relatively newer form of cyber crime. Attacker typically executes a malware on the computer resource that encrypts the files, folders, videos, storage media etc on the device making it unavailable to its owner.  

Thus, the intruder holds the encryption key as hostage, unless his demands are met, which typically include payment of ransom via Bitcoin, Alt-coin etc. However, there is no guarantee that the victim will get back the data after paying the ransom.

In more sophisticated form of ransomware attacks, hackers first intrude the system, then pilferage the data, followed by encrypting the contents on the device. If demands for ransom are not met, they make the private confidential data public. 

Antivirus: Antivirus software also known as anti-malware, is a computer program used to prevent, detect, and remove malwares. Their primary purpose is to protect computers from viruses.

They protect users from: Malicious browser helper objects (BHOs), browser hijackers, ransom-ware attacks, key-loggers, backdoor exploits, root-kits, Trojan horses, worms, malicious LSPs, adware, spyware etc

Some antivirus also provide protection from other computer threats such as spam, infected and malicious URLs, phishing attacks, APT and botnet DDoS attacks.

Most antivirus programs have both automatic and manual scanning capabilities. The manual scan option enables to scan the individual files or the entire system. The automatic scan may check files that are downloaded from the internet, discs that are inserted into the computer and files that are created by the software installers. The automatic scan may also scan the entire hard drive on a regular basis. 

Keylogger: Key-loggers record the keys struck on a keyboard, typically covertly, so that the person using the keyboard is unaware. It can be hardware or software.

A hardware key-logger is a small battery-size plug that connects the user’s keyboard and the computer. The installer must later on physically remove the device to access the information stored. Since the device looks similar to an ordinary keyboard plug, it’s easy to hide.  

Trojan Horse: The Trojan horse had its origin in a historical event as narrated below: In the 12th century BC, the prince of Troy and Queen of Sparta had eloped, with intention to marry. As a result, Greece declared war on the city of Troy. They besieged it for 10 years but failed to conquer as Troy was very well fortified. 

In the last effort, the Greek army pretended to retreat and left behind a huge hollow wooden horse. The kingdom of Troy thought it as marriage gift from Greeks and brought it inside their city. The Trojan horse had some of the best Greek soldiers hiding inside it. During night, they came out and opened the gates of Troy, and with the help of the rest of army, besieged and destroyed Troy. 

Similar to the historical horse, a computer Trojan appears to be a useful program, while actually performing some hidden malicious activity. Most of them, try to sneak past the computer security fortification such as firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware by camouflaging itself as having useful functionality. The Trojan horses are used by hackers to perform the following functions:

  • Manipulating the source code
  • Being used as a key-logger 
  • Deleting files covertly 
  • Changing the file names 
  • Installing malwares 
  • Reducing processing speed 
  • Hijacking the webcam and micro-phone
  • Stealing sensitive data

The main goal of Trojan horse is to disguise the malicious software so that the victim does not realize the dangers. 

Advanced Persistent Threats: APTs are network intrusion executed by taking series of small incremental steps over a long period of time. The hacker stays undetected while stealing data and making headway towards further intrusion. 

Cat-fishing: When someone crates an online social media account with a fake identity to defraud a gullible person.  

Zombie Computer: Zombie is a computer connected to internet that has been compromised by a hacker. They are often used by hackers for various purposes, without the knowledge of its owner. For example, they are used to send spam emails, to commit click frauds, to host money mule websites or to execute DDoS attacks. 

Evil Twin: Evil twins are fake Wi-Fi hotspots or access points meant to snoop on another’s wireless network. They have the same name as genuine nearby network and thus pose to be original and safe, while actually being malicious. 

Cyber Crime Related Terms:
DDoS: DDoS is an acronym for Distributed Denial of Service. The attacks aim to make a service such as website un-usable by flooding it with malicious traffic. 

Phishing: Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit/ debit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Phishing often involves email spoofing or instant messaging, directing users to enter sensitive personal information at a fake website, in the control of fraudsters. 

Cyber Espionage: Cyber espionage is a form of cyber attack that steals classified sensitive data or intellectual property to gain an advantage over a competitive company or government entity.  Espionage according to Marriam – Webster, is the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plan and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company. 

Identity Theft: Identity theft is when someone uses another person’s data fraudulently or deceptively. Sadly, it’s very devastating in terms of consequences. Once the personal information is breached, it’s difficult to predict where it may end up. The victims of identity theft can even be held accountable for illegal/ criminal actions of the perpetrators! 

Vishing: Vishing is “phishing” with the help of phone. It’s a form of phone fraud, to obtain valuable personal information. Attackers often spoof a number and pose as an authority figure, technician or fellow employee to obtain sensitive information. Some may even use voice changers to conceal their identity. 

Adware: Adware are programs designed to bombard users with advertisements or to redirect the user’s search request to advertising websites to collect marketing data. They track users online activity, display customized ads, makes users to download malwares inadvertently and also slow down the device’s performance.  

Crypojacking: Crypto jacking is a scheme to use people’s device (computer, smartphone, tablet and even servers) without their consent or knowledge, to secretely mine crypto currencies on the victim’s dime. A crypto currency is a digital asset which work as a medium of exchange to secure financial transaction and verify the transfer of funds. 

Click-fraud: Click fraud occurs when click bots or multiple persons click on pay per click advertisement, without having an actual interest in the ad or it’s contents. The aim varies from generating fraudulent revenue to depleting the competitor’s advertising budget. 

Some companies even recruit people from geographically diverse areas to make fraudulent clicks on an ad in order to commit click fraud. On the other hand, tech savvy scammers, inject small pieces of code that spread like worms, in order to generate clicks from different IP addresses. Generally the code ensures that every device provides only a few clicks to avoid any detection.