10 Cybersecurity terms you need to know

With high profile hacking attacks making news worldwide, keeping tabs on the latest cybersecurity trends is an important task for SMEs doing business over the Web – which, in this day and age, is just about every company. To help you stay abreast of developments in the field, we’ve listed below 10 of the most commonly used cybersecurity terms.

1. Malware: Software of this type has deleterious consequences when it infects a computer or network. Malware can refer to a variety of different types of malicious programs, including adware, Trojans, spyware, ransomware, and more.

2. Trojan: A Trojan program appears on the surface to be legitimate. However, when the software is installed it provides a means of entry for malicious actors who may steal your data or impede the functioning of your computer unless a ransom is paid, among other things. Trojans are usually distributed via emails, phony online offers, or downloads of free games or music.

3 .Keylogger software: Software of this type functions by recording keystrokes and other information related to your keyboard activity, including internet browsing. This data is then transmitted to a third party who may use it for nefarious purposes such as logging into your email and other accounts and stealing your data.

4. Penetration testing: Companies looking to go a step beyond simply purchasing anti-virus software or setting up a firewall may choose to undertake penetration testing. This typically involves engaging an outside IT security firm (or even a “white hat” hacker) to see if they can use an exploit to gain entry to your system. Such tests should be performed on at least an annual basis to ensure your cybersecurity protection remains robust.

5. Phishing: Phishing occurs when cyber criminals attempt to fool people into providing vital information by sending them emails that appear to come from a legitimate source. The source could appear to be a friend or colleague or organisation the victim does business with. The phishers hope to get data such as passwords, account numbers, or other information they can use to gain access to assets the victim controls or has access to.

6. Zero-day exploit: Anti-virus software can protect your system from known threats. However, a particularly nasty form of malware involves zero-day exploits, or an exploit which has not been used previously. Updating your security software and procedures on a regular basis is crucial to help protect against newer exploits, while penetration testing is advised to help ward against threats from zero-day exploits.

7. Encryption: Data encryption makes your data invulnerable to being deciphered by anyone without the encryption key. Be cautious when sending sensitive data that isn’t encrypted over the Internet, as unencrypted data transmitted over nonsecure networks may be subject to interception.

8. Adware: Adware infections result in the propagation of unwanted advertisements on your computer. These often consist of pop-up ads that appear over and over until the software is removed. In certain cases, the adware can be so virulent that is prevents your system as a whole from functioning unless the infection is dealt with.

9. Social engineering: This term refers to a practice that deals mainly with human psychology, rather than technological factors. When social engineering is used successfully, hackers or other malicious actors convince individuals with access to computers or the data on them to grant access to the imposters. Phishing is one form of social engineering; another is calling a help desk or other company resource whilst pretending to be someone authorised to gain access to valuable information or resources.

10. DDoS: A distributed denial of service occurs when a server is overwhelmed with access requests. As a result, the server becomes unable to function properly and visitors to the site are not able to reach it or access its functions. Attacks of this type are often used for political purposes or to make a point of some sort, as opposed to other attacks which are aimed at gaining information valuable to the hackers.


Whilst learning the terms above won’t necessarily make you a cybersecurity expert, they can help familiarise you with some of the most relevant concepts in the industry currently. As IT systems have gained in power and scope, hacking attempts have increased correspondingly, making it vital that you take all reasonable steps to secure your system. Knowledge of the terms listed above can help you formulate a security plan that provides a robust defence against outside attack.