Defining cybersecurity: A glossary of terms to know
Ensure you and your team are familiar with cyberattack terms and definitions ahead of encountering suspicious activity in your day-to-day business.
Black hat hacker: This cyber criminal uses technical skills to find or develop software holes and attack methods to hack into machines and steal data, such as passwords, emails, intellectual property, credit card numbers, or bank account credentials.
Breach: An incident in which datais intentionally (or unintentionally) released from a secure environment by an unauthorized source, such as a black hat. There must be confirmed disclosure of sensitive information, such as banking details or intellectual property, targeted by the hacker for the incident to qualify as a breach.
Crimeware: Similar to malware, crimeware is a computer program or set of computer programs developed with the purpose of facilitating illegal activity online. A majority of these incidents are financially motivated, such as ransomware.
Cyber-espionage: Also known as cyber spying, this is the theft of intellectual property or classified material stored online, for which hackers may use a variety of methods. The confidential information can be obtained without the knowledge of the holder via computer networks, servers, or malicious software.
DDoS, or “distributed denial-of-service”: This is a cyberattack that uses several hacked computer systems to attack one target and take it offline. Hackers will use malware to gain access to a host of machines that will then flood a website’s server with a high volume of traffic. This makes it impossible for people to load the page, thus effectively taking it offline and leaving the site’s services unrenderable.
Hacking: A majority of security breaches (62%) are conducted by way of hacking, which is the unauthorized intrusion into a data system using a computer. Weak and stolen passwords enable 81% of hacking-related breaches.1
Incident: An event compromising the integrity of secure information. Unlike a breach, information is not confirmed as disclosed to an unauthorized party when classified as an incident.
Lost and stolen asset: An incident that compromises the integrity of information when a device containing sensitive data goes missing, whether through genuine loss or theft. However, encrypting individual devices can diminish the impact of a lost or stolen asset.
Malware: Also known as malicious software, this is an umbrella term for any software that adversely affects your computer operations. Common synonyms are virus, trojan, and worm. Approximately 51% of breaches include malware, but can be mitigated using security suite software like Windows Defender and Symantec.1
Miscellaneous error: An incident occurring as the result of unintentional actions that directly compromise a security asset. This does not include lost and stolen assets (which are defined separately). For instance, internal information being published on an external website by mistake would be considered a miscellaneous error.
Payment card skimmer: A device that criminals place on an asset that reads credit cards, such as ATMs or POS machines, at unsuspecting, legitimate businesses. Skimmers access sensitive information from the transaction for use at a later time.
Privilege misuse: Privilege misuse is when someone accesses accounts containing administrative data or uses data that holds monetary value for destructive or criminal purposes. This type of breach is generally internal, but can involve external parties when collusion is involved.
Ransomware: This is another form of malware that encrypts files and prevents users from accessing their systems until they pay a ransom.
Social engineering or phishing: This occurs when cyber criminals try to trick you into giving them information by creating profiles, fake emails, and other schemes in which they pose as someone you know — a family member, friend, or coworker, for example — and asking for personal details.
Spyware: A subcategory of malware specifically designed to gather data about you and transmit it to an attacker. Spyware programs called keyloggers can record every keystroke you put into your keyboard and send that information to the attacker.
Web app attack: An incident in which a web application is infiltrated to steal data or perform unauthorized transactions.
White hat: The counterpart to black hat hackers, white hats are security professionals hired by businesses to intentionally hack into the organization’s systems to expose vulnerabilities.
1 "2017 Data Breach Investigations Report," Verizon, 2017.