As you master new cybersecurity skills, you’ll be exposed to new terms that are constantly growing and evolving. Each new challenge and achievement will open the doors to new concepts that must be both clearly defined and proficiently demonstrated.

While some computer security terms have become rather commonplace in our society, others remain a bit mysterious to those encountering them for the first time.

Here are some basic Internet and cybersecurity terms that may help you as you increase your knowledge in this challenging field.

Useful Cybersecurity and General Internet Terms for Beginners

  • Antivirus Software. Most Internet users are well aware of these programs since nearly every computer sold today provides at least short – term access to this type of software. In a nutshell, these programs protect your computer from Internet viruses or codes that can quickly disable your computer (or an entire network). When functioning properly with all necessary updates, this software will constantly monitor your computer to prevent viruses from “infecting” it;
  • Attacks. People stage intentional active and passive attacks while trying to bypass computer security controls. During an active attack, the perpetrator tries to alter a system’s data, resources or operations. However, a passive attack simply involves trying to access and use a computer system’s information – without trying to alter its resources, operations or data;
  • Back Door. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “trap door,” a software or hardware designer makes ones of these to allow herself (or privileged others) to circumvent computer security;
  • Blended Threats. Hackers or cyber terrorists who approach computer networks using blended threats are trying to maximize the damage they can inflict by using different traits of both viruses and worms. For example, an attacker might try to send out an e-mail virus with a Trojan horse embedded in an HTML file. Past examples of blended threats include both Bugbear and CodeRed;
  • Bots. A person attacks your computer with a bot – or remote control agent – by bypassing your firewall and antivirus software. Once installed on your computer, a bot becomes part of a bot network (botnet) that the hacker or bot owner/bot herder can then manipulate at will. Bots can install various types of spyware (or malicious logic) on your computer, allowing the bot owner to take it over whenever it’s connected to the Internet. Some people use the term “zombie” interchangeably with the term “bot;”
  • Cybersecurity. The activity or process, ability or capability, or state whereby information and communication systems and the information contained therein are protected from and/or defended against damage, unauthorized use or modification, or exploitation;”
  • Cyber Exercise. “This is a planned event [like November 2013’s GridEx] during which an organization simulates a cyber disruption to develop or test capabilities such as preventing, detecting, mitigating, responding to or recovering from the disruption;”
  • Encryption. “The process of translating plaintext into ciphertext.” Unencrypted data is called plaintext while encrypted data is referred to as ciphertext. The two main types of encryption are referred to as asymmetric and symmetric;
  • Firewall. “A capability to limit network traffic between networks and/or information systems.” In other words, it’s “A hardware/software device or a software program that limits network traffic according to a set of rules of what access is and is not allowed or authorized;”
  • A Gateway. This is simply a bridge between two computer networks;
  • Hacker. An unauthorized user who seeks to maliciously disrupt or permanently damage an individual computer – or entire network of computers;
  • Internet. A constantly growing number of computer users regularly communicate with each other via this worldwide global network. In fact, there were 2,405,518, 376 Internet users on June 30, 2012;
  • Intranet. “A network based on TCP/ICP protocols (an internet) belonging to an organization, usually a corporation, accessible only to the organization’s members, employees, or others with authorization.” A special firewall is designed to protect an intranet website from those unauthorized to use it;
  • A Keylogger. This type of harmful or malicious program is used to infiltrate your computer to record information about all of your computer keyboard activities, including all Internet browsing activities, e-mail usage and instant messaging communications;
  • Malicious Code. This refers to any type of software that’s installed in your computer (system) and can perform unauthorized activities. Malware is a similar term that refers to malicious software created to damage, disrupt or even possibly destroy a computer (system) with viruses, Trojan horses and other harmful programs;
  • Phishing. These Internet scam programs often contact unsuspecting people via e-mail, urging them to visit fake websites designed to look like those run by well-known banks or other financial institutions. Perpetrators then try to obtain private information by telling users it’s time to update their account passwords or usernames. If unwitting people comply, all types of fraud, including identity theft, may result;
  • Spyware. This type of software is installed on a network of computers without the owner’s knowledge. Its main purpose is to gather personal/group information and communicate it to an unknown third party. Spyware can monitor your activities and even pick up critical information like credit card numbers, usernames and passwords;
  • Trojan Horse. This type of harmful computer program can be easily installed on your computer while you’re downloading unknown programs or files off the Internet (or simply opening up unfamiliar email attachments). A Trojan horse will nearly always damage your computer in some way;
  • Virus. A computer virus is harmful “software” that attaches itself to other programs in order to impair or destroy a computer’s ability to function normally;
  • Worm. This is an independent program that replicates (reproduces) from machine to machine across network connections, often clogging networks and information systems as it spreads.

Additional cybersecurity terms can be found on the U. S. government website (referenced above) by clicking on this link.