25 Cyber Security Terms That Everyone Who Uses A Computer Should Know

The topic of cyber security is sweeping the world by storm with some of the largest and most advanced companies in the world falling victim to cyber-attacks in just the last 5 years. Against that backdrop, highly personal and sensitive information such as social security numbers were recently stolen in the Equifax hack, affecting over 145 million people. Unfortunately, as long as computers exist, we are at risk of having our digital data compromised and manipulated. However, living in the digital age is not all that scary – especially if you know what you’re doing.

Understanding how your device works is not as hard as it sounds. But, if you could nail long division in the 4th grade, then you can learn cyber basics that will get you pretty far in your own personal security as well as your company’s.

We’re here to make this learning curve easier by providing a list of the 25 most important cyber security terminology that everyone should know:

cyber security terms cloud

1. Cloud

A technology that allows us to access our files and/or services through the internet from anywhere in the world. Technically speaking, it’s a collection of computers with large storage capabilities that remotely serve requests.

cyber security terms software

2. Software

A set of programs that tell a computer to perform a task. These instructions are compiled into a package that users can install and use. For example, Microsoft Office is an application software.

cyber security domain

3. Domain

A group of computers, printers and devices that are interconnected and governed as a whole. For example, your computer is usually part of a domain at your workplace.

cyber security terms VPN

4. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A tool that allows the user to remain anonymous while using the internet by masking the location and encrypting traffic.

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cyber security terms IP address

5. IP Address

An internet version of a home address for your computer, which is identified when it communicates over a network; For example, connecting to the internet (a network of networks).

cyber security terms computer exploit

6. Exploit

A malicious application or script that can be used to take advantage of a computer’s vulnerability.

cyber security terms data breach

7. Breach

The moment a hacker successfully exploits a vulnerability in a computer or device, and gains access to its files and network.

cyber security terms firewall

8. Firewall

A defensive technology designed to keep the bad guys out. Firewalls can be hardware or software-based.

cyber security malware

9. Malware “the bad guy”

An umbrella term that describes all forms of malicious software designed to wreak havoc on a computer. Common forms include: viruses, trojans, worms and ransomware.

cyber security terms virus

10. Virus

A type of malware aimed to corrupt, erase or modify information on a computer before spreading to others. However, in more recent years, viruses like Stuxnet have caused physical damage.

 wannacry ransomware

11. Ransomware

A form of malware that deliberately prevents you from accessing files on your computer – holding your data hostage. It will typically encrypt files and request that a ransom be paid in order to have them decrypted or recovered. For example, WannaCry Ransomware. For more information on Ransomware, check out our free Ransomware Guide.

 trojan virus

12. Trojan horse

A piece of malware that often allows a hacker to gain remote access to a computer through a “back door”.

 terms computer worm

13. Worm

A piece of malware that can replicate itself in order to spread the infection to other connected computers.

cyber security terms botnet

14. Bot/Botnet

A type of software application or script that performs tasks on command, allowing an attacker to take complete control remotely of an affected computer. A collection of these infected computers is known as a “botnet” and is controlled by the hacker or “bot-herder”.

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spyware malware terms

15. Spyware

A type of malware that functions by spying on user activity without their knowledge. The capabilities include activity monitoring, collecting keystrokes, data harvesting (account information, logins, financial data), and more.

rootkit cybersecurity terminology

16. Rootkit

Another kind of malware that allows cybercriminals to remotely control your computer. Rootkits are especially damaging because they are hard to detect, making it likely that this type of malware could live on your computer for a long time.

cyber security terms botnet DDoS attack

17. DDoS

An acronym that stands for distributed denial of service – a form of cyber attack. This attack aims to make a service such as a website unusable by “flooding” it with malicious traffic or data from multiple sources (often botnets).

cyber security terms spear phishing

18. Phishing or Spear Phishing

A technique used by hackers to obtain sensitive information. For example, using hand-crafted email messages designed to trick people into divulging personal or confidential data such as passwords and bank account information.

cyber security terms encryption

19. Encryption

The process of encoding data to prevent theft by ensuring the data can only be accessed with a key.

BYOD bring your own device

20. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Refers to a company security policy that allows for employees’ personal devices to be used in business. A BYOD policy sets limitations and restrictions on whether or not a personal phone or laptop can be connected over the corporate network.

cyber security terms pentesting

21. Pen-testing

Short for “penetration testing,” this practice is a means of evaluating security using hacker tools and techniques with the aim of discovering vulnerabilities and evaluating security flaws.

social engineering

22. Social Engineering

A technique used to manipulate and deceive people to gain sensitive and private information. Scams based on social engineering are built around how people think and act. So, once a hacker understands what motivates a person’s actions, they can usually retrieve exactly what they’re looking for – like financial data and passwords.

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cyber security terms clickjacking

23. Clickjacking

A hacking attack that tricks victims into clicking on an unintended link or button, usually disguised as a harmless element.

deepfake cybersecurity term

24. Deepfake

An audio or video clip that has been edited and manipulated to seem real or believable. The most dangerous consequence of the popularity of deepfakes is that they can easily convince people into believing a certain story or theory that may result in user-behavior with a bigger impact as in political or financial.

black hat cyber security

25. White Hat / Black Hat

When speaking in cyber security terms, the differences in hacker “hats” refers to the intention of the hacker. For example:

  • White hat: Breaches the network to gain sensitive information with the owner’s consent – making it completely legal. This method is usually employed to test infrastructure vulnerabilities.
  • Black hat: Hackers that break into the network to steal information that will be used to harm the owner or the users without consent. It’s entirely illegal. 

We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg as far as cyber security terms, but this will get you started. Take the steps now to ensure that you and your business are protected – knowledge is power! Check back with Cybint for any follow-up tips and advice by signing up for our mailing list below.

cyber security newsletter


Devon is the Chief Marketing Officer at Cybint. Prior to joining Cybint, Devon worked on social media and marketing strategies for clients at Startups.com, working with companies in law, education, accelerator/incubator, medicine, media, and tech.

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