Understanding the Basics: A Guide to Cyber Security Terminology

Cybersecurity terminology constantly evolves, but understanding the basics can make transitioning into this field much smoother. This article will take you through the key terms so that you can confidently get started on your cybersecurity or ethical hacking training journey.

Malware is malicious software that comes in many different forms. It can range from worms and viruses to ransomware.


Cybersecurity is a general word for safeguarding digital assets against malware, malicious code, hackers, and other online threats. There are many cyber security terms and terminologies that employees should know, including malware. It entails various actions, including increasing employee knowledge, training, monitoring, and planning for disaster recovery.

Malware is software designed to steal information or resources, damage computer systems, or disrupt core IT functions. It can be installed through various means, including email attachments (especially those with macro language) and peer-to-peer file-sharing programs like BitTorrent.

Viruses, worms, and trojan horses are common types of malware. Worms are specifically designed to spread from one infected computer system to another, while viruses and Trojans masquerade as useful software programs but carry out their malicious functions once activated.

Some types of malware also include ransomware, which encrypts your files and demands a ransom for their release. There are also adware, spyware, backdoor behavior, keyloggers, and crypto-jacking (using your computer’s power to mine cryptocurrency for attackers). And don’t forget about rogue antivirus software, which claims to protect you from malware but installs more.


Viruses are microscopic infectious agents that can only replicate inside living cells. They have a core of genetic material—either DNA or RNA—covered by a protein coat called a capsid. They may have spiky surfaces that help them latch onto and enter cells.

Despite being categorized as nonliving for much of modern science, viruses are a critical player in evolution. They reproduce quickly and constantly undergo mutation, so their genes can be transferred to host organisms, altering the host’s genome and contributing to evolutionary change.

Computer viruses can cause cyber threats by stealing data, locking files with ransomware, or opening backdoors for hackers. They can infect systems via downloads, email attachments, shared media, and physical storage devices such as USB sticks and floppy disks.

Another common form of malware is a worm, which replicates and spreads to other systems by depositing copies of itself on every system it infects. The damage caused by a worm can be enormous due to its ability to spread so rapidly. The worm’s activities can also consume all of the resources on a system, making it unavailable to users.


Hacking is the term used to describe someone using their technological skills and knowledge to breach a system or network. While the media portrays hackers as shady cybercriminals who steal data and wreak other digital havoc, that isn’t always the case. Hacking is a very technical and often helpful process that can be applied for good or evil purposes.

The first people to use the term “hacking” in a technological context were MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club members, who would break into their high-tech train sets and modify them to expand their functions. Hackers expanded their interests to include computer systems and networks as the world entered a digital age.

There are many different types of hacking, and each has its motivations. For example, ransomware is a hacking technique that encrypts files and denies you access until you send payment. Some hacking is done for the profit of cybercriminals, while other hackers, known as white hats, perform penetration testing and vulnerability assessments for companies. Other types of hacking include social engineering, spoofing (when cybercriminals impersonate trusted sources such as an IT team member or a bank to gain access to information), and zero-day vulnerabilities.


A botnet is a group of computers, mobile devices, or IoT systems hijacked by malicious software. Attackers infect these devices with a common type of malware that allows them to communicate with attackers’ central dashboards and perform automated tasks. The hackers who own and operate these bots are known as “bot herders.”

Attackers typically infect devices using backdoors (malicious code) or vulnerabilities in firmware, websites, or applications that allow them to access system and network-level files. They may launch targeted intrusions or massive spam attacks depending on their purpose. The most devastating attacks, however, result in financial breaches and identity theft.

In these cases, attackers simultaneously use their botnets to steal money and data from multiple victims. You may notice signs of a botnet presence when you’re constantly prompted to close programs or have trouble closing specific program windows. You might also see unusual changes to your file system, such as files moving to different locations without your permission. A botnet can also slow down your computer and cause unnecessary background activity.


The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of connected devices that collect and communicate data via the Internet. IoT can be used for various reasons, from increasing business efficiency to monitoring and analyzing an entire city’s infrastructure.

IoT can be found in many devices, from human-to-human wearables like smartwatches to robotically controlled automobiles. These devices have unique identifiers that allow them to connect to the Internet and transfer data without requiring direct human interaction. They can also be monitored remotely and managed more efficiently.

While IoT can benefit businesses, it can also significantly impact cyber security. As more and more devices are added to the Internet, hackers have more opportunities to attack them and steal information. It is significant for businesses as IoT devices often store sensitive data that could have legal ramifications if compromised. It means companies must make cybersecurity an integral part of their IoT strategy. In addition, it’s essential to ensure that IoT devices are designed with security in mind.

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