A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Cybersecurity Terms

Whether you’re trying to keep your business’s information secure or want to protect your personal information, cybersecurity is an important issue. But if you’re not an IT professional, the technical terms cybersecurity experts use can be challenging to understand.


One of the basic cybersecurity terms is cryptography, one of the businesses’ most essential tools to protect their data from cyber threats. It involves a series of mathematical concepts and rule-based calculations (or algorithms) to transform sensitive information into a form that can only be deciphered by intended recipients. This process is often called encryption, and it can be used for everything from safeguarding credit card transactions to email correspondence. The key to cryptography is that the original human-readable message is transformed into something that looks like gibberish. Then, the person or system responsible for deciphering the message uses the correct algorithm and key to convert it to its original form.

Aside from encryption, cryptography can also be used to verify the integrity of data and ensure that people who have been granted access to it are using it. It’s also an essential part of nonrepudiation, which confirms that a sender or recipient of data cannot later deny sending it. A managed security services provider can help businesses choose the best type of cryptography to meet their needs.

Network Security

Network security encompasses all the countermeasures in place to prevent hackers from accessing data stored on a computer network and data that is being transmitted through it. It protects a computer network from external threats and helps prevent data breaches that could risk an organization’s reputation and financial stability.

An excellent example of network security is a firewall, which filters out malicious content and prevents hackers from entering the system. Another tool is antivirus software, which identifies and blocks malware infections once they’ve been detected. Network security includes tools like sandboxing technology, intrusion prevention systems, and network access control.

The main reason for network security is to protect confidential information and ensure the integrity of digital assets. Many organizations rely on networks to conduct business, and a cyberattack can disrupt operations and lead to financial losses. According to Positive Technologies, 42% of cyberattacks against individuals are motivated by financial gain, while 50% of attacks against businesses target their intellectual property. The integrity of these assets is crucial to the competitiveness of a company.

Hacking Techniques

Hacking techniques allow you to access and modify computer systems or networks. These can be used for malicious intent or testing and improving a hacker’s skills. They include phishing, spam email, instant messaging, and various psychological tricks to manipulate people into disclosing their personal information.

The hacking process begins with collecting as much information about the target system and infrastructure as possible. This includes the network topology, which allows a hacker to identify vulnerable ports and access points. It also involves examining the web application to recognize vulnerabilities, including SQL injection.

Many hackers are driven by competition and the desire to prove their technical skills to others. They may be motivated by a financial reward or enjoy the challenge of breaking into complex security systems. However, not all hackers are evil. Companies employ white hat hackers to conduct penetration tests, which expose weaknesses and help strengthen cyber defenses. They use similar methods as black hat hackers but without malicious intent.

Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking is legally breaching a system or network with the permission of the owner to identify vulnerabilities. These flaws can include password encryption issues, insecure applications, or systems with unpatched software. When hackers discover these problems, they report them to the company. This allows the organization to fix them and prevent cyberattacks.

Whether stealing data or disrupting systems for cyber espionage, malicious hackers have become increasingly common today. This has led to an increase in the demand for cybersecurity professionals.

Ethical hackers – pen testers – use their skills to find potential vulnerabilities that malicious hackers can exploit. These professionals can be hired to test security systems and help organizations stay compliant. However, there are many limitations to ethical hacking. These may include time constraints, limited scope, and resources such as computing power or budget allocations. Some organizations may request that experts avoid test cases that could crash servers (as in denial of service attacks). These constraints can be overcome through automation and accelerated penetration testing.

Social Engineering

Social engineering involves psychological manipulation and persuasion to trick victims into breaking standard security procedures. Attackers can gain sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers by exploiting our innate desire to trust people and explore new offers or opportunities.

A classic example is a phishing email crafted to look like official correspondence from a well-known company or individual, such as an airline pilot, bank, or check forger Frank Abagnale (played by Matt Damon in the movie Catch Me If You Can). This attack may involve a sense of urgency, such as notification of suspicious activity, to get victims to take action immediately.

Attackers need certain information about their targets and environment to perform a social engineering attack successfully. This can include their organizational structure, job title, and even the names of key members. It’s also important to know about their daily routine, the places they visit, and the technology they use at work. This information can be used to build a knowledge graph, as shown in the image below, which can then be leveraged in a social engineering attack.