Demystifying Cyber Security Jargon – A Glossary for Non-Experts

Cyber Security is often intimidating to non-experts. With hundreds of acronyms thrown around, understanding what cybersecurity means cannot be easy.

This post aims to demystify the jargon used by IT Professionals to help educate and aid non-technical people in making informed cybersecurity decisions.


Viruses are tiny obligate intracellular parasites, usually containing a DNA or RNA genome surrounded by a protein-coated membrane or capsid. They are unique among life forms because they do not have ribosomes, mitochondria, or other cell-like organelles.

They cannot replicate without the metabolic processes of their host cells and thus are genetic parasites. Viruses are also very diverse in shape, size, and life cycle.

Viruses are often rod-shaped but can also be spherical. The exterior shell of a virus, called the protein capsid, protects its genetic information from physical, chemical, and enzymatic damage. Inside the capsid is a nucleocapsid that contains the DNA or RNA genome and any required replicating enzymes.


Malware is an umbrella term for viruses, worms, trojans, and other destructive computer programs threat actors use to infect systems and networks to gain access to sensitive information.

As part of the cyber security glossary, it also infects a computer; malware can steal financial data, install a backdoor, launch a ransomware attack, or force you to view unwanted ads. Some types of malware can spy on you and report your activity to the attacker.

In many cases, malware is invisible until you notice it has infected your system and that it hurts your device’s performance. The first sign is usually a slow-running computer or windows that take longer to load than usual.


Phishing is a cybercrime in which attackers try to gain passwords or other personal information by pretending to be reputable people or companies. It’s often done through email, but it can also happen through phone or text messages.

The best way to prevent phishing is by changing your passwords regularly and installing firewalls on your computer. This will stop hackers from accessing your systems and protect your privacy.


Torrents are file-sharing programs that allow people to download files through a decentralized, peer-to-peer network. This technology, known as BitTorrent, enables the transfer of ginormous data files through a system where bits of file chunks are distributed among participants’ computers in a network.

Using torrents can lead to severe problems, including malware infections and copyright issues. Floods are also notorious for exposing IP addresses to the public, which can be used by advertisers, hackers, and law enforcement to target individual users.

To avoid these problems, a VPN is essential when downloading via torrents. A VPN replaces your IP address and encrypts your traffic, making it harder for law enforcement or other parties to trace your location.


A backdoor is a hidden mechanism that allows hackers to access your computer without authentication. It can also give them elevated privileges to attack your device and steal data.

Backdoors can be a gateway for hackers to install malware or conduct DDoS attacks on your system. They can also help cryptojackers use their computer’s processing power to mine cryptocurrency.

Usually, backdoors are left in by software developers as a shortcut to test new features and troubleshoot issues. But hackers or vendors who want to give a few select users instant access can also be left in nefariously.


Banner grabbing is a technique used by hackers and security teams to gather information about systems connected to a network. It involves revealing software version numbers and system details on network hosts running services.

It is commonly used during penetration testing to identify potential threats. It also can help local network administrators catalog servers and workstations.

Banner grabbing can be performed through various techniques, including proprietary programs. Once a connection is established, the attacker sends a bad request to a vulnerable host. This will trigger the host to respond with a banner message that may contain information that an attacker can use to compromise a system further.


Pwned is a term that refers to a data leak or a breach of personal information. It is often used in gaming to describe someone wholly wiped out, but it has severe connotations for business owners.

In 2013, security experts helped people check if their data had been hacked in a data breach. The website allows users to enter an email address and retrieve a list of known data breaches tied to that address.

Pwned passwords are particularly dangerous because they can be used to access multiple accounts. This means that hackers have all the necessary details to launch a successful attack on your computer.


Backscatter is a type of malicious email disguised as bounce messages so that it does not get filtered as spam by the mail server. This is an effective tactic to bypass anti-spam filters, fill the inbox with spam, and hack sensitive information that may be stored on a user’s computer.

Backscatter is the result of spammers forging the ‘from’ address or setting the reply-to address in an email message such that it causes the unwitting recipient’s mail server to bounce to that address. This can lead to backscatter being sent to many recipients’ email inboxes, including legitimate users.

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