By Arielle Mullen

For many, the subject of cybersecurity is a confusing, oftentimes overwhelming topic. Never fear! Today with a little help from NICCS, we're taking you through all the most important cybersecurity terms and definitions that you might have heard before, but weren't sure what they meant. 

  • Active attack: An assault perpetrated by an international threat source that attempts to alter a system, its data, or its operations.
  • Attack surface: The ways in which someone can gain access to your system and cause harm.
  • Botnet: A group of computers compromised by malicious code and controlled across a network. 
  • Cloud computing: A model for enabling on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing capabilities or resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management. 
  • Enterprise risk management: A comprehensive approach to risk management that engages people, processes, and systems across an organization to improve the quality of decision making for managing risk. 
  • Firewall: A capability to limit network traffic between networks and/or information systems. 
  • Integrated risk management: The structured approach enabling an organization to share risk information and risk analysis, and to synchronize independent risk management strategies. 
  • Keylogger: Software or hardware that tracks keystrokes, usually secretly, to monitor actions by the user of an information system. 
  • Macro virus: A type of malicious code that attaches itself to documents & uses the macro programming capabilities of the document's application to execute, replicate, and spread itself. 
  • Malware: Software that compromises the operation of a system by performing an unauthorized function or process. 
  • Phishing: Digital form of social engineering to deceive individuals into providing sensitive data. 
  • Spyware: Software that's secretly installed into an information system without knowledge of the system user. 


Interested in taking a deeper dive into cybersecurity terminology? Check out the NICCS website, where you can find the complete list of terms and definitions. 

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