NCSC glossary

Created:  23 Nov 2016
Updated:  08 Dec 2017
This glossary will be constantly updated. Check back for more updates or follow @NCSC on Twitter.

A

antivirus

Software that is designed to detect, stop and remove viruses and other kinds of malicious software.

attacker

Malicious actor who seeks to exploit computer systems with the intent to change, destroy, steal or disable their information, and then exploit the outcome.

B

botnet

A network of infected devices, connected to the Internet, used to commit coordinated cyber attacks without their owner's knowledge.

breach

An incident in which data, computer systems or networks are accessed or affected in a non-authorised way.

brute force attack

Using a computational power to automatically enter a huge number of combination of values, usually in order to discover passwords and gain access.

bring your own device (BYOD)

An organisation's strategy or policy that allows employees to use their own personal devices for work purposes.

C

cloud

Where shared compute and storage resources are accessed as a service (usually online), instead of hosted locally on physical services. Resources can include infrastructure, platform or software services.

cyber attack

Malicious attempts to damage, disrupt or gain unauthorised access to computer systems, networks or devices, via cyber means.

cyber incident

A breach of the security rules for a system or service - most commonly;

  • Attempts to gain unauthorised access to a system and/or to data.
  • Unauthorised use of systems for the processing or storing of data.
  • Changes to a systems firmware, software or hardware without the system owners consent.
  • Malicious disruption and/or denial of service.

cyber security

The protection of devices, services and networks — and the information on them — from theft or damage.

D

dictionary attack

A type of brute force attack in which the attacker uses known dictionary words, phrases or common passwords as their guesses.

digital footprint

A 'footprint' of digital information that a user's online activity leaves behind.

denial of service (DoS)

When legitimate users are denied access to computer services (or resources), usually by overloading the service with requests.

download attack

The unintentional installation of malicious software or virus onto a device without the users knowledge or consent. May also be known as a drive-by download.

E

encryption

A mathematical function that protects information by making it unreadable by everyone except those with the key to decode it.

end user device (EUD)

Collective term to describe modern smartphones, laptops and tablets that connect to an organisation's network.

exploit

May refer to software or data that takes advantage of a vulnerability in a system to cause unintended consequences.

F

firewall

Hardware or software which uses a defined rule set to constrain network traffic to prevent unauthorised access to or from a network.

G

 

H

hacker

In mainstream use as being someone with some computer skills who uses them to break into computers, systems and networks.

honeypot (honeynet)

Decoy system or network to attract potential attackers that helps limit access to actual systems by detecting and deflecting or learning from an attack. Multiple honeypots form a honeynet.

I

insider risks

The potential for damage to be done maliciously or inadvertently by a legitimate user with privilleged access to systems, networks or data.

Internet of things (IoT)

Refers to the ability of everyday objects (rather than computers and devices) to connect to the Internet. Examples include kettles, fridges and televisions.

J

 

K

 

L

 

M

macro

A small program that can automate tasks in applications (such as Microsoft Office) which attackers can use to gain access to (or harm) a system.

malvertising

Using online advertising as a delivery method for malware.

malware

Malicious software - a term that includes viruses, trojans, worms or any code or content that could have an adverse impact on organisations or individuals.

mitigation

Steps that organisations and individuals can take to minimise and address risks.

N

 

O

 

P

patching

Applying updates to firmware or software to improve security and/or enhance functionality.

pentest

Short for penetration test. An authorised test of a computer network or system designed to look for security weaknesses so that they can be fixed.

pharming

An attack on network infrastructure that results in a user being redirected to an illegitimate website despite the user having entered the correct address.

phishing

Untargeted, mass emails sent to many people asking for sensitive information (such as bank details) or encouraging them to visit a fake website.

Q

 

U

 

R

ransomware

Malicious software that makes data or systems unusable until the victim makes a payment.

S

software as a service (SaaS)

Describes a business model where consumers access centrally-hosted software applications over the Internet.

smishing

Phishing via SMS: mass text messages sent to users asking for sensitive information (eg bank details) or encouraging them to visit a fake website.

social engineering

Manipulating people into carrying out specific actions, or divulging information, that's of use to an attacker.

spear-phishing

A more targeted form of phishing, where the email is designed to look like it's from a person the recipient knows and/or trusts.

T

trojan

A type of malware or virus disguised as legitimate software, that is used to hack into the victim's computer.

two-factor authentication (2FA)

The use of two different components to verify a user's claimed identity. Also known as multi-factor authentication.

U

 

V

virus

Programs which can self-replicate and are designed to infect legitimate software programs or systems. A form of malware.

vulnerability

A weakness, or flaw, in software, a system or process. An attacker may seek to exploit a vulnerability to gain unauthorised access to a system.

W

water-holing (watering hole attack)

Setting up a fake website (or compromising a real one) in order to exploit visiting users.

whaling

Highly targeted phishing attacks (masquerading as a legitimate emails) that are aimed at senior executives.

whitelisting

Authorising approved applications for use within organisations in order to protect systems from potentially harmful applications.

X

 

Y

 

Z

zero-day

Recently discovered vulnerabilities (or bugs), not yet known to vendors or antivirus companies, that hackers can exploit.

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