The ‘Ultimate Guide’ to the tech world’s very own language!

The ‘Ultimate Guide’ to the tech world’s very own language! Featured

Being on top of our lives can really help us to feel more in control of the things around us, and a huge part of this is our security.

We spend plenty of time ensuring that our most valuable things are protected at all costs. Whether that’s our home, our belongings, our money and even ourselves, staying secure is, for many of us, the only way we can relax. Besides, we don’t ever want to feel exposed to prying eyes, on the lookout for what they can steal from us!

Because of this, there are plenty of DIY guides, tips and tricks and expert advice on how to secure all sorts of things. From home insurance experts to banks offering fraud protection schemes, as a society, we’ve really invested in quick and accessible security.

But what about our tech?

Our phones, laptops and tablets are home to all sorts of private information. From bank account details, to personal memories that we hold near to our hearts. This kind of data should be kept under lock and key, but for so many, it’s open for any tech savvy person to see.

Of course, not everyone picks up technology at the same pace, with some of us being able to pick up the newest tech and use it with ease. However, others find even the simplest of things incredibly confusing, (think explaining how Bluetooth works to someone who’s just learned about wireless internet).

But, just because some people don’t pick up technology as quickly as others, doesn’t mean their online privacy should suffer.

Understanding tech and cyber terminology

We want to help you on your path to complete technological security, as we believe that everyone should be able to keep on top of their virtual fortress. That way, everyone can rest easy knowing that their private information is completely protected.

However, the complicated world of cybersecurity is full of terminology which can throw even an experienced person off.

So, in order to make cybersecurity more accessible to the everyday person, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common, and some really obscure, cybersecurity jargon.

The technology world is made up of almost a completely different language, with terms, abbreviations and acronyms all over the place. To an outsider, it can seem almost impossible to decipher, like a secret code.

Some of the phrases used can be quite straightforward, but others are incredibly obscure and need a bit more explanation. Have a look at the overview below.

Examples of cybersecurity terminology


And the list continues…

Zero Day Exploits

For example, ‘Zero Day Exploit’ is actually a type of cyber attack that occurs on the same day a weakness is discovered. At that point, it’s exploited before a solution becomes available, rendering the software vulnerable!

Brute Force Attacks

A ‘Brute-force attack’ is also a type of cyber attack. This is also known as brute-force cracking, and it’s the equivalent of trying every key on your keyring to break into your account.

Business Email Compromise

Another type of cyber attack is the ‘Business Email Compromise’. It’s a form of cybercrime which uses email fraud to attack commercial, government and non-profit organizations.

Replay Attacks

A ‘Replay Attack’ is similar to the ‘Man in the Middle attack’. It’s a form of network attack in which data is maliciously or fraudulently repeated or delated, usually performed by someone who has intercepted the data.

Smishing

‘Smishing’ is another, slightly strange, phrase that is used to describe a type of fraudulent activity. This is when you receive a text message from a ‘reputable company’ that is asking for sensitive information, but in actual fact, it’s a scammer!

Proxy servers

You might have heard of the word ‘Proxy’ before. It’s relatively simple, as it describes a server that acts as an intermediate server between a user and the internet. A proxy server allows you to change your virtual location, but it doesn’t encrypt your data at the same time like a VPN does, so don’t rely on it for online protection.

Certificate Authority

A ‘Certificate Authority’ is much more to the point term, as it is simply an entity that emits digital certificates that prove the ownership of a public key in codes.

BitTorrent

If you’re in the business of sharing data and content online, you may have already heard of ‘BitTorrent’. It is a communication protocol for peer-to-peer file sharing, and is especially popular for sharing music, movies and software.

Asymmetric Encryption

Grab your notebook and a pen for this one, as it takes some explanation to really understand! ‘Asymmetric Encryption’ is a kind of encryption that makes use of two asymmetric keys. For example, a public key which is observable for everyone, and a private key that is only available to the owner. The public owner key is a function that can only encrypt data, whereas the private key is the only one that can decrypt it. Complicated stuff!

Ad blocker

One we’ve all heard of before is ‘Ad Blocker’. It does what it says on the tin, as it’s a program or browser-extension which blocks advertisements or obtrusive pop-ups. Perfect for avoiding unwanted interruptions when watching content online!

Tech acronyms explained

A huge part of this ‘language’ is taken up by acronyms, used in all sorts of settings. To help you get used to some of them, we’ve broken down some of the most common acronyms you’re likely to encounter on your cybersecurity journey.

If you’re looking for a specific acronym, you might be able to find it in the table below.

Acronym What it stands for Meaning
MFA Multi-Factor Authentication A method in which a user is granted access to a website/application after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication process
IPS Intrusion Prevention System A device or software application that monitors a network or systems for malicious activity or policy violations
ACL Access Control List An ACL specified which users or system are granted access to a system resource, such as viewing/editing a file
DAM Database Activity Monitoring A security technology that gathers data from a database’ activity, which is then used to support breach investigations and alert people to anomalies
DES Data Encryption Standard A symmetric-key algorithm for the encryption of digital data
WPA Wifi Protected Access A security certification program that was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks
TOFU Trust On First Use This is an authentication scheme that requires new users to establish trust to access a file (usually used on by client software when sharing sensitive info)
PAP Password Authentication Protocol A password-based authentication protocol that is used to validate users. It’s used by almost all network operating systems
CHAP Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol This software authenticates a user/network host by using another authenticating entity, such as an internet service provider
RADIUS Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service This is a networking protocol, providing authentication into software/files etc for users who connect and use a network service
AES Advanced Encryption Standard A specification for the encryption of electronic data, established by the USA
IDS Intrusion Detection System A device or software application that monitors a network or systems for malicious activity or policy violations
DNS Domain Name System This acts as a telephone book, as the DNS servers have associate information with the requested domain name
SIM Subscriber Identity Module These are generally software agents running on monitored computer systems. They record log information that is then sent to a server
DD-WRT Open source for routers DD-WRT is a Linux-based open source firmware alternative for a variety of routers. It offers plenty of firmware options to download, including a VPN, making it a securer option
DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act An American law that aims to protect intellectual property. It forbids the production and distribution of software that is used to bypass digital security measures
GCHQ Government Communications Headquarters This is the British version of NSA (an American intelligence agency). It’s well known for tracking and storing roughly 60% of the internet traffic, worldwide
IKEv2 Internet Key Exchange Version 2 This is a technique used to exchange encryption keys within the IPsec protocol, and is supported by a lot of operating systems
IPv4 Internet Protocol Version 4 This is currently the default system for creation of IP addresses
IPv6 Internet Protocol Version 6 This is the successor to IPv4, as almost all of the IPv4’s IP addresses are in use
ISP Internet Service Provider An organization that provides a variety of services for accessing, using or participating in the internet
L2TP Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol This is a VPN security protocol that encrypts your data and authenticates it
L2TP/IPSec Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol/IPSec This is a combination of a security protocol and IPSec encryption, giving you a stronger and more secure VPN protection
FTP File Transfer Protocol This is a standard communication protocol that’s used to transfer computer files from a server, to a client on a computer network
IMAP Internet Message Access Protocol This is an internet standard protocol that’s used by email clients to retrieve email messages from a mail server
VPN Virtual Private Network A VPN is used to create a private network within a public network. This way third parties cannot read any of your exchanged information, making your internet usage more secure
TLS Transport Layer Security This is the successor to SSL, and it works in a similar way, encrypting data to protect it when it’s being transferred
SSL Secure Sockets Layer This is used on web browsers, allowing for data to be encrypted when it’s transferred over the internet
HTTPS Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure This protocol is used for secure communication over a computer network, widely used on the internet
PGP Pretty Good Privacy This is the most used way to securely encrypt your emails, as it can encrypt text and attached files
PPTP Point to Point Tunneling Protocol A VPN Protocol that is currently outdated, and is rarely used as it is perceived as unsafe
BGP Border Gateway Protocol This is a standardised exterior gateway protocol that is designed to exchange routing and reachability information on the internet
NAT Network Address Translation This is a method of changing the network address information in your IP address, to map it into a new one
VLAN Virtual Local Area Network A broadcast domain that is isolated in a computer network
BOOTP Bootstrap Protocol This is a computer networking protocol that is used to automatically assign an IP address to network devices from a configuration server
UDP User Diagram Protocol This is one of the core members of the internet protocol suite
IETF Internet Engineering Task Force The Internet Engineering Task Force is an open standards organisation, developing and promoting voluntary internet standards
IAB Internet Architecture Board A committee of the internet Engineering Task Force and an advisory body of the Internet Society. Its responsibilities include architectural oversight of IETF activities, Internet Standards Process oversight and appeal, and the appointment of the Request for Comments (RFC) Editor

With this in-depth glossary, you’re officially on your way to being a cybersecurity pro. No more awkward conversations with the IT department at work when your laptop has a virus.

You’ll be able to confidently say you understood everything your tech quiz family member told you, and maybe even offer some advice.

You might even be able to start making amendments to your own antivirus software, strengthening your technology’s protection against prying eyes and damaging downloads.

Your next steps to staying cyber secure

Once you’re ready to dive into the world of cybersecurity, the first steps we recommend taking is to download a VPN app, a good antivirus program, and a password manager.

A Virtual Private Network is the best way to keep all your data traffic encrypted, through a virtual tunnel. It creates a secure connection between you and the internet, so you can browse to your heart’s content, worry-free.

The advantages include:

  • Your IP address will be hidden from others online, meaning your anonymity will be much more protected, as well as your location
  • Keeping your data encrypted will prevent you from being vulnerable to cybercriminals
  • A VPN enables you to change your location, meaning you’ll be able to access different websites and other online services that may usually be blocked in your location

See our expert’s explanation about VPNs and how you can utilize them to better protect yourself online.

In addition to a VPN, make us of a good antivirus solution; there a quality paid antivirus programs but also solid free antimalware packages out there.

And to complete the holy trinity of consumer cybersecurity software, get yourself a decent password manager. We wrote a whole section on these nifty password tools!

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.