Reference Guide

List of terms and phrases you may come across. In alphabetical order.

Adware – Any variety of code which has the sole purpose of serving up advertisements. Usually non-destructive, but highly annoying.

Attack Surface – All accumulated attack vectors on an environment. Usually in reference to software.

Attack Vector –  Single point or path used to break security.  Usually in reference to gaining access to a computer via software exploit.

Brute force (attack/cracking) – A way of randomly guessing a password or encryption key until the correct sequence emerges. This is done by automated programs that use a several methods and text libraries to push thousands of possible answers, in a matter of moments.  This type of attack/crack is called “Brute Force” for it’s lack of finesse or thought process. Rather a, “throw everything at it, and see what sticks” kind of tactic.

Cipher text – Data that has been encrypted.

Data – To put it simply; Just about everything on your computer is data.  Anything that can be stored on your hard drive or in memory can possibly be considered data.  There are many different kinds of data, but for simplicity sake, we’ll use the term in reference to the things you care about keeping safe.  Your data; Files, documents, pictures, personal information… Things of that nature.

DDoS – Distributed Denial of Service, is a type of denial of service (DoS) attack that (simply put) uses many computers across the internet and forces them to visit a web site, causing the web site to crash.  In more technical terms, an attacker uses what is known as a bot net or zombie net to control thousands or even millions of hacked computers to send (bombard) a single web site or service with communication requests. In most cases the servers cannot handle the influx of requests, and they crash.  In most cases, the requests are written in such a way that it elongates the web site’s servers response, causing even greater strain on the server/bandwidth, ensuring the failure.

Encryption – The process of converting data into an unreadable form. Can be “unlocked” by the use of an encryption key.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – Network of connected devices, objects, appliances, etc. Usually consisting of everyday appliances within a home that are WiFi enabled and can be remotely controlled or interacted with from another internet connected device.

Maldoc – Malware embedded in a document (i.e.- PDF, WORD doc, Excel Spreadsheet).

MalSPAM – Malware embedded in SPAM

Malware – Malicious software, intended to harm your data in some way.

Patch Tuesday – Every month Microsoft releases its security updates to fix found vulnerabilities. And every month it comes out on Tuesday. Sometimes the second Tuesday, or sometimes the fourth Tuesday, it just depends, but it’s usually on Tuesday.

Phishing – A malicious attempt to gain access to your sensitive data, by posing as a trusted source. (usually through email, but not always)

Plain text – Data that has NOT been encrypted.

Ransomware – Malware that encrypts and removes access to all the data on your computer. It forces you to “purchase” a key from the criminals through some sort of untraceable online payment method. As of this date, there is no known fix aside from paying the ransom.

RCE – Remote Code Execution. Gives an attacker remote access/control to the targeted computer. RCE can be the goal of an attack, via malware or other forms of attack.

SPAM – Unwanted, unsolicited, junk email.

Spear phishing – These are targeted phishing emails that can use your own personal dealings with a particular company or entity to make you believe you are actually dealing with that entity.  (i.e., they may know your account number or name, and attempt to have you login to a fake website)

Spoofing – Disguising something to look like something else. Spoofing is used to trick people into giving their personal information to criminals.  (i.e., Phishing attacker could send you an email that appears as though it came from Bank of America, or some other trusted company, when it actuality it’s a fake.) Frequently Spoofed items are; websites, emails, MAC addresses, IP addresses, and more.

Zero-day – A software exploit that is known to attackers before vendors. The exploit is usually being used in the wild, before the vendor becomes aware, leaving the vendor to rush to fix it.