Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Access Control List (ACL)

A set of data that informs a computer's operating system which permissions, or access rights, that each user or group has to a specific system object, such as a directory or file. Each object has a unique security attribute that identifies which users have access to it, and the ACL is a list of each object and user access privileges such as read, write or execute.

Access Control System

A type of security that manages and controls who or what is allowed entrance to a system, environment or facility. It identifies entities that have access to a controlled device or facility based on the validity of their credentials.

Adware

Software that contains advertisements embedded in the application. Adware is considered a legitimate alternative offered to consumers who do not wish to pay for software. There are many ad-supported programs, games or utilities that are distributed as adware.

Assets

In information security, an asset refers to any set of data, piece of information, or device that you have. This includes all physical assets that data is stored on — such as your network, your computer, your phone, or a thumb drive. Read our blog post for information on how to keep your assets physically secure.

B

Biometrics

Biometrics are personal physical identifiers, like a fingerprint or facial data. For example, a smartphone may have a biometric lock, which uses a recognized fingerprint to unlock the device only for a specific user.

Business Continuity Plan

The process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. In addition to prevention, the goal is to enable ongoing operations before and during the execution of disaster recovery.

C

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act is a state statute intended to enhance privacy rights and consumer protection for residents of California, United States.

Certified Information Systems Auditor

A designation issued by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). The designation is the global standard for professionals who have a career in information systems, in particular, auditing, control, and security.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional

A Certified Information Systems Security Professional is an information security certification that is granted by (ISC)², an international nonprofit association. Since (ISC)² was founded in 1989 to create standardization and certification in a growing cybersecurity industry, CISSP has become a sought after credential within the information security industry.

You can read more about the CISSP certification on the (ISC)² website.

Chief Compliance Officer

The most senior person or role responsible for reviewing and ensuring compliance is maintained, in regards to the information security policies and procedures of an organization.

Chief Information Privacy Officer

The most senior person or role responsible for the development, implementation, maintenance of, and adherence to privacy policies and procedures, focusing on information and data gathering.

Chief Information Security Officer

The most senior person or role responsible for the development and implementation of an organization’s security policies as they relate to information or data gathering practices. The Chief Information Security Officer has to ensure the security of vital information.

Chief Privacy Officer

The most senior person or role responsible for the development, implementation, maintenance of, and adherence to privacy policies and procedures.

Chief Security Officer

The most senior person or role responsible for the development and implementation of an organization’s security policies and procedures.

CIS Attestation

A formal document produced after a review of an organization's processes around privacy and information security, using the Center for Internet Security’s framework as a model for measuring compliance.

CIS Framework – Center for Internet Security

CIS Controls and CIS Benchmarks provide global standards for internet security and are a recognized global standard and best practices for securing IT systems and data against attacks. Through an independent consensus process, CIS Benchmarks provide frameworks to help organizations bolster their security.

Read more on this term in our blog post.

Cloud Storage

Storage services provided by an external supplier and made available to organizations, or individuals, on terms and conditions, which are defined by the external supplier. Cloud Storage and associated files reside outside of the organization’s domain (data centres) and facilitate the sharing of files and makes data available over a range of computers and other portable devices, usually accessed via options including, web browser; mobile app; synchronization client; drive mapping. Cloud Storage provider examples including, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft One Drive, Apple iCloud, Google Drive.

Cryptojacking

A type of malware designed to mine digital currencies, while remaining hidden on your computer. In 2018, “Coinhive” became a widely known example of a cyptojacking malware, by secretly using the computing power of devices to mine for the Monero cryptocurrency.

D

Data Classification (DLP)

Data Loss Prevention is the method or strategy an organization uses to ensure its employees and contractors do not share protected information, either accidentally or otherwise. DLP measures could include, auditing, restricted user access or software for tracking access to information or systems.

Data Classification (PHI)

Any information that can be used to identify an individual, which personally relates to their past, present or future health falls under the definition of PHI. This information must be encrypted by law and must be stored only in encrypted form, and transmitted only through secure means. However, in the case of research data for publication, PHI can be anonymized such that it is no longer considered "protected", and can be released without harm. Protected health information is defined by HIPAA as a list of 18 identifiers that must be protected and secured under the protection of the act. The identifiers include personal information such as name, date of birth, SSN, phone numbers and email addresses. Along with the personal identifiers, PHI covers such information as biometrics, full face images, medical record numbers, and health insurance beneficiary numbers.

Data Protection Officer

Companies that need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union are legally required to designate a data protection officer. This officer is required by these regulations to be “involved, properly and in a timely manner, in all issues which relate to the protection of personal data.”  The GDPR legally defines a data protection officer’s position and a number of tasks in Articles 38 and 39, which include responding to people who contact the data protection officer about anything related to “processing of their personal data and to the exercise of their rights.” 

You can reference and search the full text of the GDPR here.  

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

A computer or small subnetwork that sits between a trusted internal network, such as a corporate private LAN, and an untrusted external network, such as the public Internet.

Denial of Service

Short for denial-of-service attack, a type of attack on a network that is designed to bring the network to its knees by flooding it with useless traffic. Many DoS attacks, such as the Ping of Death and Teardrop attacks, exploit limitations in the TCP/IP protocols. For all known DoS attacks, there are software fixes that system administrators can install to limit the damage caused by the attacks.

Distributed Denial of Service

A type of cyber attack, usually using a botnet or group of infected computers, to overwhelm a target with fake internet traffic. This results in a "flood" of requests to the victim, which can cause the focus of the attack to stop working correctly or respond to legitimate requests.

E

Email Bomb

A malicious act where huge numbers of emails are directed to a specific system or a targeted user of that system. Email bombs will usually fill the allotted space on an email server for the user’s email and can result in crashing the email server, or at the very least, possibly rendering the user's computer useless as their email attempts to download huge amounts of email.

Encryption

The translation of data into a secret code. Encryption is the most effective way to achieve data security. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it. Unencrypted data is called plain text; encrypted data is referred to as ciphertext.

F

Firewall

A network security system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both. Network firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet, especially intranets. All messages entering or leaving the intranet pass through the firewall, which examines each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.

Flooding

Flooding is a Denial of Service (DoS) attack that is designed to bring a network or service down by flooding it with large amounts of traffic. Flood attacks occur when a network or service becomes so weighed down with packets initiating incomplete connection requests that it can no longer process genuine connection requests. By flooding a server or host with connections that cannot be completed, the flood attack eventually fills the host’s memory buffer. Once this buffer is full no further connections can be made, and the result is a Denial of Service.

G

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The GDPR is a data protection regulation of the European Union. Its purpose is to protect the rights of EU citizens with respect to their personal data. It primarily applies to any organization that collects or processes personal data of EU citizens. In order to be compliant, an organization must align its data collection and processing activities to the requirements of the seven key principles outlined in the GDPR. 

Read more on this term in our blog post.

H

Hardening

The process of securing a computer by using essential cybersecurity tools and best practices. The goal is to reduce the number of vulnerable access points to your system. For more information and tips on hardening your devices see our blog posts on both Windows 10 and macOS.

Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST)

HITRUST is a privately held company working in collaboration with the healthcare, technology, and information security organizations and industry to create the HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF). This framework is a set of controls created to protect and maintain the privacy and security of Personal Health Information. By utilizing similar controls and standards like ISO and HIPAA, the HITRUST CSF is used as a standard to demonstrate compliance and security within your organization.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA is the federal standard of health data privacy compliance in the United States. This law governs healthcare entities, health insurance providers, other “covered entities,” and business associates (such as technology vendors) regarding all “Protected Health Information” (PHI). HIPAA regulations are designed to protect the personal and medical information of U.S. citizens. Some states have adopted even more protective state legislation.

HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (HIPAA BAA)

A BAA is a contract between a vendor that processes electronic protected health information (ePHI), such as a software company, and a HIPAA-covered entity, such as a hospital. 

Host

A host is a computer or other device connecting to a network or the internet. This may also be used specifically to refer to a web host provider, which provides services and web servers for “hosting” websites for businesses and individuals. See Web Host Provider

I

Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan will determine the steps to take in the event of a cybersecurity incident at your business. An “incident” can range from a phishing attempt like a suspicious email asking for personal information, or your computer repeatedly crashing in an usual way that could indicate malware. Identifying such suspicious activity immediately can help catch attempted or active cyberattacks. For more information on Incident Response Plans read our blog post.

Information Security Audit

An audit on the level of information security in an organization. Within the broad scope of auditing information security, there are multiple types of audits, multiple objectives for different audits, etc.

Read more on this term in our blog post.

Information Security Auditor

An information security auditor is someone who looks at the safety and effectiveness of computer systems and their security components. A security auditor is mainly concerned with computer systems that may be out of date and could be at risk to a hacker attack.

Information Security Program

An information security program is designed to protect customers, employees, owners, and stakeholders from data breaches, loss of data, and loss of productivity. A security team is generally responsible for the design, configuration, implementation, and management of the information security program, but every single employee and contractor in the organization is responsible for following the policies and procedures. This means being aware of policies and procedures, reading them, and asking questions if there is anything unclear. Read more on building your information security program on our blog.

ISO/IEC 27000-series (ISO27K)

The ISO/IEC 27000-series (also known as the 'ISMS Family of Standards' or 'ISO27K' for short) comprises information security standards published jointly by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

M

MAC Address

Short for Media Access Control address, a hardware address that uniquely identifies each node of a network.

Malware

Any type of malicious software designed to enter and cause damage to users' computers without their knowledge. According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security some, “common forms of malware include computer viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and adware.” These types of attacks increase during times of crisis. Malicious actors have attempted to weaponize panic during the COVID-19 pandemic to attack companies and individuals.

Memory Buffer

A temporary storage area, usually in memory. The purpose of most buffers is to act as a holding area, enabling the CPU to manipulate data before transferring it to a device.

N

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.

Network

A network is defined as a group of two or more computer systems linked together.

Network Monitoring

In network management terms, network monitoring is the phrase used to describe a system that continuously monitors a network and notifies a network administrator through messaging systems (usually email) when a device fails or an outage occurs. Network monitoring is usually performed through the use of software applications and tools.

P

Packet

A packet is a small piece of data, which is transmitted over a packet-switching network from one device to another. “One of the key features of a packet is that it contains the destination address in addition to the data. In IP networks, packets are often called datagrams, " according to the SANS Internet Storm Center. See Packet Sniffing and Packet Switched Network.

Packet Switched Network

According to the SANS Internet Storm Center, a packet switched network is “where individual packets each follow their own paths through the network from one endpoint to another.” See Packet.

Passphrase

A passphrase is a long password that is generally at least 20 characters and made up of multiple words. Strong passphrases are harder for computers to guess than passwords because they are longer and less predictable, especially if you choose one that’s unique to you. If you use a passphrase you should avoid common expressions, clichés, and quotations. For example, ToBeOrNotToBeThatIsTheQuestion123 is not a good passphrase because computers can easily identify it as from the Shakespeare play Hamlet, even though you’ve added numbers to the end. 

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS)

An information security standard for organizations that handle branded credit cards from the major card schemes. The PCI Standard is mandated by the card brands but administered by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council.

Penetration Test

Also known as a pen test, is an authorized simulated attack on a computer system that looks for security weaknesses, potentially gaining access to the system's features and data.

Read more about penetration tests in our blog post.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

A national standard for privacy and personal information security in the private sector. The Act outlines how private organizations collect, store, process and disclose personal information. 

Read more on this term in our blog post.

Ping

A utility to determine whether a specific IP address is accessible. It works by sending a packet to the specified address and waiting for a reply. Primarily used to troubleshoot Internet connections.

Port Scan

A port scan is a “series of messages sent by someone attempting to break into a computer to learn which computer network services, each associated with a "well-known" port number, the computer provides. Port scanning gives the assailant an idea of where to probe for weaknesses. Essentially, a port scan consists of sending a message to each port, one at a time. The kind of response received indicates whether the port is used and can, therefore, be probed for weakness,” according to the SANS Internet Storm Center.

Privacy Officer

Person or role responsible for the development, implementation, maintenance of, and adherence to privacy policies and procedures.

Protocol

A format for transmitting data between two devices.

R

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A method of communication using electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency to track tags or tagged objects. Each tag contains information that is passed over a radio frequency when close enough to be read by the device reading the tags.

Ransomware

Malicious software that blocks access to the victim's data or threatens to publish or delete it until a ransom is paid.

Risk Posture and Risk Assessment

How an organization as a whole approaches the risks that could affect their security. An organization's posture could include proactive planning, risk mitigation efforts, and remediation activities. Risk assessments are a way to measure and examine risks that could affect an organization. In order to understand what risks could affect your organization, it is best to have a document that is continually updated on a set schedule or as new risks are identified.

Read more on this term in our blog post.

Rootkit

Malicious software that is activated each time your system boots up. Rootkits are difficult to detect because they are activated before your system's Operating System has completely booted up. A rootkit often allows the installation of hidden files, processes, hidden user accounts, and more in the systems OS. Rootkits are able to intercept data from terminals, network connections, and the keyboard.

S

Sarbanes–Oxley Act

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is a United States federal law that was created to regulate corporate financial accounting and reporting, after revelations of misdeeds including the Enron scandal. The purpose is to “oversee the audit of public companies that are subject to the securities laws; establish audit report standards and rules; and inspect, investigate, and enforce compliance on the part of registered public accounting firms, their associated persons, and certified public accountants,” according to the H.R.3763 - Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 by the 107th United States Congress.

Secure Shell (SSH)

A program to log into another computer over a network, to execute commands in a remote machine, and to move files from one machine to another. It provides strong authentication and secure communications over insecure channels.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

A protocol for transmitting private documents via the Internet. SSL uses a cryptographic system that uses two keys to encrypt data − a public key is known to everyone and a private or secret key known only to the recipient of the message.

Security Awareness Training

The knowledge and attitude members of an organization possess regarding the protection of the physical, and especially informational, assets of that organization. Many organizations require formal security awareness training for all workers when they join the organization and periodically thereafter, usually annually.

Read more on this term in our blog post.

Security Controls

Methods that outline how security is implemented. This can be a collection of policies, procedures, and standards that create the structures of governance, management, necessary to secure endpoints, software and data.

Security Officer

A person or role responsible for enforcement and administration of an organization’s security policies and procedures.

Security Posture

The overall security of your company's IT resources, including the processes and plans you have established to defend your resources from cybercrime. Vendor security questionnaires are commonly used by businesses to assess the security posture of a potential service provider.

Security Posture Assessment (SPA)

An analysis of the current security policies, procedures, and operations, resulting in a report on the security weaknesses and strengths at a business. 

Segmentation

The act or profession of splitting a computer network into subnetworks, each being a network segment. The advantages of such splitting are primarily for boosting performance and improving security.

Server

A computer or device on a network that manages network resources.

Server

A computer or device on a network that manages network resources.

Sniffer

A program and/or device that monitors data traveling over a network. Sniffers can be used both for legitimate network management functions and for stealing information off a network. Unauthorized sniffers can be extremely dangerous to a network's security because they are virtually impossible to detect and can be inserted almost anywhere.

Spyware

Any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes.

System and Organization Controls Report – SOC 1

A Service Organization Control 1 or Soc 1 (pronounced "sock one") report is written documentation of the internal controls that are likely to be relevant to an audit of a customer's financial statements.

System and Organization Controls Report (SOC 2)

A SOC 2 report is the result of an audit reviewing the security controls related to operations and compliance of a service provider, such as a software company, as outlined by the American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) Trust Services Criteria. Enterprise businesses may require potential vendors to share a SOC 2 report to assess their security posture before procurement, especially if it is a service or product that processes sensitive data.

T

Third-party Management

The process whereby companies monitor and manage interactions with all external parties with which it has a relationship. This may include both contractual and non-contractual parties. Third-party management is conducted primarily for the purpose of assessing the ongoing behavior, performance and risk that each third-party relationship represents to a company.

Transport Layer Security (TLS)

A protocol that guarantees privacy and data integrity between server applications communicating over the Internet.

Trojan Horse

A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but they can be just as destructive. One of the most insidious types of Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto your computer.

V

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A network that is constructed to connect to a private network, such as a company's internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.

Virus

A computer virus is a program or piece of code that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs against your wishes. Viruses can also replicate themselves. All computer viruses are man-made.

Vulnerability Scanner

A computer program whose purpose is to find weaknesses in a computer or network of computers.

W

Web Host Provider

A web host provider sells services and web servers that provide infrastructure for the websites of businesses and individuals. Most web host providers include security measures to protect their customers. See Host.

Worm

A program or algorithm that replicates itself over a computer network and usually performs malicious actions, such as using up the computer's resources and possibly shutting the system down.

Z

Zoombombing

When an unauthorized user joins non-password protected meetings via public links or using “guessable” meeting IDs to harass or disrupt the meeting and its members. This became a notable trend during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in online classrooms.