Trojan Horse, Zombies and 15 Critical Cybersecurity Terms You Need to Know

By Bruce Harmon, Ph.D., Doctoral Chair of Computer Science

In recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness month in October, our faculty offer insights on both policy and technical issues related to cybersecurity. In our first post of the series Stephen Recca, M.A., offered a deeper look at the term cyber. In today’s post, Dr. Bruce Harmon takes a look at the defining terminology that is making its way into our culture.

CTU Information Technology Degree - Trojan HorseThese days, everyone is vulnerable to cybercrime and other breaches to the security of their digital systems and identity. Our world is increasingly connected through computers, smart phones and tablets and an exploding number of apps. This influx of technology makes for that many more digital portals to protect. 

There is no easy fix to the issue of cybersecurity. But an educated public is more aware of the risks and, so, better equipped to act to counter them. Protection starts with preparation. Let’s begin by learning the terminology for some of the most common cybersecurity risks.

Malware: Any piece of software maliciously placed on a computing device.  Malicious software.

Worm: A stand-alone malware program that replicates itself from one computer to another, often via the Internet.

Virus:  Malware that corrupts the programs and data to which it is attached.

Trojan Horse: Malware that presents itself as harmless “gift” but in fact is intended to harm.

Rootkit: Malware intended to gain administrative privileges and to do further harm.

Botnet: Malware that distributes spam or launches denial of service attacks.

Denial of Service Attack: Attack that floods the resources of a server or website so that legitimate users are denied the resources of the site.

Keystroke Logging: The capture of user keystrokes, often via malware, usually for the gain of passwords and other credentials.

Spyware: Any use of malware to gain privileged information about the user.  Keystroke logging is an example.

Adware: Software that presents advertising such as pop-ups.

Advanced Persistent Threat:  Actions of a group, including a government, that seeks to systematically degrade another group over an extended period of time.

Zombie: Compromised computer infected with malware used under remote control to spread mayhem over the Internet.

Firewall:  Software or hardware system that serves to prevent malware from penetrating a network.

Anti-virus: Software that discovers, quarantines, and eliminates viruses.

Phishing: The attempt to obtain personal information such as accounts and passwords.

Spear phishing: Phishing that targets a specific individual.

Cyber attack: Any attack on computing resources.

What other terms are critical for cybersecurity awareness? Have you personally experienced or come across any of these terms?

Photo credit: Flickr/Todd S. Klassy

Next week, Stephen Recca, M.A. looks at threats putting the cyber domain at risk in our 3rd post in our Understanding Cybersecurity series.


CTU Faculty - Bruce HarmonBruce Harmon, Ph.D., is the University Doctoral Chair of Computer Science at Colorado Technical University. He earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Colorado and his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. He earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. After 9 years in the Air Force, he worked in defense and later at top-tier commercial companies for 17 years both in research and executive leadership positions. Learn why he’s IN.

NCSAM - CTU Homeland Security Degree