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14 January 2021

Decrypting Cybersecurity buzzwords: the magic of complicated terms

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The field of Cyber Security is very broad and even more so; it’s filled with buzzwords, which makes it sometimes hard to follow along and even harder to find your way to get started in Cyber Security. That’s why we’ve selected a few buzzwords that you might come across while navigating the Cyber landscape. They sound impressive, but what do they really mean? 

Go ahead and read along with us to get a little closer to speaking the Cyber language.


Let’s start off with a fun-sounding term: sniffing. Picture this; a fluffy, innocent-looking dog, sniffing around the kitchen for a treat. The dog picks up the smell, gathering the info to find where the snack is located and eventually finding it. Sniffing as a cyber term is more or less the same, but a bit more dangerous. Another comparison that can be made to sniffing is that of tapping wires of an old-school phone conversation. 

Sniffing is defined as: “The act of capturing network traffic, by collecting frames or packets of data with a ‘sniffer”

A sniffer (or in the analogy; the dog’s nose) is an application normally used for network protocol analysis. But when in the hands of the wrong people (hackers), it can be used to intercept network packets that are not properly encrypted. Once this data is acquired, the hacker can analyze it and capture sensitive network information like for example account information, passwords, the payload of network communications, and so on. An example of a sniffer is Wireshark.


Okay, another fun one: a ‘honeypot’ or in other words: 

“A trap or decoy for attackers.”

A honeypot is used to distract attackers to prevent them from attacking actual production systems.  A honeypot is usually made to resemble exactly what a hacker could potentially be looking for when attacking a system and can contain false data to stall them (making them believe they are actually ‘in’). Honeypots are usually placed right at the spots where we would expect potential hackers to break in. Next to that, honeypots are designed to be really attractive to hackers, by purposely building in cybersecurity weak-spots. 

The difference with other protection (like firewalls, virus scanners), is that a honeypot almost ‘invites’ hackers to attack them. This has multiple purposes, first, it stalls the hackers, leading them away from the actual valuable systems and second, it’s an information tool for the business to identify types of threats that the company is exposed to and spot new threat trends. 

Some forms of a honeypot are: trap emails, decoy databases, a spider honeypot (to catch web crawlers), and a malware honeypot (mimics software apps that invite malware to attack).



You might have come across the term ‘DoS attack’ in the news a few times, but what is it exactly? 

DoS is an abbreviation of Denial of Service. This is an attack that attempts to block access to a machine or network so that users are unable to reach it. In general DoS attacks are not causing the loss of valuable data, but they result in a huge loss of time and money on the victim’s side. 

During a DoS attack, a massive amount of network traffic is sent to the target overloading the ability of network devices and servers to handle this unexpected load, which prevents them from establishing regular network connections. 

A similar term DDoS (distributed denial of service), occurs when multiple systems roll out a synchronized DoS attack to one specific target at the same time. In this situation the system is being attacked from many different locations at once, resulting in difficulties to detect the source of the attack and a serious disruption of the system.   

Drive-by Download

Drive-by downloads are web-based attacks that are installed and executed without a victim's consent. They can occur in two ways:

  • The first way is through pretending to be a different download than what they actually are. They are disguised as a different application or software that a victim might be interested in, and they download it, without knowing that it is in fact malicious software.

  • The other way is without the actions or knowledge of the victim, but through existing add-ons or plug-ins and it’s automatically executed by visiting a malicious website.  

This type of attack takes advantage of the default of a Web browser to execute mobile code and can install tracking tools, keyloggers, viruses, and so on.


Time for a creepy one that seems to come straight out of a thriller movie; the keylogger

A keylogger collects information about the keystrokes of a victim. This information will be collected and potentially be misused by a third party. Most keyloggers are software-based, they are applications that are accidentally downloaded by the victim (malware). 

These keyloggers can vary in complexity. The more simple versions collect the information that is typed in the malicious application. The more complex versions can collect anything you type, no matter in which application. They can even collect anything that you copy or paste, or they can even go further: collecting anything from audio/call history to GPS locations, screengrabs, or camera access. 

Keyloggers can also be hardware-based, in that case, they are physical devices that are for example placed between the keyboard and computer ports.

These were the key buzzwords for now, and remember; don’t get scared but stay educated and aware! Do you want to learn more about these and related topics? Join our Cyber Security week or have a look at our Cyber Security Bootcamp.


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