10 Cybersecurity Terms All Security Professionals Need to Know

Industry Advice Computing and IT

As technology advances rapidly, businesses and organizations are requiring an increasing number of cybersecurity professionals to keep nefarious attacks at bay. In fact, job growth in the field is expected to rise nearly 32 percent by 2028—more than six times the expected growth for all occupations. 

For individuals considering pursuing a cybersecurity career, attaining the proper level of education and skill is a necessity. Professionals in this field work to protect the integrity of an organization’s networks, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Their duties can range from helping organizations understand the software threats they face, to performing security tests and developing security strategies.

If you are in the earliest stages of preparing yourself for a career in cybersecurity, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the terms and vocabulary you will need to excel in the field. Below, with the help of Guevara Noubir, professor and executive director of cybersecurity programs at Northeastern University, we have compiled a list of key cybersecurity terms that all aspiring industry professionals should know.

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Top Cybersecurity Terms for Security Professionals

1. Cryptography

Cryptography is the science of developing the fundamental building blocks for security mechanisms, such as encryption, message integrity codes, hashing, and digital signatures. This is essential to fend off unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information. It helps ensure that data is delivered from the sender to the intended recipient, without any interference.

2. Network Security

Network security refers to the design, development, and operation of secure network protocols with ideally provable service guarantees such as authentication, confidentiality, integrity, availability, non-repudiation, auditing, and key management. It is crucial for an organization to have good network security in order to protect their data from being lost, stolen, or sabotaged. With security breaches becoming more prevalent, organizations rely on network security to safeguard them from attacks.

3. Digital Forensics

Digital forensics is an area of cybersecurity that is used in law enforcement to investigate crimes. It is also used by companies to investigate and mitigate issues surrounding intellectual property, or the inappropriate use of computing and network infrastructure. Digital forensics emphasizes practices to recover and manipulate digital evidence, guaranteeing it is authentic, reliably obtained, and its integrity preserved, to make it admissible as evidence in court. This is an important aspect of cybersecurity that seeks to achieve justice by making it possible to prosecute cybercrime.

4. Cybersecurity Risk Management

Cybersecurity risk management is the process of identifying the cybersecurity threats relevant to an organization’s cyber system, assessing their vulnerability to such threats, and determining the associated risks (probability of an attack’s occurrence and expected consequences). It also includes devising and deploying adequate mitigations. According to Noubir, cybersecurity risk management is critical because the best defense is a good offense.

5. Defense in Depth

Defense in depth (DiD) is a practical approach conceived by the NSA to secure networked systems. It advocates layered protections that consider people, technology, and operation. This approach works because it accounts for any vulnerabilities by offering additional protections as a back-up. It is also sometimes known as the Castle Approach.

6. Program Analysis

Program analysis is the process of analyzing a computer program’s behavior, in an automated way, towards determining its correctness and exposing vulnerabilities. Program analysis techniques are classified as either static (can be done offline) or dynamic (done at runtime). This is a useful tool because it allows cybersecurity professionals to see what works and what doesn’t so that necessary improvements can be made to ensure optimal cybersecurity.

7. Reverse Code Engineering

Reverse code engineering is the process of analyzing computer software when the source code is not available. It is typically pursued to create an abstract representation of the software so that a cybersecurity professional is able to make more accurate assumptions about the software’s functionality and properties. This process often involves the disassembly of machine code and decompilation to recreate the source code. By reverse code engineering, cybersecurity professionals can study the techniques used by malware developers, develop tools to combat those threats, and identify security flaws in software.

8. Operating System Security

Operating system security refers to a set of mechanisms, integral to the operating system, which is aimed at guaranteeing confidentiality, integrity, and availability services of a computer system in the presence of insider and external adversaries. OS security allows applications and programs to function properly without unauthorized interference and ensures the safety of a system from threats or attacks.

9. Wireless Security

Wireless security is a sub-area of network security that specifically considers the threats associated with wireless communications. In addition to the typical network security services, it also covers various other security and privacy guarantees such as the design of communications schemes that are robust against jamming, spoofing RF signals (e.g. base stations, or GPS), and prevention of sensitive information leakage that enable adversarial tracking. Wireless networks can be easily exploited, and are vulnerable by their very nature, so implementing wireless security is very important.

10. Cyberlaw

Sometimes referred to as IT law, cyberlaw focuses on regulations and laws that concern all aspects of information technology such as computer systems, software, and the internet. It includes contracts, intellectual property, privacy, and data protection laws. With the increasing reliance on digital devices and the amount of data stored and shared online, it is important to have legal measures in place to ensure the safety and welfare of users.

Breaking Into Cybersecurity

While the terms listed and defined above form a critical part of the knowledge base that cybersecurity professionals must understand, it is important to note that a successful career in cybersecurity requires more than just memorizing definitions. It requires real, contextualized understanding and experience in those topics, which is difficult to gain without formal education in the field, says Noubir.

Earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity will provide you with the knowledge, context, and understanding that you need to be successful. 

At Northeastern, we educate students through a solid foundation in cybersecurity, contextualized through practical training, Noubir says. This is by far the most effective way of breaking into the field.

Think you’re ready to break into a cybersecurity career? Download our free guide to Advancing Your Career in Cybersecurity or explore our master’s degree program today. 


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