Cyber Security Acronym Cheat Sheet

As a developer writing software in the industry, I've found the world of cybersecurity to be a minefield of acronyms. Here's my definitive cheat sheet to get you going.

Cyber Security Acronym Cheat Sheet

From the perspective of a developer, whose background is in agency, fintech and broadcast media, the leap to Cyber Security at 37 years old opened whole new world of acronyms and to be honest, a lot of self-doubt. Some acronyms I knew, many I didn't. Either way, the leap has been a challenge. Since taking my role as Lead Developer at the brilliant and launching our first product to market, Dracoeye, I've had to learn fast, but luckily the culture of the business is built around learning and being human.

The Intimidation Factor

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, it occurred to me how newcomers like graduates could even be put off by the scale of learning. From 'DDoS' to 'SOC', the industry is awash with shorthand that, while efficient for veterans, can pose a steep learning curve for those just starting their journey. This "drowning in a sea of letters" is not just a quirk of the field; it's a reflection of its complexity and the breadth of threats and technologies it encompasses. However, understanding these acronyms is crucial for anyone looking to navigate this space effectively.

Person drowning, a metaphor for the intimidation factor of cyber security
At first, you feel like you're drowning in a sea of letters

This intimidation factor isn't trivial. It can impact learning and confidence, making the cybersecurity field appear more exclusive and difficult to penetrate than it actually is. The challenge is not just in learning what each acronym stands for but in understanding the vast interconnections and implications each concept has within the cybersecurity ecosystem.

You can do this!

The good news is that, like any language, the jargon of cybersecurity can be learned. Breaking down these acronyms into their full forms and grasping the concepts they represent is the first step towards demystification. With time and experience, what once seemed like an insurmountable wall of letters becomes a useful shorthand, facilitating efficient communication and understanding among professionals.

A minion in a pool
Relax, the learning curve can be overcome once you start treading water

Ste's big fat Cybersecurity Acronym Cheat Sheet

To help bridge this gap, here's my big fat cheat sheet of some of the most common cybersecurity acronyms and their meanings. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it offers a starting point for those new to the field. I've included some you might know already, but it's an indicator of how some of the smallest faucets of Cyber Security extends to the every-day life of people outside of the industry.

  • APT (Advanced Persistent Threat): A sophisticated cyberattack in which an unauthorized user gains access to a system or network and remains undetected for an extended period.
  • DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service): An attack aimed at disrupting the normal traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of Internet traffic.
  • EPP (Endpoint Protection Platform): Security solutions that are specifically designed to detect and block threats at the device level.
  • IAM (Identity and Access Management): Frameworks and solutions designed to ensure that the right individuals access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons.
  • IDS/IPS (Intrusion Detection System/Intrusion Prevention System): Security technologies that monitor networks and/or systems for malicious activity or policy violations.
  • SOC (Security Operations Center): A centralized unit that deals with security issues on an organizational and technical level.
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network): A service that creates a secure, encrypted connection over a less secure network, such as the internet.
  • SIEM (Security Information and Event Management): Solutions that provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware.
  • TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer): Cryptographic protocols designed to provide communications security over a computer network.
  • WAF (Web Application Firewall): A security measure designed to protect web applications by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet.
  • IOC (Indicators of Compromise): These are pieces of forensic data, such as system log entries or files, that identify potentially malicious activity on a system or network. IOCs help cybersecurity professionals detect breaches, malware infections, and other threats by highlighting the hallmarks of a security incident.
  • DFIR (Digital Forensics and Incident Response): This refers to the processes and services that organizations use to investigate and respond to cybersecurity incidents. The goal of DFIR is to understand how a breach occurred, contain and eliminate the threat, recover any lost data, and prevent future incidents. Digital forensics involves collecting and examining digital evidence to support or refute a hypothesis, while incident response focuses on quickly containing and mitigating the effects of an incident.
  • CISO (Chief Information Security Officer): A senior-level executive responsible for an organization's information and data security.
  • CSP (Cloud Service Provider): A company that offers cloud computing services, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS).
  • CTI (Cyber Threat Intelligence): Information that organizations use to understand the threats that have, will, or are currently targeting them. This information is used to prepare, prevent, and identify cyber threats looking to take advantage of valuable resources.
  • DMZ (Demilitarized Zone): A physical or logical subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization's external-facing services to an untrusted network, usually the internet.
  • DLP (Data Loss Prevention): Strategies and tools used to prevent data breaches, exfiltration, or unwanted destruction of sensitive data.
  • EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response): Cybersecurity solutions that continuously monitor endpoint devices (computers, phones, etc.) to detect and respond to cyber threats.
  • FIM (File Integrity Monitoring): A security process and technology that monitors and evaluates changes to files, directories, and configurations in an operating system or application.
  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): A regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area.
  • HIDS/NIDS (Host Intrusion Detection Systems/Network Intrusion Detection Systems): Security technologies that monitor host or network traffic for signs of malicious activity.
  • MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication): A security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user's identity for a login or other transaction.
  • MITM (Man In The Middle Attack): A cyberattack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.
  • NGFW (Next-Generation Firewall): A part of the third generation of firewall technology that incorporates standard firewall functions with quality of service (QoS) functionalities and advanced features to block modern threats such as advanced malware and application-layer attacks.
  • PKI (Public Key Infrastructure): A set of roles, policies, hardware, software, and procedures needed to create, manage, distribute, use, store, and revoke digital certificates and manage public-key encryption.
  • RAT (Remote Access Trojan): A malware program that includes a back door for administrative control over the target computer.
  • SASE (Secure Access Service Edge): A network architecture that combines VPN and SD-WAN capabilities with cloud-native security functions.
  • TTP (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures): The behavior of an attacker, as observed during the attack lifecycle. TTPs represent how adversaries accomplish their objectives.
  • UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics): Security solutions that analyze the behaviors of users and entities (e.g., servers, endpoints) to detect insider threats, targeted attacks, and financial fraud.
  • VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing): The process of identifying, classifying, prioritizing, and mitigating vulnerabilities in computer systems, web applications, and networks.
  • WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3): The third generation of Wi-Fi security certification developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It provides cutting-edge security protocols to the market.

And breathe!

Don't be put off. As daunting as they may seem at first, these acronyms are the keys to unlocking a deeper understanding of cybersecurity. It's a surprisingly warm and welcoming industry, you're not expected to know everything. In the right company and by dedicating a bit of yourself to learning, you can flourish.

'And Breathe' neon sign

In my first interview, when asked "what do you know about cyber security?", my answer of "very little beyond the parts that are relevant to software engineering" was warmly responded with "that's completely fine". Be honest with your experience and limitations, it's a learning opportunity. With time, patience, and practice, anyone can learn to navigate the complex but fascinating world of cybersecurity jargon. If I can do it, you definitely can!