When it comes to cybersecurity, there’s a lot of terminology that can be difficult to understand. Here, at MPS, we want to make cybersecurity as accessible as possible. Take a look at our jargon buster. We’ve collected the main words associated with cybersecurity and explained them so you can understand what they mean and how they might impact your business.


Antivirus software tries to find and neutralise any viruses or malicious software (malware) that may be on computers or smartphones.


Authentication is the process of confirming that you are who you say you are, for example by using a password (something that only you should know).

Bring your own device (BYOD)

An organisation’s strategy or policy which allows employees to use their own personal devices for work purposes under security measures.

Dictionary attack

A ‘Dictionary Attack’ is a method used by hackers to find passwords, by running down a list of dictionary words until a match is found. They’ll often combine words in common pairs too (such as “ManchesterUnited“), make common letter substitutions (such as a 1 for an i), or add numbers to the end.


A Denial of Service attack (“DoS” for short) is when an attacker bombards a website with so much traffic that it buckles under the strain & stops working. These attacks are often carried out by multiple computers, leading to the term Distributed Denial of Service attack (or “DDoS”).


Encryption is the process of converting a piece of data into an unreadable format that can only be recovered with knowledge of a secret key. It’s a form of cryptography and uses some complex mathematics to ensure it’s unbreakable.


A firewall is a piece of software (or within large organisations, a physical device itself) that can analyse the internet traffic flowing into and out of your computer to try to detect (and stop!) anything that’s unauthorised.


An umbrella term that describes all forms of malicious software designed to wreak havoc on a computer. Common forms include viruses, trojans, worms and ransomware.


A technique used by hackers to obtain sensitive information. For example, using hand-crafted email messages designed to trick people into divulging personal or confidential data such as passwords and bank account information.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

The use of two different components to verify a user’s claimed identity. Also known as multi-factor authentication. This could be a password and a random code generator. Both are needed to access the account.


Ransomware is a particularly vicious form of malware that has become more popular in recent years. When activated on your computer it makes all files unreadable until a ransom fee is paid and even then sometimes the files are destroyed for good.


Spyware (short for spy software) is a form of malware that spies on a computer user without them knowing, such as recording their passwords, credit card details, or the websites visited. Despite its name, anti-virus software will catch all types of malware including spyware – not just viruses.


A trojan is a type of malicious software that pretends to be a legitimate piece of software. Examples include fake antivirus programs or malicious games. Trojans can do all sorts of damage, from encrypting all your data and only releasing it for a ransom fee, to stealing data such as passwords, or perhaps being used to send spam emails from your computer.


Unified Threat Management is a suite of security products suited for small and midsized businesses. The hardware acts as a barrier between the external environment and corporate networks and has features that include antispam filters, firewalls, web gateway security, and other ways of keeping systems safe and secure.


A virus is a type of malicious software (“malware”) that can do damage to your computer or steal information, such as credit card details. They often get onto your computer through compromised websites or infected attachments in emails.


A worm is a type of malicious software (“malware”) that can automatically spread from computer to computer, dropping off viruses and trojans as it goes. Worms can spread incredibly quickly because they replicate themselves in order to spread the infection to other connected computers.

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