Stats & Trends
Jonathan Crowe
Oct 2016

The Biggest Security Buzzwords of 2016, Defined

Cyber. Kill chain. Advanced persistent threats. 

Security is already complex. Do we really need jargon and marketing speak making it even more complicated? To help clear things up, here are 25 definitions that explain what these overused buzzwords really mean.

25 Security Buzzwords, Defined

1) Advanced persistent threats

When somebody gets onto your system and sits there watching everything you do, collecting information on your keystrokes, your credentials, and your network traffic, it’s called an APT. Is it persistent? For sure. Is it a threat? Well, you’re already in trouble, so the threat is now a reality. Advanced? Not necessarily, but you aren’t going to tell your boss you got owned by a “Simple Persistent Threat”.

2) Anomaly detection

You know you users and your network. And your users and your network would never act like that…or would they?

3) Artificial intelligence

Catch-all for decision-making products that may or may not be smarter than the average bear (or admin).

4) Behavioral analysis

A range of techniques for detecting malicious activity — from spotting the initial indicators something bad is happening (are you about to sneeze on me?) to identifying the unfortunate effects (...and now I need a new shirt).

5) Big Data

A haystack of information waiting for the right magnet to find a needle. Formerly known as “Too Much Data”.

6) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

aka Break Your Own Defenses. Personal devices are the cause of most migraines for the brave folks who have to secure them and hope the bad data hygiene of their owners doesn’t come back to bite them.

7) Cloud-based

It’s on a server, just not your server.

8) Cyber

A handy way of making any word suddenly refer to the online world (ex: cyber crime, cyber sleuth, cybernaut), which either makes the word a lot cooler or a lot lamer, depending on who you’re talking to.

9) Data-driven

Check the numbers. If the numbers say you’re doing good, report them to your management. If the numbers say things aren’t great, look at more numbers to see how to improve them.

10) Defense in depth

Acknowledging no security solution is capable of providing 100% protection, defense in depth is the traditional means of layering different types of solutions to increase your odds. Think belt plus suspenders (but much more complex to manage).

11) Disruptive

The marketing person was told to stop saying “next gen”.

12) Endpoint detection and response (EDR)

Solutions that report on bad things happening on endpoints, and help you investigate and clean up the mess.

13) Endpoint protection platform (EPP)

Anti-virus platforms expanded to include other, non-virus-related tools in order to provide sufficient value to their established customers.

14) Internet of Things (IoT)

Vint Cerf once said that every lightbulb would eventually have an IP address. IoT is a leap in that direction, with non-computing devices like stoves, electrical meters, thermostats, pacemakers, and cars all becoming wired (and therefore vulnerable).

15) Intrusion detection/prevention (IDS/IPS)

An alarm system for your network that too often works like the alarm system for cars in parking garages. They’re generally designed to either detect “bad” user actions/traffic or deviations from known “good” patterns (anomaly detection).

16) Kill chain

Originally coined by Lockheed Martin to bring a military analog to computer defense, it refers to the steps in a successful breach from the perspective of someone trying to stop it as early as possible.

17) Machine learning

Machines work their way through new data in known formats, make judgements, then try to extend them to new situations.

18) Nation state adversaries

What the bad guys in the Die Hard movies always pretend to be, even though they’re really just in it for the money. A bit of a hobgoblin, they’re differentiated from traditional hacking groups by the specter of serious investment and nefarious, geopolitical aims.

19) Next-gen

Any new version of an older technology that’s gotten stale and needs a makeover.

20) Potentially Unwanted Application/Programs (PUAs/PUPs)

Applications unwitting users sometimes find on their systems, designed to mine their data and serve them annoying advertisements. Sometimes they come part and parcel with something decent.

21) Real-time

Generally used to mean, “Fast. Like totally, seriously fast!”

22) Risk management

Understanding what you have to be so worried about.

23) Silent hacking

If I want the information I steal from you to actually stay usable for a while, it’s in my best interest to keep my hack quiet.

24) Threat intelligence

You show me the attacks and threat actors on your radar and I’ll show you mine. Cathartic (if not always helpful), these services keep CISO’s informed on what to look out for and how to justify additional budget.

25) Unified threat management (UTM)

The Voltron of network security. Combines various security functionality in one place to simplify management and monitoring.


Have a better definition for any of these, or another buzzword we left off the list? Let us know in the comments!

Jonathan Crowe

Jonathan Crowe

Jonathan covers the latest threats and cybersecurity trends from a practical perspective.


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