Cybersecurity Lingo for Newbies: What You Need to Know

The idea of cybersecurity — and all the technical jargon that surrounds it — can be overwhelming for leaders of growing businesses. You know you need to protect your company’s data and systems, but where do you start? How do you know what to ask for?

The first step is to get familiar with the most common cybersecurity terms so you know how to talk to a managed security provider that can help you  — and understand the services they’re offering.

Malware and viruses

Think of malware and viruses as sneaky burglars for computers, breaking in to steal all your most valuable data or harm your computer. Malware and viruses are common issues for both individuals and businesses, so they are critical to understand. 

Both can be used to take over your company’s systems, steal important and confidential data, or even completely disrupt or disable your operations. Ransomware is a particularly devious form of attack in which hackers steal your data and hold it hostage until you pay. Even if you do pay, your data is often never fully recovered.

According to a 2022 report by  ZDnet, more than half of ransomware attacks started through remote services. Today’s hybrid and remote work environments have made businesses more vulnerable than ever to bad actors. 

Beyond remote services, other common entry points for malware and viruses include phishing, drive-by downloads, and exploiting network misconfigurations. 


One of the most common types of attacks, phishing attempts are emails or messages trying to trick you into giving away personal details, like passwords or credit card numbers. 

Phishing can look very innocent, making it all the more tricky to catch. Phishing attempts can include:

  • An email that looks like it’s from your bank, telling you that there’s fraudulent activity on your account, enticing you to call or email them to straighten it out. Bad actors then find a way to get you to share your account information so they can access your funds.

  • A social media message saying that your company’s page has been hacked and that you need to provide proof that you’re legitimate or be banned from the site. Hackers will then persuade you to provide private identifying information to steal personal and company data.

  • A text that seems to be from an important person in your company, asking for gift cards, money orders, or banking data in a hurry to address an urgent issue. Because it appears that the message is from someone you know and trust, you can be tricked out of data like company tax IDs and banking data. 

Most phishing scams use the concept of urgency and threats to your business’s operations or finances to get you to act quickly without taking the time to consider the source. Most of us are likely to panic and want to resolve the issue as quickly as possible — playing right into a scammer’s hands. 

The key is to slow down and then contact that person directly through a known method like a call or text that you initiate. Don’t reply to the communication — you’ll be talking to the scammer. Instead, start a new conversation and confirm that your coworker is really the one making the request.


A firewall is a digital barrier that stops harmful stuff from getting into your computer or business network. Imagine it as a bouncer at the club, only letting the good guys in.

There are two types of firewalls: hardware and software. A hardware firewall is a device that sits between your computer or network and the internet. It’s a very secure way of keeping bad actors out. However, it does take a professional to manage and maintain to be most effective. 

A software firewall is also useful, but it’s best as a backup bouncer. Because a software firewall has to be hosted on a computer, it leaves the device it’s loaded on more vulnerable to attack. 


A virtual private network (VPN) is a private connection on the internet that keeps your online activities hidden — like using a private tunnel on a busy highway. 

Using a VPN is a way of protecting your business from outsiders poking around your web traffic and potentially causing harm. It protects your data — and your customers’ data — from being intercepted and manipulated by bad actors. 

If your company will continue to offer remote work opportunities, a VPN should be part of your business’s remote work setup.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Most of us are already familiar with two-factor authentication as an optional setting with social media accounts or email services. Many banks and other financial websites require you to set up 2FA to protect your sensitive financial data.

In your business, it’s just as important to have a two-step way to prove it’s really an employee logging in. Double-checking the user’s identity by requiring both a password and a code sent to their phone means the bad guys will be far less successful. 


Encryption turns your data into a secret code that only certain people or systems can understand. It’s like sending a secret letter that only your friend knows how to decode.

Data encryption is an important component of cybersecurity. It’s used to protect sensitive company data, such as the health or financial information of your customers, by making it harder for criminals to access the data if they get past other security measures. If data is encrypted properly, bad actors won’t be able to do anything with it if they do gain access. 

Beyond the actual protection encryption provides your company and your customers, there’s an emotional reason to use encryption and other cybersecurity best practices — your customers’ trust. 

In a 2022 McKinsey study, 85% of consumers said it was important to them to know a company’s data privacy policies before they purchased something from them. Putting the right policies in place and then being transparent with customers about them is key to winning their trust. 

Overwhelmed? Let a pro help

Now that you know the basics, we hope you feel more comfortable as you explore the right cybersecurity options for your company. If you need help with the next steps, our team is ready to guide you. 

Whether you’re in Kansas City or beyond, we have the experience to get — and keep — you covered when it comes to cybersecurity. Let’s talk about your needs today.


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