Cybersecurity Cyber Security Primer
Cyber Security Primer

Cyber Security Primer

A brief introduction to cyber security for students who are new to the field.

Network outages, data compromised by hackers, computer viruses and other incidents affect our lives in ways that range from inconvenient to life-threatening. As the number of mobile users, digital applications and data networks increase, so do the opportunities for exploitation.

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security, also referred to as information technology security, focuses on protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction.

Why is Cyber Security Important?

Governments, military, corporations, financial institutions, hospitals and other businesses collect, process and store a great deal of confidential information on computers and transmit that data across networks to other computers. With the growing volume and sophistication of cyber attacks, ongoing attention is required to protect sensitive business and personal information, as well as safeguard national security. 

During a Senate hearing in March 2013, the nation's top intelligence officials warned that cyber attacks and digital spying are the top threat to national security, eclipsing terrorism.

Cyber Security Glossary of Terms

Learn cyber speak by familiarizing yourself with cyber security terminology.1


The ability and means to communicate with or otherwise interact with a system, to use system resources to handle information, to gain knowledge of the information the system contains or to control system components and functions.

Active Attack

An actual assault perpetrated by an intentional threat source that attempts to alter a system, its resources, its data or its operations.


A list of entities that are blocked or denied privileges or access.


A computer connected to the Internet that has been surreptitiously/secretly compromised with malicious logic to perform activities under the remote command and control of a remote administrator.

Cloud Computing

A model for enabling on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing capabilities or resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Critical Infrastructure

The systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to society that the incapacity or destruction of such may have a debilitating impact on the security, economy, public health or safety, environment or any combination of these matters.


The use of mathematical techniques to provide security services, such as confidentiality, data integrity, entity authentication and data origin authentication.

Cyber Space

The interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, that includes the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers.

Data Breach

The unauthorized movement or disclosure of sensitive information to a party, usually outside the organization, that is not authorized to have or see the information.

Digital Forensics

The processes and specialized techniques for gathering, retaining and analyzing system-related data (digital evidence) for investigative purposes.

Enterprise Risk Management

A comprehensive approach to risk management that engages people, processes and systems across an organization to improve the quality of decision making for managing risks that may hinder an organization's ability to achieve its objectives.

Information Assurance

The measures that protect and defend information and information systems by ensuring their availability, integrity and confidentiality.

Intrusion Detection

The process and methods for analyzing information from networks and information systems to determine if a security breach or security violation has occurred.


The numerical value used to control cryptographic operations, such as decryption, encryption, signature generation or signature verification.


Software that compromises the operation of a system by performing an unauthorized function or process.

Passive Attack

An actual assault perpetrated by an intentional threat source that attempts to learn or make use of information from a system but does not attempt to alter the system, its resources, its data or its operations.

Penetration Testing

An evaluation methodology whereby assessors search for vulnerabilities and attempt to circumvent the security features of a network and/or information system.


A digital form of social engineering to deceive individuals into providing sensitive information.


A set of software tools with administrator-level access privileges installed on an information system and designed to hide the presence of the tools, maintain the access privileges and conceal the activities conducted by the tools.

Software Assurance

The level of confidence that software is free from vulnerabilities, either intentionally designed into the software or accidentally inserted at any time during its lifecycle, and that the software functions in the intended manner.


A computer program that can replicate itself, infect a computer without permission or knowledge of the user and then spread or propagate to another computer.


A list of entities that are considered trustworthy and are granted access or privileges.

1 Source: National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, Department of Homeland Security

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UMUC participates in a wide range of cyber security competitions and ranked No. 1 in the world in 2014.

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UMUC Cybersecurity Advisory Board member