Friday Fun: InfoSec Geek Speak

geekkspeakFind yourself mystified by all the acronyms and terms you hear when anything tech comes up? You don’t want to speak it – you just wish you knew what the heck it meant. No problem. In today’s Friday Fun installment, I’ll get you up to speed. Thanks to the fine folks at Raytheon, (sponsors of this excellent endeavour, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition NCCDC) I can share this glossary of terms.  And consider yourself just that much more up to speed on your own safety and security!

InfoSec Geek Speak Glossary

@ — Symbol chosen by Ray Tomlinson, a Raytheon BBN Technologies engineer who sent the first Internet email, to separate the names of users and their networks in addresses.

Advanced Persistent Threat — A group, such as a government or a criminal organization, with the expertise, resources and intent to target a specific entity. An APT uses multiple methods to break into a network, avoid detection and harvest valuable information over a long period of time.


Air gap — To physically separate or isolate a secure network from other unsecured systems or networks.

Back door — A hidden entry to a computer, network or software that bypasses security measures.

Blackhat — A criminal hacker who breaches security for malicious reasons or personal gain.

Blue Team — A group defending a computer system from mock attackers, usually as part of a controlled exercise. During the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition the blue teams are made up of students.

Bot — A program that automates a simple action. Bots infect computers and secretly perform activities under the control of a remote administrator.

Botnet — A collection of computers infected by bots.botnets

Bot master or herder —Someone who controls a botnet.

DoS Attack — A Denial-of-Service attack disrupts a website, server, or network resource – often by flooding it with more requests than it can handle.

DDoS Attack — A Distributed Denial of Service Attack is a DoS attack using a multitude of machines. Hackers often control one “master” machine to orchestrate the actions of “zombie” machines.

End-point Security — Security measures that protect a network from potential vulnerabilities posed by laptops and other mobile devices that access the network remotely.

Fuzzing — Automated input of invalid, unexpected or random data to a computer program. “Shocking” a computer in this way can reveal vulnerabilities.

Honeypot — A trap set to detect intruders. A honeypot usually simulates a real network but is actually isolated and monitored so it can give advance warning of an intrusion.

honeypot1  honeypot2

Insider threat – A threat posed by employees, contractors, business associates or other people who have inside access to a computer system. Raytheon is the No. 1 insider threat solution provider, protecting hundreds of thousands of endpoints.

Malware —Software designed to hijack, damage, destroy or steal information from a device or system. Variations include spyware, adware, rootkits, viruses, keyloggers, and more.

Patching —The process of updating software.

Pentest — Short for penetration testing, or trying to hack into a system to identify weaknesses.

Phishing — Tricking someone into giving away personal information by imitating legitimate companies, organizations, or people online. The “ph” derives from phreaking, or “phone freaking” — hijacking telephone lines. Spearphishing focuses on a particular target.


Pwned — Pronounced like owned with a “p” at the beginning, pwned means to defeat security measures. Derives from the word “own,” or dominate.

Red Team — A group of cybersecurity professionals authorized to simulate an attack. A “blue team” of students will face a red team at the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

Social Engineering —Manipulating people into sharing private information.

White Team — A group responsible for refereeing an engagement between a red team of mock attackers and a blue team of cyber defenders.

Whitelist — The opposite of a blacklist, a whitelist is a list of people, groups or software OK’d for system access.

Zombie — An infected device that is used to perform malicious tasks under remote control. Botnets of zombie computers are often used to spread e-mail spam and launch denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
Thanks for reading and remember … “You Own Your Own Security!”

Security Patches: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


Security breaches, mass DDoS attacks, ransomware mutations. No question about it – the challenges to information security are constant and ever-changing. Over the past twelve months, InfoSec has had to deal with threats not only of a greater magnitude in complexity but also in sheer volume. So in our concerted, and at times hasty, efforts to keep up with all that’s out there, are we leaving ourselves exposed? Do we need to double-back and cover our tracks?

Fact is, there is a lot to keep up with, even for security super-heroes. Given the nature of the beast, we’re always looking forward, trying to keep up or gain a little ground to ready ourselves for the next challenge. But what about those “backdoors” we just closed?

malware3Cleaning up after mass events like ShellShock/Bashbug and Heartbleed isn’t straightforward. Sadly, one patch does not fit all when there are multiple iterations of operating systems and devices. And the truth is – there just aren’t enough good people or hours in a day to comb through all the stuff out there to find and fix what’s at risk, much as we want to. Much as we need to. What happens next is inevitable. The adversary takes advantage, finds the hole, and builds exploits that we then must find and shut down in a series of blocks and tackles.

Here’s a recent case in point: Shellshock and QNAP. Shellshock doesn’t just impact servers. It impacts devices connecting to these servers through the internet: wireless access points, routers, smart fridges, video cams, webcams, even light bulbs. You can patch a server. It’s not so easy to patch a fridge. The real challenge has been to identify and patch all those different exposed devices. QNAP makes network attached storage devices that are popular world-wide. And therefore ideal targets for Shellshock exploits.

While QNAP did issue a firmware patch in October, Shellshock worm exploits were detailed later in December. The worm targeted a particular CGI script, /cgi-bin/authLogin.cgi, which could then be accessed without authentication. That would allow attackers to launch a shell script that could in future download more malware. Essentially, keeping the backdoor open.cgi backdoor

One of the interesting things noted about this worm, per Kaspersky’s detailed write up, was that the script it made then downloaded and installed QNAP’s Shellshock patch. Yes! But in a move that was strictly territorial to keep other opportunistic attackers out.

Kaspersky advised that

“IT staff responsible for these devices security should apply patches themselves, or a worm will do it. At a price”

I’ve followed up with QNAP, and nothing else has been issued. The onus is on the users to identify and patch their products. Need I say more?

It’s easy to lose track when the tyranny of the urgent sets our agendas for us. And it’s hard to be proactive when you’re busy fighting fires. But the fact is we need to keep watching those backdoors – because they don’t always shut completely.

This post was featured on DarkMatters, the security blog by Norse Corp

The lead illustration is an actual screencapture of Shellshock malware by, a whitehat security research workgroup