IT Glossary of Terms

Algorithm

A process that performs some sequence of operations; a specialized computer coding sequence designed to limit or restricts the use or access of sensitive information.

Assets

Items of ownership, which have some intrinsic value; Eg: Data or information stored on your networks are considered assets, and their safekeeping is the responsibility of the owner or IT team.

Attack Vectors

A path or means by which someone with malicious intent can gain access to a computer or network; common attack vectors include viruses, e-mail attachments, Web pages, pop-up windows, instant messages, chat rooms, etc.

Authentication

The process of confirming a user’s identity in order to allow access to secured data. Authentication usually requires the user to sign in with a unique username and password.

Authorization

The act of granting permission for a person or group of people to perform specific acts. Even though identity and authentication have determined who someone is, authorisation is required to allow specific actions, such as access to secured data.

Clear text

Data that is transmitted or stored unencrypted; plaintext.

Custodian

The person in charge of guarding, protecting and maintaining specific assets or property.

Data

Information that has been converted into a form convenient for moving, processing, analyzing, and storing.

Data Custodian

Individual or entity in possession or control of the data who is responsible for the safekeeping, transport, storage, and implementation of policies, procedure, and guidelines applicable to the data. The custodians including entities contracted for outsourced services to the organisaton must:

  • Implement controls specified by the IT Team;
  • Provide physical and procedural safeguards for the data and other IT resources using the data;
  • Implement monitoring techniques and procedures for detecting, reporting, and investigating security incidents (through their own action or by delegation) based on the Minimum Security Standards.

Data User

Individual, automated application or process that is authorized by the data steward to create, enter, edit, and access data, in accordance with the data steward’s procedures and rules. Users have the responsibility to

  • use the data only for the purpose specified by the IT Team;
  • comply with controls established by the data steward and
  • prevent disclosure of confidential or sensitive data
  • report suspected security incidents that may have breached the confidentiality of data.

Disclosure Request

A request for information not otherwise available to the requestor often used to gain information pertinent to a legal case.

Discovery in Litigation

Part of the pre-trial litigation process during which each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to “discover” pertinent facts.

Email Bomb

Sending huge volumes of e-mail to an address in an attempt to overflow the mailbox or overwhelm the server where the email address is hosted in a denial-of-service attack.

Encryption

The process of transforming information using an algorithm (specialized computer code) to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge usually referred to as a key.

Impact

The degree to which a security failure has the potential to result in harm or loss. The three levels of impact are:

Low

Incidents that cause limited damage to operations or assets and that do not involve risk for individuals. These incidents require minor corrective actions or repairs within the designated custodial structure and communication is frequently required only within the affected unit.

Moderate

Incidents that cause short-term degradation or partial loss of the project mission capability; that affect or disadvantage only subsets of the project community; or result in limited loss or damage to significant assets. These incidents require corrective actions or repairs that can normally be handled within the designated custodial structure, usually involves only internal communications, and normally will not require the involvement of high-level administration.

High

Incidents that cause an extensive loss of the projects mission capability; result in a loss of major assets; pose a significant threat to the well-being of large numbers of individuals or to human life; or damage the reputation of the company. These incidents require substantial allocation of human resources to correct; may require communication to external agencies or law enforcement and the public; and often require the involvement of high-level administration within the IT Team.

Information

Data that has gained meaning through processing into a form more convenient and understandable for viewing and analyzing.

Information Processing

The handling of information by computers in accordance with strictly defined systems of procedure.

Information System

The hardware, software, and procedures used for information processing.

High Password Strength

The PIN (numeric-only) or password, and the controls used to limit on-line guessing attacks shall ensure that an attack targeted against a given identity Subject’s PIN or password shall have a probability of success of less than 2^16 (1 chance in 16,384) success over the life of the PIN or password.

Moderate Password Strength

The PIN (numeric-only) or password, and the controls used to limit on-line guessing attacks shall ensure that an attack targeted against a given identity Subject’s PIN or password shall have a probability of success of less than 2^10 (1 chance in 1,024) success over the life of the PIN or password.

LAN

Local Area Network; a system for linking a number of microcomputers, terminals, work stations, etc. with each other or with a mainframe computer in order to share data, printers, information, programs, disks, etc.

Malware

A computer program designed specifically to damage, disrupts, or otherwise compromise a system, such as a Trojan or worm.

Multifactor authentication (MFA)

A security system in which more than one forms of authentication is required to verify access privileges. Eg. A single factor authentication only requires a user name and password (1 factor), while a multifactor authentication requires three or more methods of verification, such as a smart card, retinal scan, fingerprint or voice ID.

Network

A system containing any combination of computers, computer terminals, printers, audio or visual display devices, or telephones interconnected by telecommunication equipment or cables: used to transmit or receive information.

Proprietary

Belonging or controlled as property

Proxy Access

A means by which only authorized users can view specific confidential information stored on a computer network; a security barrier between your internal network and the Internet, keeping others on the Internet from being able to obtain access to information that is located on your internal network.

Qualified Controlled Devise/Softwares

A device/software normally acting as a server that stores data or executes an application. It has controls that match the minimum-security standards for data classified as high. It includes attributes such as restricted physical access, sits behind a firewall, and administrated by an IT professional to provide regular software updates and backups.

Risk

A source of danger; a possibility of incurring loss or damage. In general, risk is a composite of three factors: threats, vulnerabilities, and impact.

Risk Assessment

In information technology security, a systematic process used to determine the potential for any given information system to be subject to loss and to assess the impact of that loss. Risk assessment involves determining potential for and impact of a negative event by evaluating the nature of the information and information systems.

Risk Factors

Factors used to determine the level of risk include the effect of the loss on the university’s strategic missions; the extent of loss to major information systems; the potential for injury or damage to individual(s); the inconvenience or loss of productivity for subsets of the university community; the potential for damage to the university’s reputation; the level of administrative involvement required; and the level at which the security problem can be resolved.

Risk Mitigation

Action taken to reduce risk to an acceptable level. An analysis evaluating costs, benefits, and impacts to the university will be critical in determining what, if any, action should be taken. Some options to reduce risk include:

  • Risk assumption – Accepting the potential risk and continuing operations of the IT system.
  • Risk avoidance – Risk mitigation by eliminating a risk cause and/or consequence.
  • Risk limitation – Risk mitigation by implementing controls reducing the negative impact of a threat exercising vulnerability.
  • Risk transfer – Risk mitigation by using other options to compensate for a loss due to a security incident.

Security

The state of being free from unacceptable risk. IT security focuses on reducing the risk of computing systems, communications systems, and information being misused, destroyed, or modified, or for information to be disclosed inappropriately either by intent or accident.

Security incident

An accidental or malicious act that exercises a vulnerability resulting in the potential of a negative impact.

Storage Media

A device for storing, recording and transporting data; Eg: USB Flash drive, data CD, external hard drive, and remote server.

System Administrator

A person in charge of managing and maintaining a computer system or telecommunication system.

Threats

Actions or events that potentially compromise the confidentiality, integrity, availability, or authorized use. These threats may be human or non-human, natural, accidental, or deliberate. Eg:

  • Acts of malice by individuals or groups; purposeful or malicious use of information or information systems.
  • Natural or physical disasters such as fire, flood, hardware failures.
  • Unintentional oversight, action, or inaction; data left open to unauthorized access; accidental deletion of data files; inadequate data backup procedures.

Trojan Horse

A computer program that appears to perform a desirable function for the user prior to run or install, but instead facilitates unauthorized access of the user’s computer system. A Trojan horse is a method of secretly introducing a virus or malware program to a computer or computer network.

User

Synonymous with data user.

Virus

A computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer. A true virus can spread from one computer to another when its host is taken to the target computer through an email attachment, file transfer over a network or the Internet, or delivered on a portable storage medium such as a USB drive or floppy disk.

Vulnerabilities

Security exposures that increase the potential for a failure of security. A narrow technical definition includes only those exposures created by software or hardware design. However, a broader definition includes exposure that can be inherent to an activity or practice. Eg:

  • Software or hardware that allows unauthorized access to information or information systems.
  • Business practices such as collecting and storing personal information that could, if revealed, be damaging to individuals.
  • Personal practices or procedures such as improperly protecting one’s password or providing inadequate physical environments for IT systems.

VLAN

A virtual LAN; a group of hosts with a common set of requirements that communicate as if they were attached to the same broadcast domain, regardless of their physical location. A VLAN has the same attributes as a physical LAN, but it allows for end stations to be grouped together even if they are not located on the same network switch.

Worm

A self-replicating malware computer program that uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other computers on the network without any user intervention.

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