FAQ

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This FAQ consists of Frequently Asked Questions related to cybersecurity and related topics. 

Definition: cybersecurity (a.k.a. cyber security, computer network security) refers to the specialization of computer network security that consists of technologies, policies, and procedures that protect networked computer systems from unauthorized use or harm. Broadly speaking, cybersecurity topics can be subdivided into two complementary areas: cyber attacks, which are essentially offensive and emphasize network penetration techniques; and cyber defenses, which are essentially protective and emphasize counter-measures intended to eliminate or mitigate cyber attacks.

Cyber attacks can take aim at the enterprise, government, military, and other infrastructural assets of a nation or its citizens, where these assets can include physical infrastructure (e.g., power grids, nuclear reactors) as well as computational infrastructure (e.g., computers, networks). Cyber attacks can be classified by their participating actors (states vs. non-states) and their attack mechanisms (e.g., direct attack, malware, exploits). See the Cyber Attack Classifications, Cyber Attack Malware Taxonomy, and Cyber Attack Mechanism Taxonomy sub-sections in the Cyber Attacks section for more information.

Correspondingly, cyber defenses must protect the enterprise, government, military, and other infrastructural assets of a nation or its citizens. As is the case with cyber attacks, cyber defenses can be classified by their participating actors (states vs. non-states) and their attack mechanisms (e.g., direct attack, malware, exploits). See the Cyber Defense Classifications and Cyber Defense Countermeasure Taxonomy sub-sections in the Cyber Defenses section for more information.

Cyber attack: An offensive action by a malicious actor that is intended to undermine the functions of networked computers and their related resources, including unauthorized access, unapproved changes, and malicious destruction. Examples of cyber attacks include Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks.

Cyber threat: A potential cyber attack, which may be assigned a probability of occurrence that can be used for cyber risk assessment.

Cyber risk: A risk assessment that has been assigned to a cyber threat, such as DDoS attack or a data breach. A cyber risk assessment may be either qualitative or quantitative, where the latter should estimate risk (R) as a function of the magnitude of the potential loss (L) and the probability that L will occur (i.e., R = p * L).

The terms cyber attackcyber threat, and cyber risk are interrelated as follows. A cyber attack is an offensive action, whereas a cyber threat is the possibility that a particular attack may occur, and the cyber risk associated with the subject threat estimates the probability of potential losses that may result.

For example, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber attack by a botnet is a cyber threat for many enterprises with online retail websites, where the associated cyber risk is a function of lost revenues due to website downtime and the probability that a DDoS cyber attack will occur.

Cybersecurity technologies and processes are most effective when organizations diligently practice good cyber hygiene habits while concurrently checking their cyber defense vulnerabilities defenses via aggressive white hat” (a.k.a. “ethical hacking”) Penetration Testing (“pen testing”).

In the context of cyber threats mitigation refers to reducing the severity or damage caused by cyber attacks. Compare with cyber threat remediation, which refers to a more effective counter measure.

In the context of cyber threats remediation refers to reversing or stopping the damage caused by cyber attacks. Compare with cyber threat mitigation, which refers to a less effective counter measure.

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