Common cyber security terms and definitions: Harpooning vs spear phishing vs spoofing

Editorial Team

4 min read
Two male coworkers looking at computer screens

How many emails, notifications, or articles about possible cyber security threats have you scratching your head or saying, “Wait, what?” More now than ever before, especially with the internet of things (IOT), we hear cyber security terms tossed around in the news, on the internet, and at work.

How can we help reduce fraudulent risks if we don’t know these cyber security threats exist or what they mean?

What is cyber security?

Cyber security is the process of protecting computers, mobile devices, servers, networks, and other electronic systems from unauthorized use, exploitation, and damage from cyber criminals.

See our cyber security glossary below to understand the definitions for some of the more common cyber security words mentioned in our daily lives.


A large collection of compromised computers under the control of a single attacking party used to create and send spam viruses, steal data, or launch a distributed denial-of-service attack.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

An assault on a targeted network, server, or service by a single source that floods it with so many requests that it shuts down or operates at a significantly reduced rate.


A network security device that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing traffic per the organization’s defined security policies. Ultimately, it acts as a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and the public internet.


An unauthorized user who attempts to or gains access to a computer system for malicious reasons or financial gain.


The process of a hacker gleaning information from social sites about a company’s current concerning issues to impersonate upper-level management or trusted third-party entities in an attempt to target executives and get them to click on bad links that can lead to cyber criminals stealing login credentials, accessing internal systems, or hacking valuable data.


Keyloggers can be used legally for certain business-related or personal purposes, but when used non-consensually, this can act as malicious spyware to record keystrokes to secretly capture confidential information like passwords or credit card numbers.


A malicious software designed to compromise a system to infiltrate, damage, or obtain information without the owner’s consent.

Screen Scraper

Similar to a keylogger, this malicious spyware or physical device logs information sent to a visual display to capture passwords, perform actions as a user would on the site, or track user profiles and monitor online activities.

Spear Phishing

An email attack on a specific organization or individual, which is not typically conducted by a random hacker, but more by a thief out to get victims to reveal confidential information for financial gain, trade secrets, or military information.


An attempt by a bad actor to gain access to a system by posing as an authorized user by disguising email addresses, caller display IDs, text messages, or website URLs.


Software that is secretly installed on a computer system without the knowledge or permission of the system owner or user and starts secretly monitoring activity to steal sensitive data or send it to a third-party for exploitation.

Trojan Horse

A type of malware that looks like a legitimate computer program appearing to have a useful function but is hidden in an email attachment or free-to-download file and transfers itself to a user’s device. Once downloaded, a malicious code will launch and perform tasks such as stealing sensitive data, monitoring user activity, or gaining back-end access.


Also known as a computer worm, this is a malicious self-contained computer program that replicates itself and spreads to other systems. This can reduce bandwidth and make systems unreliable or unavailable. These infectious worms can also change or delete files and introduce other malware.

Stay on top of cyber security

As long as we have the IoT and all things connected to it, cyber security will continue to be a growing concern and a massive effort by all parties involved. This handful of cyber security words is just the tip of the iceberg, as cyber criminals continue to evolve current hacking methods and create new, advanced threats. As a small business owner, it is important to stay on top of these dangers and provide regular cybersecurity training for your employees to help protect your business financials, customers’ sensitive data, and your reputation.

Talk to a Clover Business Consultant today to learn how our POS systems and business management solutions can help merchants protect what’s important to them and run their operation easier.


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