20 essential cybersecurity acronyms: list and definitions

| By:
Jay Ryerse

Cybersecurity has so much technical knowledge to keep up with, and cyberthreats become more advanced as days go by. One of the quickest ways to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of cybersecurity is to learn the jargon. There are tons of acronyms in the cybersecurity space, and mastering them will help your communication with teammates and clients.

To enhance your cybersecurity expertise, we’ve curated a list of essential acronyms, their meanings, and relevance to MSPs. For a deeper dive into additional jargon and terms that define the cybersecurity landscape, consult our comprehensive cybersecurity glossary.

Key cyber acronyms to know 

With all the technical aspects of cybersecurity, some cybersecurity terms and acronyms might seem like a foreign language. With some context, though, you may find that these acronyms are not only straightforward, but they’re also necessary ingredients for your success.

Advanced persistent threat (APT)

An advanced persistent threat is a continuous, targeted cyberattack that uses sophisticated methods to carry out cybercrime or espionage. These attacks involve multiple phases and can remain undetected for long periods of time. APTs are different from traditional cyberattacks in that they can take up to years of planning and execution.

Given the complexity and extended planning involved in APTs, these attacks are often orchestrated by state-sponsored actors. This elevates APTs to among the most critical cybersecurity threats, especially for MSPs. Underestimating them would be a costly oversight, necessitating rigorous preventive measures.

Business email compromise (BEC)

Business email compromise is a form of email phishing that occurs when a threat actor poses as someone like a coworker. When successful, BEC can facilitate malicious activity like data theft or ransom schemes. 

Unlike other cyberattacks that often rely on automated defenses, BEC necessitates tailored mitigation strategies, such as comprehensive user education. The best course of action involves training all users to identify the various forms BEC can take, thereby strengthening your organizational defenses.

Chief information security officer (CISO)

The chief information security officer is a senior-level executive responsible for an organization’s data and information security. This role also involves realizing security goals in conjunction with digital transformation and business enablement. More recently, CISOs have taken up the responsibility of managing cyber risk.

CISOs can also act as “coaches” in the sense that they help organizations and educate users about how to manage cyber risk. The CISO role is crucial in an effective cybersecurity strategy, so any candidates you work with for this role should be thoroughly vetted.

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI)

Cyber threat intelligence is the collection, analysis, and integration of information about threats to an organization’s digital infrastructure. To conduct CTI, you can source data from many types of intelligence, from human to open source.

Having CTI in place can help you avoid cyberattacks and even improve your cybersecurity management procedures. The more CTI is conducted, the more you know about the potential threats you’re up against. ConnectWise’s CRU (cyber research unit) is an example of a CTI resource MSPs can integrate to enhance their own offerings.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS)

Distributed denial of service is a type of cyber attack that overwhelms a server, network, or service with a flow of malicious traffic or data. That traffic can come from multiple sources, including botnets, and it can easily overwhelm a target.

DDoS attacks can stop operations in their tracks by leaving servers and networks unusable, so quick action is important in the case of a DDoS attack. Failing to act quickly may result in service denial or operational disruptions.

Data loss prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention is a combination of technology and processes used to protect data by monitoring traffic. With cyberattacks more prevalent than ever, organizations need to keep a closer—and constant—eye on their data with DLP. 

DLP keeps track of the flow of all data to identify sensitive information exiting the network, as a leak or attack can happen at any moment. When considering DLP for your organization, keep in mind that DLP should be easy to use and record information ranging from the people involved all the way to what actually happened. In addition, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) is a set of solutions that can make sure that your clients’ data is protected in a disaster or downtime scenario.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR)

Endpoint detection and response tools monitor, detect, and respond to irregular activity on any endpoint device. While irregular activity isn’t always a sign of an attack, EDR provides visibility for more accurate analysis and threat mitigation in the case of suspicious activity.

EDR also improves firewall functionality, especially with many devices spread out away from a data center. The key is detecting these spread-out devices using EDR, which better protects them from cyberattacks. Combine this with other cybersecurity tools like a SOC, and you have a solid line of defense against cyberattacks.

Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC)

Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) is not merely a strategy, but a holistic framework that helps organizations protect their data while operating efficiently and within the bounds of the law. The three components are interrelated yet distinct: 

  • Governance ensures that organizational activities align with business objectives and stakeholder expectations. 
  • Risk management involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks that could hinder the organization’s operations.
  • Compliance ensures adherence to both external regulations and internal policies. 

Properly implemented GRC creates a comprehensive roadmap for cybersecurity and data management, offering organizations an integrated approach to protect their assets and maintain regulatory compliance. The framework becomes essential for organizations lacking the resources to continually monitor and protect their vast array of data.

Identity and access management (IAM)

Identity and access management refers to a framework of technologies and policies designed to grant access to resources. More specifically, IAM ensures only the appropriate users have access to sensitive resources. IAM does this by letting organizations use zero-trust accounts in which employees can only access data necessary to their roles.

As remote work and SaaS become more common, granting access to individual users on an as-needed basis becomes necessary. Denying access is equally important—especially if you want to keep your data as secure as possible.

Incident response (IR)

Incident response is how an organization handles the aftermath of a cyberattack. Incident response is necessary for any organization, as attacks and security breaches can occur at any time. Proper IR can help you mitigate the impact of incidents like DDoS or phishing attacks or even events like a damaged device.

With IR, your goal should be to expect the unexpected, and an IR plan can help you stay prepared in the case of an incident. Managed incident response services can also help provide another line of defense and 24/7 real-time monitoring.

Managed detection and response (MDR)

Managed detection and response is an often outsourced service that employs experts and technology to find, monitor, and respond to threats. MDR can help reduce threats in your organization—without having to hire extra staff. MDR also lets you address threats quickly, monitoring potential problems in real time. 

Managed security service provider (MSSP)

A managed security service provider (MSSP) specializes in overseeing and administering an organization's security measures such as VPNs, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. Unlike a MSP, an MSSP has a focused expertise in security-related services. 

As the threat landscape evolves, the MSSP's role grows increasingly critical in navigating complex cybersecurity challenges. These providers leverage threat intelligence reports to stay ahead of emerging cybersecurity trends and threats. Across various security layers, including Managed Detection and Response (MDR), MSSPs add substantial value to organizations dealing with intricate security needs. In some cases, MSPs can build an MSSP inside their own service as well to increase their ability to service clients.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology officially promotes “U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.” A major part of the NIST's reputation is its cybersecurity framework, which outlines how private companies should handle cyberattacks. The NIST cybersecurity framework is only the U.S.’s primary cyber framework, and there are different frameworks for different countries, such as the Essential Eight for Australia or Cyber Essentials for the U.K.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT)

Open-source intelligence is information from public data that an organization collects, analyzes, and reports on. Organizations can take what they learn from this intelligence analysis, parse the data, and apply it to their security protocol.

OSINT is helpful to any organization, partly because the information is free and easy to access as a member of the public. While other, less overt sources may suit your needs better at times, OSINT is a reliable source of information when you need to make a decision in a short amount of time.

Recovery time objective/recovery point objective (RTO/RPO)

Recovery time objective refers to the way an organization moves forward from an incident. More specifically, RTO is the amount of time it takes to recover affected systems and data after something like an attack or security breach. Your RTO goal should be the shortest amount of time possible, but just having an RTO and trying to adhere to it can help you avoid downtime or worse.

A recovery point objective is the point in time at which your organization needs to restore systems and data. Your RPO should take into account how much data your organization can afford to lose, and you should attempt to recover as much data as possible.

Secure access service edge (SASE)

Secure Access Service Edge is a unified cloud-native security framework that integrates network security functions with wide area networking (WAN) capabilities. It offers a comprehensive solution to protect and manage data traffic for distributed, cloud-first organizations. 

By providing security and networking through the cloud, SASE mitigates various security challenges and threats. It allows users to securely connect to an organization's devices and systems, irrespective of the tools in use or physical location. 

One of the key advantages of SASE is its ability to enable secure access without adding extra risk to the organization. This framework is becoming increasingly crucial as business processes continue to shift towards cloud environments and as seemingly straightforward tasks grow in complexity.

Security information and event management (SIEM)

Security information and event management is a system or solution that aggregates large amounts of data regarding threat investigations. Because of this, SIEM is crucial for any organization looking to analyze and mitigate threats.

SIEM provides in-depth insights in real time, making it a powerful tool in any organization’s security arsenal. As far as detecting and responding to security events, you shouldn’t overlook SIEM to provide a centralized view of all security activity.

Security operations center (SOC)

A security operations center is a central location or team tasked with monitoring and responding to security threats and potential breaches. SOC teams use a variety of tools and intelligence to assess incidents and deal with them accordingly.

A SOC offers around-the-clock protection, so problems get resolved quickly, and recovery time doesn’t slow your organization to a halt. For a centralized security hub, you can’t do much better than an efficient, qualified SOC.

Single sign-on (SSO)

Single sign-on is a system that lets users authenticate themselves through multiple devices and applications using a single set of credentials. SSO streamlines the login process for all users and adds a layer of security.

So, not only is SSO faster than many other sign-on methods, but it’s also more secure. SSO often finds use alongside multi-factor authentication (MFA), increasing security in the event of a compromised SSO log-in.

Zero trust network architecture (ZTNA)

Zero trust network architecture refers to the practice of only granting network access to users who need it to complete a specific task. ZTNA also implies that network access doesn’t equate to full access and users can’t typically access the entire network.

On the other hand, security teams need access to the whole network so they can more efficiently grant access to other users.

Building your MSP cybersecurity offerings 

Understanding and implementing cybersecurity practices is vital in today's digital landscape. To fully realize the potential of these practices, robust cybersecurity management software can be an indispensable tool. 

ConnectWise offers a suite of cybersecurity software and solutions tailored to MSPs, including MDR, SIEM, and 24/7 SOC Services. If you're contemplating the value these cybersecurity tools can bring to your organization, start by registering for one of our free demos and trials or visit our cybersecurity center for more resources for MSPs.


Cybersecurity terms and acronyms facilitate concise and efficient communication. Like other technology-driven industries, cybersecurity involves intricate and specialized terminology. Reducing these complex terms into acronyms simplifies dialogue and enhances recognition, enabling experts and stakeholders to quickly identify and discuss key concepts.

Some important cybersecurity acronyms related to encryption are CAVP (Cryptographic Algorithm Validation Program), CBC (Cipher Block Chaining), CBC-MAC (Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code), and IBE (Identity-Based Encryption). CAVP is a program that validates testing of FIPS-approved and NIST-recommended cryptographic algorithms, serving as a precursor to cryptographic module validation. 

CBC and CBC-MAC are techniques related to block ciphers; CBC uses an initialization vector and a chaining mechanism, while CBC-MAC constructs a message authentication code from a block cipher. IBE is a type of public-key encryption where the public key is some unique information about the user, such as an email address. These acronyms are crucial for understanding the various methods and standards that ensure secure data encryption.

CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider), NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), SOC (Security Operations Center), and ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) are all cybersecurity acronyms related to network security.

APT (Advanced Persistent Threat), BEC (Business Email Compromise), DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), and RTO/RPO (Recovery Time Objective/Recovery Point Objective) are the cybersecurity acronyms that refer to cyberattacks or threats.

CTI (Cyber Threat Intelligence), IAM (Identity Access Management), MDR (Managed Detection and Response), OSING (Open Source Intelligence), SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), and SSO (Single Sign-On) are acronyms used for cybersecurity tools and technologies.

DLP (Data Loss Prevention), EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response), GRC (Governance, Risk Management, Compliance), IR (Incident Response), and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) are acronyms that refer to cybersecurity best practices and frameworks.