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Security Terminology - What Is An Actor?

With all the news recently about the Australian parliament's cyber security breach I have been answering a lot of casual queries on so...


With all the news recently about the Australian parliament's cyber security breach I have been answering a lot of casual queries on some of the jargon being bandied by the media.

In particular the use of the term 'Actor' and what it generally refers to in this context comes up from clients at work.

Basically put, an actor in the context of cyber security or intelligence (also referred to commonly as a 'threat actor' or a 'malicious actor'), is a description of any entity either wholly or partially accountable for an event which impacts - or could impact the security of an organisation.  An actor can be an individual or a group/organisation/state.

The usual way actors might be classed are External, Internal or Partner:

  • External Actors: the most commonly encountered and potentially the most severe in impact.  These actors are classed as external as there is little to no previous connection or internal privilege they can leverage within the organisation they have targeted.  Commonly the goal of an external actor is considered one that is intent on the most negative impact to a targeted organisation.
  • Internal Actors: will probably already have an association or work for the target organisation and may even have privileged information or trust that can be leveraged.
  • Partner Actors:  similar to an Internal Actor but a trust has been extended to an actor that has an association with the targeted organisation.

It is important to remember that an 'Actor' does not necessarily have to signify a malicious party, it could be that the event is unintentional or benign.  However an 'Actor' is responsible for part or all of an event.

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The Official Auki Henry: Security Terminology - What Is An Actor?
Security Terminology - What Is An Actor?
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