Personal computing security center

Common security related terms

Adware - (ADvertisementWARE) - Any software application or program in which advertising banners are displayed or Pop-up windows appear while the program is running. Adware is considered "spyware" and is installed without the user's knowledge. It typically displays targeted ads based on words searched for on the Web or derived from a user's surfing habits that have been periodically sent in the background to a Web server.
  Adserver - A Web-based server that delivers banner ads to the requesting Web pages. For websites that sell their own ads, the adserver may be an in-house or co-located machine at an Internet service provider (ISP), or it may be owned by an Internet advertising company.
  Browser Hijacker - Any program that changes some settings in your browser. Browser hijackers commonly redirect your "search" page to pass all searches to a certain pay-per-search site, change the default home page to the desired company page and often transmit URLs (websites) viewed toward the desired company server.
  Cookie - A small data file created by a Web server that is stored on your computer either temporarily for that session only or permanently on the hard disk (persistent cookie). Cookies provide a way for the Web site to identify users and keep track of their preferences. It is also commonly used to "maintain the state" of the session as a user browses around on the site.
  Dialer - A type of software that silently disconnects your modem from your usual Internet service provider and dials another phone number. The new number is usually a long distance or 1-900 billable call.
  E-mail Harvester - A person or software that searches the Internet looking for valid e-mail addresses. e-mail addresses are compiled into directories that are purchased and maintained by spammers.
  Firewall - Any software program or hardware device designed to prevent computers on a network from communicating directly with external computer systems by filtering the information coming through the Internet connection into your private network or computer system . A Firewall keeps hackers out and personal data in by acting as a barrier through which all information passing between the network or computer and external systems must pass.
  Hacker - A slang term for a person who writes programs in an attempt to gain unauthorized access to computer systems Although it may refer to any programmer, it implies very tedious "hacking away" in an attempt to steal, disrupt or corrupt a computer system or network.
  Hoax - Usually an e-mail that gets mailed in chain letter fashion describing some devastating, highly unlikely type of virus. Hoaxes are detectable as having no file attachment, no reference to a third party who can validate the claim.
  Keyboard logger - A computer program or hardware device specialized to record your keystrokes. It can record anything that you type, including your passwords, e-mails, credit card number. They save the recorded keystrokes into a log file or send them to another machine. Most keyloggers can be detected by spyware removal software.
  Pop-up - A small window that is displayed on top of the existing windows on screen. A popup window can be used in any application to display new information. It is widely used on Web pages to cause an ad to "pop up;" however, pop-ups can be prevented or made to appear beneath the browser window using various pop-up blockers.
  Spam - e-mail that is not requested. Also known as "unsolicited commercial e-mail" (UCE), "unsolicited bulk e-mail" (UBE), "gray mail" and just plain "junk mail,". Spam is used to advertise products or to broadcast some political or social commentary.
  Spamware - Software used by spammers to send large amounts of spam to e-mail address lists. Spamware is also a variety of trojan that can turn your computer into a sender of spam or even viruses.
  Spyware - Software that sends information about your Web surfing habits to its Web site. Spyware is often installed without the user’s knowledge or explicit permission in combination with a free download.
  Trojan Horse - A program that appears legitimate, but performs some illicit activity when it is run. It may be used to locate password information or make the system more vulnerable to future entry or simply destroy programs or data on the hard disk.
  Virus - Software used to infect a computer. After the virus code is written, it is buried within an existing program. Once that program is executed, the virus code is activated and attaches copies of itself to other programs in the system. Infected programs copy the virus to other programs.
  Worm - A destructive program that replicates itself throughout disk and memory, using up computer resources until it becomes unusable.