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 ›  ›  ›  › Security Glossary




ActiveX Controls

A type of browser plug-in used with the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser that allows users to view and use interactive content.

Certain web pages require the user to download and install custom-built ActiveX Controls from the website itself in order to view them correctly; these components can pose a security risk if they are malicious and the browser’s security settings allow them to be automatically and silently installed on the user’s system.

As ActiveX Controls are able to access the hard disk and have a significant amount of control over system operations, malicious ActiveX Controls can cause major damage.


A program that displays advertising material to computer users, potentially in a manner or context that is unexpected or unwanted.

Adware is sometimes considered a “gray” area in terms of ethics and legality. They range from legitimate programs that display unobtrusive content and are willingly installed by the user, all the way to programs that silently install themselves and barrage the user with inappropriate content.

Some adware will perform user behavior monitoring to determine the best advertising material to display based on the user’s preferences; this function may or may not be disclosed to the user.

Alternate Data Stream

An extension to Microsoft’s Windows NT File System (NTFS) that provides compatibility with files created using Apple’s Hierarchical File System (HFS).

Applications must write special code if they want to access and manipulate data stored in an alternate stream. Some applications use these streams to evade detection.

Anti-virus Software

Protects your computer from viruses that can destroy your data, slow your computer’s performance, cause a crash, or even allow spammers to send email through your account.

Why would you need both antivirus and firewall?

Antivirus software will primarily protect your computer against viruses. A firewall will protect your computer against other types of Internet threats such as hackers, worms and Trojan horses, which cannot be fully detected by any antivirus software. Reversely, firewall software does not necessarily protect your computer against all types of viruses. As a result, it is advised to install both antivirus and firewall software to achieve maximum protection.



A remote administration utility which bypasses normal security mechanisms to secretly control a program, computer or network.

Backdoors are sometimes considered a form of riskware, as they can be legitimately used by trusted users or system administrators, but can also be misused by an attacker to remotely usurp control of the system.


A measure of the “speed” of an Internet connection.


Shorthand for “business opportunity;” some schemes involve extravagant and unfounded earnings claims and are actually fraudulent business ventures.


Bluetooth is a wireless communications technology, commonly used by computers and other electronic devices. A Bluetooth-worm primarily replicates by spreading over Bluetooth networks to infect other Bluetooth-enabled systems and devices.


A web browser feature that allows you to save the addresses of interesting or frequently used websites, so that you can readily revisit them.


Boot is the platform designator for boot sector, the dedicated area of a storage device such as a CD, floppy disk, or hard drive that contains critical information for starting the main operating system (OS). These instructions are used by the boot program to start the main OS whenever the user switches on the computer.

The boot sector of a hard disk is referred to as a Master Boot Record (MBR).


A malicious program that, on being installed onto a computer system, allows the attacker to enslave the system into a network of similarly affected systems known as a botnet. The individual computers in a botnet may also be referred to as a bot or a zombie.

A special type of bot known as an IRCBot is a program that connects to an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel as a normal user, but is used by an attacker to control a zombie or a botnet.

The term “bot” is also used in more general situations for programs that perform automated tasks, such as scanning web pages, calculating statistics and so on. Such programs are generally not considered malicious.


A botnet (a portmanteau formed from the words robot and network) is a network of bot-infected computers that can be remotely controlled from a command-and-control (C&C) server. Each infected computer is known as a zombie computer, or zombie.

An attacker, or group of attackers, can harness the collective resources of a botnet to perform major malicious actions, such as sending millions of spam emails, performing a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack and much more.


A number of different methods used for high speed Internet access such as DSL, cable modems, fiber optics, and mobile wireless, all of which are permanently connected to the Internet through different means.


A program that allows a user to find, view, hear, and interact with material on the Internet.

Browser Helper Object

A browser plug-in specifically designed for use with the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser.

A Browser Helper Object (BHO) executes automatically every time the browser is launched and may pose a security risk if they track the user’s browsing behavior without authorization, are poorly written and inadvertently introduce security risks into the system, or are specifically designed to perform malicious actions (e.g. silently downloading malware onto the system).

Browser Hijacker

A common spyware program that changes your web browser’s home page without the user’s knowledge, even if you change it back.

Browser Plug-in

A program that provides additional functionality to an web browser. Depending on the browser, a browser plug-in may also be known as a Browser Helper Object (BHOs), as for Microsoft Internet Explorer, or an extension, for Mozilla Firefox.

Browser plug-ins may pose a security risk if they perform potentially unwanted behaviors, such as redirecting search results or monitoring user browsing behavior. For this reason, some antivirus programs will label a browser plug-in as “riskware”, unless the user authorizes its installation and use.


A program that allows users to easily view and interact with web page content on websites on the World Wide Web, or a local network.

Browsers are indispensable to the modern Internet and there are many different browsers available for almost every computing platform Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple’s Safari, Google Chrome, et cetera.

Despite their ubiquity, browsers can pose a significant security risk as they are one of the major conduits for malicious software onto a computer system. Attackers can use specially created codes or programs to exploit vulnerabilities in the browser program or the operating system, in order to gain access to a vulnerable system’s data and/or resources, often for further malicious or criminal use.


A type of attack typically targeting authentication mechanisms such as password protection. A brute-force attack is an exhaustive, trial-and-error attempt that involves rapidly cycling through a comprehensive list of possible passwords or decryption keys, until the correct one is entered.

Often, a brute-force attack is combined with a dictionary attack, which uses a long list of words taken from dictionaries and popular culture references. Unlike a standard brute force attack, a dictionary attack uses words that are thought to be have the highest chances of success.

Brute-force attacks commonly succeed due to weak passwords and/or human error or laxness.

Buffer Overflow

A vulnerability in programs which do not adequately manage memory allocation. In certain circumstances, exploit code can use excessive amounts of data to exploit this vulnerability and force the program to write data beyond their specified memory allocations.

Technically, there are a few types of buffer overflows, depending on how the program handles the data overflow. In practical terms, all buffer overflows can force the targeted program to crash, delete data, or allow the attacker to transform the computer into a zombie.


A programming error in an application’s code. A bug usually results in one or more undesirable effects, ranging from barely detectable quirks in an application’s performance, to completely crippling it.



A form of computer memory that allows you to access stored information, such as web addresses you’ve recently typed into your browser, more quickly. Pronounced “cash.”


A law that prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial email from using false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines, and requires they identify each email as an advertisement, among other provisions.


The Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA) is a commonly used challenge-response test to prevent attackers from using computer-generated responses to perform certain repetitive actions, such as signing up for email accounts, submitting online forms and so on.

This test is commonly used on websites, web-based email services and other processes where an automated-response type attack may reasonably be possible. A CAPTCHA test usually involves the user attempting to solve to a challenge that current software cannot solve, most commonly by deciphering a distorted visual image to discern numbers and letters; a correct answer to the challenge results in the assumption that the user is human, and is therefore permitted to use the service.

The widespread use of CAPTCHA security precautions have, ironically, led to the development of attack techniques specifically designed to crack CAPTCHA; most of these attacks still involve human interaction at some stage.

Chat Room

The name given to a place or page in a website or online service where people can type messages which are displayed almost instantly on the screens of others who are in the “chat room.”


A simple data file containing information related to a website visitor’s activities. The information contained in the cookie can include such details as the user’s site preferences, contents of their electronic carts and so on.

Most websites a user visits will save its own cookie onto the visitor’s computer system, and then retrieve it when the same visitor returns to the website at a later date, so that the user can continue their previous activities on the website with minimal disruption.

Some cookies may also track the user’s movements across various websites, raising concerns about privacy invasion and information security. Some users may opt to totally or selectively accept cookies, though some websites will not function correctly if cookies are not accepted.


Used to distinguish the physical world from the digital, or computer-based world.


Data Miner

A program that collects information on user browsing behavior. The collected information can include data entered into online forms, such as sensitive account details and passwords.

Once the information is collected, it is usually transmitted to an external party for further analysis and misuse. Data miners generally function without a user’s knowledge or authorization.

Denial of Service (DoS)

A type of attack conducted over the Internet, in which a massive amount of data is sent to a targeted computer system or resource (e.g., a program, website or network), with the aim of overwhelming and crashing it.

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is typically conducted by a single, or small group of, computer systems and can be performed in a variety of ways. Even if a DOS attack does not result in the target totally crashing, so much resources may have been diverted to deal with the attack that performance is significantly degraded, or other users are unable to use the system or resource until the attack has ended.


A program that connects the computer to the Internet via a telephone line and modem. In the days before widespread broadband Internet connections, dialers were often the only way the average user could access the Internet.

Malicious dialers secretly connect the computer to premium-rate lines, greatly increasing the usage charges payable by the user.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

A type of attack conducted over the Internet, using the combined resources of many computers to bombard, and frequently crash, a targeted computer system or resource (e.g., a program, website or network).

There are various types of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which vary based on how the attack is conducted. DDoS attacks are often performed by botnets, as the combined resources of all the computers in the network can generate an terrific amount of data, enough to overwhelm most target’s defenses within seconds.

An example of how a DDoS attack is conducted: an attacker will exploit a vulnerability in one computer system and make it the DDoS master using Remote Control Software. Later, the intruder will use the master system to identify and manage zombies that can perform the attack.


A segment of Internet space, denoted by the function or type of information it includes; current domains include “.com” for commercial sites, “.gov” for governmental ones, and “.org” for non-commercial organizations.


The acronym formed from the words Disk Operating System refers to an early operating system (OS) created by Microsoft for IBM and IBM-compatible computers; the OS was also used for Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and ME.

More current Windows versions, such as NT, 2000, XP, and Vista, also include a version of DOS known as “DOS emulation”, which allows users to run old DOS applications.


To copy files from one computer to another over the internet.

Driveby Download

This term refers to the automatic download of a program onto a user’s computer, almost always without their knowledge or authorization.

The term is most frequently used to describe the situation of a website forcibly and silently downloading malware onto a visitor’s system, but clicking on popup ads or viewing an email message may also result in the user being subjected to a driveby download.

To avoid drive-by downloads, make sure to update your operating system and Web browser regularly.


A malware whose primary aim is to drop other malware onto the system. Dropper malware has been almost completely superseded by trojan-droppers in today’s threat landscape.


Digital Subscriber Line: A type of high speed internet using standard phone lines and the local telephone network. DSL is almost always slower than cable modem or fiber optics.



A worm that mainly spreads via email.

The worm may be delivered in an infected email attachment, which usually requires the user to double-click and run the attachment before the worm can infect the system.

Alternatively, the worm may be delivered as code embedded in the email message itself; in this case, the user may not need to do anything other than view the email in order for the system to be infected, as the worm exploits a vulnerability in the operating system or web browser to automatically execute its code.


The scrambling of data into a secret code that can be read only by software set to decode the information.

Encryption Engine

Also known as a mutation engine, this is a programming routine that uses cryptographic principles to “scramble” the malware code at each infection, creating a constantly mutating virus that is harder for security applications to detect.

Simple encryption engines used a static decryption routine, or key, that remained the same throughout all infections; virus scanners were therefore still able to detect malware encrypted by these engines by simply detecting the key. More sophisticated engines nowadays scramble both the malware code and the key at each new infection, creating a virus that can “change appearance” potentially millions of times, while performing the exact same functions each time. The constantly mutating code and key makes it significantly more difficult for virus scanners to detect the malware.

The term “encryption engine” can also be used to describe special software used by virus writers to produce encrypted, polymorphic code.


The act of using a cipher or algorithm to transform data, such as a program’s code, into an unintelligible form. Encryption usually requires that the user know a specific piece of information (a ‘key’) in order to transform the encrypted information back to a usable state when necessary.

There are many different ways to perform encryption, based on the algorithm or cipher used. Some examples of encryption algorithms include ROT13 and the Vigenere cipher.

Virus writers use encryption to create encrypted viruses and prevent detection of their malware by security applications.

End User License Agreement (EULA)

A legally binding agreement between a program’s user and the program vendor, stating the terms under which the user is authorized to use the program and usually limiting vendor’s liabilities.

Most programs display the end user license agreement (EULA) in electronic form during the installation process and users must agree to the EULA before installation can be completed.

EULAs can be a controversial issue if they are worded in such as way as to be ambiguous, or if they attempt to give the vendor more rights than is legally permissible. In addition, EULAs are often so long, technically challenging and intimidating that many users do not read them completely before accepting them, potentially placing the user in an untenable position if they later face problems with the program or the vendor.

Entry Point Obscuration (EPO)

Entry point obscuration (EPO) techniques are used by virus writers to prevent virus scanners from detecting suspicious changes in the program’s entry point. A program’s entry point is an instruction specifying the beginning of the program’s code, which the system uses to locate the correct starting point each time the program is executed.

Most file infector viruses will, on infection, subtly modify the host program’s entry point so that it points to the beginning of the viral code, which can be located almost anywhere in the file. The change in entry point forces the system to execute the viral code first whenever the user attempts to launch the host program; after the viral code has been executed, most viruses will pass control back to the host program, allowing it to launch normally.


A program or piece of code that is specifically written to take advantage of a vulnerability, in order to provide an attacker with access to a vulnerable computer system, program or network.


When sensitive data is released to someone without authorization.

Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID)

The name a manufacturer assigns to a router. It may be a standard, default name assigned by the manufacturer to all hardware of that model. Users can improve security by changing to a unique name. Similar to a Service Set Identifier (SSID).


False Alarm / False Positive

A general term used to describe an uninfected or “clean” file that is mistakenly identified as infected. False alarms occur if a program contains code sufficiently similar to a known malware signature to be deemed a security risk by a virus scanner.

A legitimate program that displays malware-like behavior may also trigger a false alarm from security software with heuristic analysis capabilities.


Software that screens information on the Internet, classifies its content, and allows the user to block certain kinds of content.


The firewall is all about prevention. It is software that lets the “good” Internet traffic pass while blocking the “bad” Internet traffic. It protects your computer against hackers and malicious Internet traffic such as worms and Trojan horses. The firewall controls both the sent and received traffic.

What does a firewall prevent?

A firewall examines each packet (piece of data) that goes in and out your computer. It prevents hackers who are looking to access your computer to steal passwords, financial or other types of personal information and files. It also stops other malicious traffic like worms – that could be responsible for slowing down or blocking your system and Trojans, which may cause damage to your hard disk.

Why would you need both antivirus and firewall?

Antivirus software will primarily protect your computer against viruses. A firewall will protect your computer against other types of Internet threats such as hackers, worms and Trojan horses, which cannot be fully detected by any antivirus software. Reversely, firewall software does not necessarily protect your computer against all types of viruses. As a result, it is advised to install both antivirus and firewall software to achieve maximum protection.



A measure of computer memory equaling 1,024 megabytes.



Someone who uses computers and the Internet to access other people’s computers without permission.


A utility designed to access remote computers. Though legal, a hacktool can be used with malicious intent.


The mechanical parts of a computer system, including the central processing unit (CPU), monitor, keyboard, and mouse, as well as other equipment like printers and speakers.

Hidden Dialers

Programs that you may unknowingly download that can use your computer to silently dial expensive phone calls which later show up on your phone bill.


A program that hijacks a user’s web browser or user session for its own purposes, usually to misdirect the user to another website, or to steal sensitive information.


An application that does not perform as claimed.

Hoaxes are often sold through deceptive or fraudulent methods. For example, a program that claims to remove malicious software but instead only imitates scanning of the hard disk drive is categorized as a hoax.

Hoaxes may also be used to aggressively or deceptively promote rogue/scareware antivirus and antispyware applications that may not perform as claimed.


A computer system or network whose primary purpose is to appear as though it provides a real service (a website, database, etc), thereby luring attackers away from protected, critical systems and networks.

Major corporations and security companies in particular will use honeypot systems to protect their infrastructure and to conduct research on attack techniques and trends.

Hosts File

A list of IP addresses frequently accessed by the computer system and stored on the system itself. Each time a user enters an address in the web browser, the system will first check the host file for the address; otherwise, the system must perform an extra step and connect to the DNS service of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) in order to connect to the correct address.

Maintaining the host file allows the system to reduce the amount of processing required. Some malware are designed to attack the host file in order to hijack and redirect a web connection from the one desired, to a different and usually malicious site.


The acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language refers to the simple markup language used to create web pages. HTML can be used to define elements such as the page layout, fonts, graphical elements, and linkages to other pages.

Email and documents can also utilize HTML formatting.

Markup language is not a programming language and used by itself, will create static web pages. Because many users prefer more interactive web pages, designers frequently insert programming code/scripts to add more interactivity.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

The standard language that computers connected to the World Wide Web use to communicate with each other.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

A coding language used to create documents and websites on the Internet and control how they appear.



A worm that spreads primarily on instant messaging networks, most commonly by sending messages with infected attachment to all of an infected user’s contacts.

Instant Message (IM)

Technology, similar to a chat room, which notifies a user when a friend is online, allowing them to “converse” by exchanging text messages.


A program that contains bugs, or other problems, which prevent it from functioning as the author intended. It would have been malware, and future versions still might be, but the current version is defective.

Internet Protocol (IP)

The computer language that allows computer programs to communicate over the Internet.

IP Address

A computer’s “address,” it consists of a series of numbers separated by periods.

IP Address

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is an identifier assigned to all unique nodes (computers, servers, etc) connected to a network and is used during communication between the nodes.

IP addresses can be a security issue because of: spoofing attacks, when large amounts of data using spoofed or forged originating IP addresses are used to perform Denial-of-Service attacks; and spamming, in which the messages sent may also use forged IP addresses as their origin.


The acronym for Internet Relay Chat refers to a popular program that allows conferencing over the Internet. The group discussions take place in forums known as “channels” and are hosted on IRC servers around the world.

IRC channels can be utilized to maintain command & control over botnets.


Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a form of real-time Internet chat and is designed for group communication in discussion forums known as channels. An IRC-worm spreads primarily over IRC channels, usually by sending a message with an infected attachment to all users who join a channel an infected user is already on.



A computer programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that enables web pages to include animations, calculators, scrolling text, sound effects, and games.

Java programs can also be used for non web-based purposes and in this case, is known as a Java “application”.


A popular scripting language (only loosely related to the Java programming language) that is commonly used on web pages to add interactivity to its elements.


A program with an annoying or funny functionality. It is not destructive.


Short-hand for “Joint Photographic Experts Group,” a computer file format that reduces the size of graphics by using compression.



A program or hardware component that surreptitiously monitors and stores all the strokes typed into a keyboard. Some keylogger programs will also forward the stored information to an external server for easier retrieval by the attacker.

Keylogger programs may be dropped on a system by other malware, or may be manually installed by the attacker; keylogger hardware must be manually installed. Similarly, keylogger programs will allow an attacker to remotely retrieve the stored information, whereas keylogger hardware must be physically retrieved in order to access the information saved on the device.

Keystroke Logger

A program or hardware component that surreptitiously monitors and stores all the strokes typed into a keyboard. Some keylogger programs will also forward the stored information to an external server for easier retrieval by the attacker.

Keylogger programs may be dropped on a system by other malware, or may be manually installed by the attacker; keylogger hardware must be manually installed. Similarly, keylogger programs will allow an attacker to remotely retrieve the stored information, whereas keylogger hardware must be physically retrieved in order to access the information saved on the device.


LAN (Local Area Network)

A network of connected computers that are generally located near each other, such as in an office or company.


A non-proprietary operating system (OS) popularly used for computer networks and corporate servers, and to a lesser extent, for work and home users. Linux can run on a wide variety of hardware platforms including those from PowerPC, ARM and IBM.

Consumer usage of Linux is on the raise with the popularity of Netbook class laptops.



A mini-program found in some applications, macros allow users to automate certain functions or instructions.

Most commonly associated with Microsoft Office applications, macros are commonly used to deliver, execute and hide malware, which are thus often referred to as “macro viruses”.


A combination of the terms “malicious” and “software,” used to describe any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network. Criminals sometimes use malware programs like viruses and spyware to get into your computer, and once there, they can steal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

Media Access Control (MAC) Address

A unique number that the manufacturer assigns to each computer or other device in a network.


A program that can monitor and record all computer activities, including each keystroke typed on the keyboard.

Monitoring Software

Programs that allow a parent or caregiver to monitor the websites a child visits or email messages he or she reads, without blocking access.

Monitoring Tool

A program that can monitor and record all computer activities, including each keystroke typed on the keyboard.

Multipartite Virus

A multi-segmented virus that is able to infect multiple target types for example, both the boot sector and the system files in such a way that every section of the virus must be removed before the system can be considered clean and free from the possibility of reinfection.



The informal rules of internet courtesy, enforced exclusively by other Internet users.


A group of two or more computers that are able to communicate with one another.


A worm that replicates over networks, most commonly through local area networks (LANs). Also known as a network worm, net-worms will create copies of itself on any accessible network shares (a hard drive or resource that can be accessed by any designated users of a network). Once on the network share, the worm can spread to other systems in the network.


On-Access Scanner

A virus scanner that runs as a real-time, background process while the user performs other tasks, in order to provide constant protection against malware.

On-Demand Scanner

A virus scanner, usually part of an antivirus program, which the user must start manually in order to scan the system for infection.

Online Profiling

Compiling information about consumers’ preferences and interests by tracking their online movements and actions in order to create targeted ads.

Operating System

The main program that runs on a computer. An operating system allows other software to run and prevents unauthorized users from accessing the system. Major operating systems include UNIX, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


When a user explicitly permits a website to collect, use, or share his or her information.


When a user expressly requests that his/her information not be collected, used and/or shared. Sometimes a user’s failure to “opt-out” is interpreted as “opting in.”


OSX is the platform designator for Apple’s Mac OS X (operating system, version 10). Mac OS X is based on Unix-like architecture.


P2P, Peer-to-Peer

A method of sharing files, usually music, games, or software, with other users through a sharing program that allows uploading and downloading files from other users online. Caution should be used as P2P sharing can lead to downloading dangerous as files are often misrepresented and can contain offensive material, malware, viruses, or other unintended items so trusted scanning software should always be used.


A worm that spreads primarily over Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks. Often, such worms will conceal themselves in temptingly named files, in order to lure a P2P user into downloading the file and executing the worm’s file onto their own system.


A program that compresses, or reduces, the size of a program’s code, often by re-coding it to a smaller size. Packers are used to minimize a program’s download times and save storage space. Malicious packers are those commonly used to pack malware.

A program which has been compressed by a packer must be decompressed to its original state before it can be executed. This may be a security risk if the packed program happens to be malware. To mitigate this risk, most virus scanners will identify the packer used to compress a file and if the packer is malicious, the file is flagged.

Virus writers commonly use a variety of packing techniques to prevent virus scanners from identifying a malicious file, including using multiple packers to compress the file.


Palm is the platform designator for the operating system (OS) designed specifically for the personal digital assistant (PDA) devices created by Palm Inc.

Parental Controls

Tools that allow parents to prevent their children from accessing certain Internet content that they might find inappropriate.

Why is parental control software needed?

The Internet can quickly undermine worried parent’s control to protect their children against inappropriate, harmful and overwhelming online content. The parental control will refuse access to harmful or inappropriate online content by giving parents the control over what their children can or cannot see. The solution immediately blocks access to unsuitable material when children are on-line.

Personal Information

Information that can identify you, like your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); or your name, address, and phone numbers.


A type of social engineering attack in which a fraudulent website is used to trick a user into giving out their sensitive personal information, such as their banking or email account details.

A pharming attack typically depends on “DNS poisoning”, which involves seeding the user’s hosts file or a DNS server with false information. In this case, the DNS poisoning tactic redirects users from a legitimate website to a copycat website under the attacker’s control. Any information the user enters in the malicious website is then compromised.

A pharming attack may also be used in conjunction with a ‘phishing’ attempt. In this case, a misleading message leads the unsuspecting user to the malicious website.

Pharming is pronounced the same as “farming”.


In a computing context, Phishing (pronounced fishing) is an impersonation of a corporation or other trusted institution. The goal of the impersonation is to extract personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from the victim. It is a form of criminal activity that utilizes social engineering techniques. Phishing is typically done using e-mail or an instant messaging program. The attempt of the message is to appear to be from an authentic source so that victim will either directly respond, or will open a URL link to a fake web site run by the criminals.

Polymorphic Virus

A virus that mutates, or modifies, its own code at various intervals. The changes in code typically occur each time the virus replicates, or infects a new machine.

Detection and disinfection of a polymorphic virus can be very challenging, as mutating code makes traditional signature-based detection methods ineffective.

Pop-up Messages or Ads

Unsolicited advertising that appears as its own browser window.



Short-hand for “Random Access Memory,” it’s the hardware inside your computer that retains memory on a short-term basis and stores information while you work.

Replication Mechanism

An essential feature of certain types of malware. If the program does not include a routine specifying a method for replicating its own code, it does not meet the definition of a virus or worm.


A program that remains in a computer system’s memory after it has been closed and control has been returned to the operating system is said to be “resident” in the memory, or memory-resident.


A program that is not malicious in nature, but may pose or introduce a security risk if improperly used. Examples of riskware include FTP servers, IRC clients, network sniffers, overeager DRM software, and remote administration utilities.

If a program’s functionality is suspect, or the program does not include a functionality it claims to have, it may be added to the riskware category. This category also includes software that cannot be included in other categories.


An antivirus or antispyware application that does not provide the functionality claimed, and may not work at all.

Also known as rogues or scareware, these programs are often the subject of hoaxes, or programs that promote these deceptive products using aggressive or fraudulent sales tactics.


A technique or program that allows malware to obscure the fact that a computer has been compromised. Rootkits work by directly interfering with the operating system and critical system mechanisms, and essentially “cloaking” the malware’s activities.

A rootkit’s manipulation of critical system functions allows it to circumvent or even subvert most security processes, making them difficult to detect and remove with normal security programs.


A device that connects two or more networks. A router finds the best path for forwarding information across the networks.



A sufficiently unique section of code that can be used as a program’s identifying marker. A signature may also be known as a “definition”.

A malware’s signature is listed in an antivirus program’s database. Each time the program scans a computer system’s files, it searches for code matching any signature in its database; any file found with matching code is automatically flagged as a potential security risk.


An SMS-Worm spreads by exploiting the Short Message Service (SMS) protocol used to send short text messages between mobile devices on the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) network.

Social Engineering

A general term used to describe attacks that leverage on psychological or social pressures to dupe an unsuspecting victim into providing sensitive information such as passwords, account details and so on.

Social engineering attacks can take place both online and offline. Online social engineering attacks usually take the form of phishing or pharming attempts. Examples of offline attacks include pretending to be a surveyor and asking people to provide their passwords in return for a prize; calling a company and pretending to be an employee to gain access to the company intranet; or leaving an infected disk in a position where someone is likely to pick it up and use it, thereby infecting their system.

Social Networking Sites

Websites that allow users to build online profiles; share information, including personal information, photographs, blog entries, and music clips; and connect with other users, whether it be to find friends or land a job.

Sock Puppet

A secret alias used by a member of an Internet community, but not acknowledged by that person.


A computer program with instructions that enable the computer hardware to work. System software such as Windows or MacOS operate the machine itself, and applications software such as spreadsheet or word processing programs provide specific functionality.


Unsolicited commercial email, often sent in bulk quantities.

Why is spam control software needed?

Unsolicited commercial e-mail, better known as spam, is a major problem. Spammers can send out millions of mails with minimal cost. The amount of spam is increasing heavily over the years. Besides spam being an every day hassle for end-users, it also leads to receiving a high amount of offensive content, it increases the risk for virus infections and it lowers employee productivity.

Spam Zombies

Home computers that have been taken over by spammers without the consent or knowledge of the computer owner. The computers are then used to send spam in a way that hides the true origin.


Someone who sends unsolicited commercial email, often in bulk quantities.


Spyware is software that attempts to collect personal information from the user without their knowledge, frequently for advertisement purposes. It might be installed as part of a worm or a Trojan. Spyware programs are typically bundled as a hidden part of freeware or programs that can be downloaded from the Internet.

What danger can spyware cause?

Once installed, spyware could monitor the user’s Internet activity and could also gather information about e-mail addresses as well as passwords and credit card numbers. It has the ability to transmit this information to whichever person installed it on the end-user’s computer. Apart from stealing personal information, spyware uses the computer’s memory and system resources and eats bandwidth. Consequently, it can lead to system crashes or complete system instability.


A program that may compromise a user’s personal or confidential information. Spyware is usually, but not always, installed on a system without a user’s authorization or knowledge.

Spyware can vary widely in the kinds of actions they perform. Some common actions include displaying unsolicited pop-ups, hijacking a browsers home or search pages, redirecting browsing results and monitoring user activities.

Spyware is sometimes considered a “gray” area in terms of ethics and legality. Depending on the specific action, context of use and applicable laws, spyware could be considered legal and acceptable; dubious but unlegislated; or outright illegal and unethical.

The term “spyware” can also be used in a more general sense to mean “potentially unwanted technologies”.

SQL Injection

A type of attack that targets improperly configured Structured Query Language (SQL) databases. SQL databases are a common feature of most modern interactive websites.

An SQL injection attack involves exploiting poor user-input filtering to inject and run executable commands in the database. Technically, a few types of SQL injection attacks are possible, but the end result of all successful SQL injection attacks is that an attacker can manipulate or even gain total control over the database.

Stealth Virus

A virus that hides its presence and/or actions from antivirus programs or system security process by using a variety of techniques.


SymbOS is the platform designator for the popular Symbian operating system (OS) used to run data-enabled phones (also known as smartphones). Created by Symbian Ltd., this OS supports Java, Bluetooth connectivity, GPRS data transmission, and computer synchronization.


Time Bomb

A destructive action, usually performed by a program that has been silently installed on a system or network, that is triggered when a specific time or date condition is met.


A type of browser plug-in, toolbars are applications which are ‘added on’ to web browser programs to provide additional functionality. Most toolbars are innocuous, but some toolbars are designed to secretly monitor a user’s online browsing behavior.

Tracking Cookies

Cookies that monitor and record a user’s browsing habits, collecting information about pages visited and advertisements seen during the browsing session.

Tracking cookies are typically used by advertisers wishing to analyze and manage advertising data, though they may be used for more malicious purposes.

Tracking cookies are far more limited in capability than most forms of tracking technology, as they are simply a text file on the user’s computer. Some users with concerns about privacy invasion or information security may choose to disable all use of all cookies by the web browser, in order to prevent tracking cookies from monitoring their activities.


Software that monitors user behavior or gathers information about the user. The information gathered can sometimes including personally identifiable details, passwords or other confidential data.


A program that appears to perform one action, while silently performing another action without the knowledge or authorization of the user.

A trojan typically does not replicate. There are numerous types of trojans, which are categorized based on the action(s) they perform.

Trojans were named after the Trojan Horse of Greek legend, and are sometimes referred to as Trojan Horse programs.


A trojan that downloads and installs programs on the targeted computer without the user’s knowledge or authorization.


A trojan that contains other programs in its payload and installs them without the user’s knowledge or authorization.


A trojan that forces the infected system to function as a proxy server in order to provide attackers with anonymous access to the Internet.


A trojan that is capable of stealing passwords, account login and user details, and other confidential information from an infected machine. A more sophisticated trojan-PSW may also be capable of sending the stolen information to the attacker.


A trojan that can function as, or install, a spy program such as a keylogger.


An online seal program. websites displaying the seal have agreed to abide with certain principles regarding user privacy. You can access the site’s privacy policy by clicking on the seal.



To copy or send files or data from one computer to another.



A program that bears sufficient similarity to a previously identified program to be categorized as a member of the same “family” of programs.


A computer virus is a program or programming code that replicates by being copied or initiating its copying to another program, computer boot sector or document. Viruses can enter your computer as attachments to an e-mail or in a downloaded file, or be present on a diskette or a CD. The virus source (the e-mail note, downloaded file, or diskette you’ve received) is usually unaware that it contains a virus.

What damage could a virus cause to your computer?

A computer virus attaches itself to, overwrites or otherwise replaces another program in order to reproduce itself without your knowledge. This may quickly use all your computer’s available memory and slow down the system or bring it to a halt. Viruses may damage data files or attempt to destroy files or make disks unreadable. Still others cause unintended damage. Viruses can delete files, format hard drives or mix up the data on them.


A flaw or security loophole that may allow other users, applications or attackers to affect a program or system without the user’s authorization or knowledge.

A vulnerability can be a flaw in a program’s fundamental design, a bug in its code that allows improper usage of the program, or simply weak security practices that allow attackers to access the program without directly affecting its code.

Patching a vulnerability requires the program vendor to create a patch or code to rectify the flaw or loophole and distribute it to all users in order to protect the system from exploitation.



W32 is the platform designator for 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. 32-bit refers to the chip architecture that the version of Windows is designed for.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)

A security protocol developed to fix flaws in WEP. Encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network.


WinCE is the platform designator for the Windows Mobile 5 and 6 operating systems (OS), which are designed for mobile devices based on Microsoft’s WIN32 API.

Mobile devices that run Windows Mobile include Pocket PCs, smart phones, and some on-board motor vehicle computers.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

A security protocol that encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network. Not as strong as WPA encryption.

Wireless Network

A method of accessing high speed Internet without the computer being linked by cables.

World Wide Web

An Internet system which distributes graphical, hyperlinked information through a browser.


A program that replicates by sending copies of itself from one infected system to other systems or devices accessible over a network.

Unlike viruses, worms can replicate independently; they do not need to infect a host in order to replicate.

There are many types of worms, which can be categorized based on the type of network they use to spread. For example, a Bluetooth-worm spreads mainly over Bluetooth networks, while IM-worms spread mostly over instant messaging networks, and so on. Some worms may also have multiple ways of spreading.

Worms used to more of a threat to network stability rather than system integrity, as replicating worms clogged up network connections and increased traffic load. Nowadays, many worms also include destructive payloads, making them much more threatening.


Zero-Day Exploit

A type of attack that exploits a recently publicized vulnerability or security loophole, in order to attack their targets before program vendors or the security community are able to develop a patch for the vulnerability. This type of attack can be very destructive.

The period between the public announcement of a vulnerability and the first release of a patch fixing the vulnerability is sometimes referred to as “zero hour” even if the actual time span is longer than an hour.


A computer system or server that is connected to the Internet and has been infected with specialized malware that allows the attacker to use the machine’s resources.

A bot-infected system will often be harnessed into a botnet, or a collection of similarly infected machines. The collective resources of the botnet can be used to perform a variety of malicious actions, including launching DDoS attacks or sending out spam.



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