Security Glossary

Below is a list of definitions, by no means complete, of the various terms used when discussing Security, Spyware, Adware, Viruses, etc

while not necessarily malware, Adware is considered to go beyond the reasonable advertising that one might expect from freeware or shareware. Typically a separate program that is installed at the same time as a shareware or similar program, Adware will usually continue to generate advertising even when the user is not running the originally desired program. See also cookies, Spyware, and Web Bugs.

A backdoor in a computer system (or a cryptosystem, or even in an algorithm) is a method of bypassing normal authentication or obtaining remote access to a computer, while intended to remain hidden to casual inspection. The backdoor may take the form of an installed program (e.g., Back Orifice) or could be a modification to a legitimate program.

A backdoor in a login system could take the form of a hard-coded user and password combination which gives access to the system. A famous example of this was used as a plot device in the 1983 film WarGames, wherein the designer of a computer system had inserted an undocumented application (named after his son) which gave the user access to the system.

BHO - Browser Helper Object
A browser helper object, or BHO, is a plug-in for the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser. The BHO application programming interface exposes hooks that allow the BHO to access the document object model of the current page and to control navigation. Each BHO is a COM object inside a DLL that is loaded by new instances of Internet Explorer. The Google toolbar is an example of a BHO.

Persistent Client-State HTTP Cookies are files containing information about visitors to a web site (e.g. user name and preferences). This information is provided by the user during the first visit to a web server. The server records this information in a text file and stores this file on the visitor's hard drive. When the visitor accesses the same web site again the server looks for the cookie and configures itself based on the information provided.

A generic term increasingly being used to describe any form of malicious software; eg, viruses, Trojan Horses, malicious active content, etc

A form of Identity Theft - typically an e-mail is sent to you that looks like it comes from a legitimate company (E-Bay has been a typical target) telling you that you must update your records and verify your username and password. The site is really a place to collect that information from you and steal your identity, money, records and whatever they can. Congress is trying to work on laws to help, but based on the ineffective Can Spam act, it is doubtful to help. Knowledge is the most effective preventive mechanism today - Legitimate companies do not ask you for your login information by e-mail.

(From Hormel's Spiced Ham, via the Monty Python "Spam" song) To post irrelevant or inappropriate messages to one or more Usenet newsgroups, mailing lists, or other messaging system in deliberate or accidental violation of netiquette.

To indiscriminately send large amounts of unsolicited e-mail meant to promote a product or service. Spam in this sense is sort of like the electronic equivalent of junk mail sent to "Occupant".

A general term for a program that surreptitiously monitors your actions. While they are sometimes sinister, like a remote control program used by a hacker, software companies have been known to use Spyware to gather data about customers. The practice is generally frowned upon.

Trojan Horse
An apparently useful and innocent program containing additional hidden code which allows the unauthorized collection, exploitation, falsification, or destruction of data.

a virus is a (usually malicious) computer program that can travel surreptitiously from computer to computer.

Web Bugs
A web bug (also known as a tracking bug, pixel tag, Web beacon or clear gif) is a technique for determining who viewed an HTML-based email message or a web page, when they did so, how many times, how long they kept the message open, etc. Usually, a web bug is a transparent image or an image in the color of the background of what you are viewing. It is typically 1*1 pixels in size.

A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program, similar to a computer virus. A virus attaches itself to, and becomes part of, another executable program; a worm is self-contained and does not need to be part of another program to propagate itself. More notable Worms include Sobig and MyDoom

The name 'worm' was taken from The Shockwave Rider, a 1970s science fiction novel by John Brunner. Researchers writing an early paper on experiments in distributed computing noted the similarities between their software and the program described by Brunner and adopted the name.

Zombie PC
A personal computer being used by malware to perform a task without the knowledge of the user. Tasks include sending out Spam, serving pornography, performing a Denial of Service attack, etc

Some Definitions obtained from


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