You’ve probably seen hundreds of articles about cyber-security this past year. Sometimes the terms used to explain what’s happening can be pretty confusing. That’s why we’ve got this handy guide explaining some of the terms you see in the article. Hopefully, this makes it all a bit easier to understand.

Hacker – A proficient computer user or programmer who has extensive knowledge of a
computer’s weak points.

Vulnerability – A weakness that allows an attacker to compromise a computer.
Virus – Malicious software that copies itself and is loaded onto a computer without the user’s knowledge after opening a file or program.

Antivirus software – Software used to protect a system from malware and viruses.

Malware – Malicious software, designed for the sole purpose of damaging or disabling a
computer system.

Spyware – Tracking software that hides in the computer and gathers information without the user’s knowledge.

Adware – Computer software that is often bundled with other programs and tracks browsing habits. This usually displays pop ups or banners to earn income for advertisers. This is legal if permission is given and that permission is often hidden in the End User License Agreement.

Ransomware – A form of malware that encrypts files on the infected computer and allows a hacker access to those files. The user is usually provided with a pop up that is similar to a ransom note informing the user the files will only be available after the purchase of a code.

Worm – A form of malware that replicates itself and spreads through a computer network. It can also send copies of itself to other computers.

Trojan horse – A destructive program that acts as a harmless application. The program can then delete and destroy files or open a “backdoor” to the computer, allowing attackers complete access to the computer.

Backdoor – Method in which a hacker bypasses normal authentication of a system and enters without the knowledge of the user.

Firewall – Limits data that can pass through it and prevents damage by unauthorized users. Firewalls can be either hardware or software based.

VPN – A Virtual Private Network. Encrypts and secures a connection over a public or untrusted network to provide a secure network.

Exploit – A tool designed to take advantage of a flaw in a computer system.

Phishing – Sending fraudulent emails for the purpose of obtaining financial or personal  information.

Pharming – Compromising a user’s computer so that the user goes to fraudulent websites without the user’s knowledge.

Rootkit – Set of tools that are programmed to install on a computer without the user’s knowledge. This gives an attacker full control of the system.

Spam – Junk email or irrelevant postings on a forum.

Captcha – A program used to verify that a human, rather than a computer, is entering data. Typically, the text will have lines or be irregular so automated programs cannot recognize it.

Encrypt – Scramble data for security purposes. To open encrypted data, the user must have a key of some sort to unscramble that data.

Keylogger – A program or device that records all keystrokes entered on a computer.

Screen logger – Similar to a keylogger, records images or screen captures of your
computer screen.

Patch – An update to a vulnerable program or system. Vendors of programs will release patches or updates when an exploit is discovered, so it is important to keep your programs up to date.