Terms to Know


Software application in which advertising banners or 'pop ups' are displayed on your computer screen while the program is running.


Software that is designed to protect your computer from malicious spyware that monitors your online activities and collects personal information while you surf the web. This should be set to update automatically.


Anti-virus software protects your computer from viruses and should be set to update automatically.


To convert information or data into a cipher or code in order to prevent unauthorized access.


A firewall is like a guard, a wall, or fence, watching for outside attempts to access your system and blocking communications from and to sources you don't permit in order to protect your personal information.

Hacker, attacker, or intruder

These terms are applied to the people who seek to exploit weaknesses in software and computer systems for personal, political or financial gain.

Malicious code

This is computer code (instructions) meant to do harm to your computer. This category includes code such as viruses, worms, and trojan horses. Although some people use these terms interchangeably, they have unique characteristics.


(Pronounced 'fishing') is a highly prevalent online scheme used by Internet cyber-criminals to 'lure' you into providing your personal and financial information online through e-mail and/or pop-ups.


Sometimes companies or individuals purchase e-mail address lists to send ads for products and services. The unsolicited e-mail is defined as "Spam". They fill your e-mail boxes up with junk e-mails.

Trojan horses

Software that claims to be one thing while in fact doing something different behind the scenes. For example, a program that claims it will speed up your computer may actually be sending confidential information to a remote intruder.


This type of malicious code requires you to actually do something before it infects your computer. This action could be opening an e-mail attachment or going to a particular web page. Once you take the action then the virus begins doing what it is programmed to do, like delete all of your files or make your machine reboot constantly.


Worms propagate without user intervention. They typically start by exploiting a software vulnerability (a flaw that allows the software's intended security policy to be violated), then once the victim's computer has been infected the worm will attempt to find and infect other computers. Similar to viruses, worms can propagate via e-mail, websites, or network-based software. The automated self-propagation of worms distinguishes them from viruses.