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Glossary (Computer Security)



Adware is a sponsored advertising program which comes with freeware. Some software developers consider this as a legitimate way to cover their developing cost when they provide the computer program for free.  The advertisement may appear as a pop up ad when you run the freeware.  Some adware programs not only show advertisements, they also spy on the user’s browsing habits.  In this case, they are considered as spyware.



Bot is the short form of robot, internet bot or web robot.  It is an application that runs automatic tasks over the internet.  Bots can be used to perform simple and repetitive tasks at a very high speed.  If used maliciously, bots can be installed in the computer as hidden applications via worms, Trojan horses or backdoors.  The infected computers are called zombie computers and a network of infected machines is known as “botnet”.  Botnet is controlled by a remote master computer which orders these zombie computers to carry out cyber crimes, such as denial of service attack, spamming, click fraud etc.


Computer Viruses

Computer viruses are parasitic programs that have the ability to replicate and spread to other computers.  They attach themselves to executable files (their hosts) and the virus codes run once you execute those files.  Computer viruses are often spread by email attachments and shared files.  They can damage the boot sector, system BIOS, software and data files.


Computer worms

Computer worms are also malicious programs.  Unlike computer viruses, computer worms are self contained; they can replicate and spread without being part of a host program.  Worms usually spread at enormous speed in the network, causing damage to the network or clog up bandwidth whereas viruses usually corrupt files or damage system BIOS or boot sector.



Hackers and crackers are computer users who try to gain unauthorized and illegal access to your computers. Their action is often malicious, they can install an application in your computer, use your computer to hack another machine, corrupt your data files or steal sensitive information such as banking and identity data. 



Pharming (pronounced “farming”) is another form of online fraud.  Unlike Phishers, pharmers don’t use spam message to catch their victims, they use technology to swap out a large number of legitimate web sites for bogus web sites.  Even if you type the right domain name in the address bar, pharmers can redirect you to bogus web sites to steal confidential information, load spyware and adware to your computer or send you to adult sites or sites selling pills.  Pharming harvests victims in a large scale and is a more dangerous crime than phishing.



Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is a process of stealing sensitive information from computer users.  Phishers use spam messages as a bait to trick you to go to phish sites which look like legitimate sites.  They will then ask you to enter confidential information such as user ID, password, bank account number etc.  Phishers work like putting a fishing line in the water, catching those who get on the hook. 



Spam messages are junk email messages including unsolicited advertising that are sent to a large number of recipients.  Spam messages are not only annoying; they are also used to spread viruses, worms, spyware and phishing messages.



Spyware is a hidden program that secretly monitors your actions without your knowledge (a program that spies on you).  Spyware is often used to monitor your browsing and shopping habits.  It can also be a remote control program used by a hacker, stealing confidential personal data from your computer. Most people unknowingly install spyware in the computer when they click on pop up ads or download freeware or shareware.  Spyware may cause identity theft, computer problems, slow internet access, hijacked browser homepage and uncontrolled pop-up ads. 


Trojan horse

Trojan horses are malicious programs in disguise as some useful or innocent programs. Unlike computer viruses and worms, Trojans horses cannot replicate and spread by themselves.  Trojan horses are sent via email attachment or malicious web sites, they may also be hidden codes embedded in a legitimate program.  Trojan horses can damage your files or create security leak in your system.



Flaws or weaknesses in computer software which are subject to the attack of malicious programs leading to damage of the computer.



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