Computer Jargon in Plain English
The December 2009 issue of the SANS Institute's security newsletter OUCH! carried the following article on computer jargon, reprinted to help put you in-the-know.
3G: Third Generation cellular service. Enhanced wide-area wireless networking at speeds of up to 14 Megabits/second.
4G: Fourth Generation cellular service or WIMAX. An emerging wide-area networking technology that promises a range of 10 miles and speeds of up to 100 Megabits/second.
BROADBAND: Broad bandwidth networking. High-speed Internet connections, like DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), Cable Internet, and 3G (Third Generation) cellular services.
CABLE OR CABLE INTERNET: The other most common way to bring Internet to homes over cable TV lines at speeds ranging from 1.5 to 50 Megabits/second.
DSL: Digital Subscriber Line. One of the most common ways to bring Internet to homes and small businesses over a telephone line at up to
EDGE or EVDO: An older kind of wide-area wireless networking-like a whole city--based on first and second generation cellphone technology with speeds ranging from 300 to 400 kilobits/second.
ETHERNET: A way of connecting computers to networks using a cable at speeds ranging from 10 to 10,000 Megabits/second.
FiOS: Fiber-Optic Service. An emerging technology that provides Internet to homes and offices over fiber-optic cables at speeds from 15 to 50 Megabits/second.
FIREWALL: Software or hardware that prevents outsiders from accessing a computer or network.
IP ADDRESS: Internet Protocol Address. Every computer on the Internet is identified by a unique set of numbers known as an Internet Protocol address--usually four numbers separated by dots, for example: 22.214.171.124. These numerical addresses are normally invisible to users and are translated into familiar Web addresses, like http://www.google.com.
ROUTER: A device that finds the best route for sending information between networks.
WI-FI: Wireless Fidelity. The most common kind of short-range wireless networking--about 300 feet--at speeds of up to 108 Megabits/second.
KEYLOGGERS: Spyware that monitors your keystrokes surreptitiously and sends the information to a "Bad Guy."
RANSOMWARE: A cyber-extortion scheme in which thieves use malware--like phony security programs--to take control of your computer and demand that you pay a ransom to regain control.
SPYWARE and ADWARE: Spyware is a malicious program that installs itself on your computer surreptitiously and monitors and reports your activities and personal information to third parties. Adware is a kind of spyware that generates annoying popup ads.
TROJAN HORSE: A malicious program that may appear harmless-or even useful-but can also conceal and download other malware that compromises the security and functioning of your computer.
VIRUS: A self-replicating program designed to cause damage or mischief that inserts itself into a software program on your computer. Viruses spread from computer to computer, most often through infected emails or websites.
WORM: Similar to a virus, but worms are self-contained, spread via networks, and do not need to become part of another program in order to spread. Worms infect your operating system and act like a program.
HACKERS AND CRACKERS: Individuals who break into systems with malicious intent, destroy data, steal copyrighted software or confidential information, and perform other destructive or illegal acts with computers and networks.
IDENTITY THEFT: Cybercriminals steal identities by overhearing conversations on cellphones, intercepting faxes and emails, hacking into computers, employing telephone and email scams, and phishing the users of online services.
PHISHING: A widespread form of Internet fraud that aims to steal valuable information such as credit card and social security numbers and usernames and passwords, by sending you misleading emails designed to lure you into visiting phony or rigged websites.
SNIFFING: Listening in on a network in order to capture and steal sensitive information.
SOCIAL ENGINEERING: Deceptions by criminals posing as someone you trust in order to get you to divulge sensitive information.
SPOOFING: An attack in which a person or program you shouldn't trust masquerades as a person or program you do trust. For example, an attacker forges an email address in order to make you believe it's from someone you know and trust.
VULNERABILITIES AND EXPLOITS: Your computer is vulnerable when a hardware or software flaw makes it possible to compromise its security and smooth operation. An exploit is a software application or program that takes advantage of a vulnerability to attack your system.