Security Glossary

A glossary of definitions dealing with security on electronic devices. This includes related terms and phrases for Internet and AntiVirus security on computers, smartphones and tablets. Other definitions may apply in different circumstances but are not included.

For reviews on security software please see our Internet Security and AntiVirus categories.

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Term Definition
Firewall

Software or hardware that prevents computers on a network from communicating directly with outside computer systems. A firewall typically acts as a barrier through which all information passing between the networks and the external systems must travel. The firewall software analyzes information passing between the two and rejects it if it does not conform to its guidelines.

Internet Security
Is a branch of computer security specifically related to the Internet, often involving browser security and network security as a whole.
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Malware

A generic term used to describe malicious software such as viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, and malicious active content.

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Phishing

A form of criminal activity using emotional manipulation to lure people online, usually through email or instant messaging. Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire other people’s personal information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business.

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Spam

Unsolicited bulk electronic messages. Sometimes spam includes legitimate advertisements, but other times it can be a phishing tactic to gain personal information.

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Spyware

A wide range of unwanted programs that exploit infected computers for commercial gain. They can deliver unsolicited pop-up advertisements, steal personal information (including financial information such as credit card numbers), monitor web-browsing activity for marketing purposes, or route HTTP requests to advertising sites.

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Trojan Horse

A malicious program that pretends to be something beneficial; a Trojan horse program purposefully does something the user does not expect. Trojans are not viruses since they do not replicate, but Trojan horse programs can be just as destructive.

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Worm

Viruses that reside in the active memory of a computer and duplicate themselves. They may send copies of themselves to other computers, such as through email or messaging programs.

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