Glossary of Cyber Terms

Adware: A form of malicious code that displays unsolicited advertising on your computer.

Anti-virus software: Software that attempts to block malicious programs/code/software (called viruses or malware) from harming your computer.

App: A web application, accessed over the Internet, for a mobile device (e.g., smartphone, tablet) that works much like user-installed software on a computer allowing the device to perform specific tasks.

Avatar: A personalized graphic file or rendering that represents a computer user or user’s alter ego, often used on Web exchange boards and in online gaming; can be a real-life digital photo, but is more often a graphical representation.

Bandwidth: Also called “data transfer rate,” the amount of data that can be carried online from one point to another in a given time period, usually expressed in bits (of data) per second (bps) or bytes per second (Bps). Dial-up Internet accounts, which use a standard telephone line to connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), have a very narrow bandwidth (about 50 Kbps or 50,000 bits per second) and take a long time to download data. A broadband Internet account can move data at anywhere from 128 Kbps to 2,000 Kbps or more and can download large files, such as video files, much faster.

Blog/Blogging (short for weblog): A diary or personal journal kept on a website. Blogs are usually updated frequently and sometimes entries are grouped by specific subjects, such as politics, news, pop culture, or computers. Readers often post comments in response to blog entries.

Bookmark: A saved link to a website that has been added to a list of saved links or favorite sites (i.e., “Favorites”) that you can click on directly, rather than having to retype the address when revisiting the site.

Bot: A bot (short for “robot”) is an automated program that runs over the Internet. Some bots run automatically, while others only execute commands when they receive specific input. There are many different types of bots, but some common examples include web crawlers, chat room bots, and malicious bots.

Botnet: A network of private computers, each of which is called a “bot,” infected with malicious software (malware) and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge for nefarious and, often, criminal purposes; computers are typically infected when users open up an infected attachment or visit an infected website.

Browser: A program that lets you find, see, and hear material on web pages. Popular browsers include  Safari, Microsoft inIernet Explorer, Firefox, and Google chrome.

Buddies (Buddy list): A list of friends a user interacts with online through various media such as instant messaging (IM) and chat.

Chatroom: A location online that allows multiple users to communicate electronically with each other in real time, as opposed to delayed time as with e-mail.

Cloud computing: A technology that uses the Internet and remote servers to maintain data and applications, allowing users to access applications without installation and access to their personal files from any computer with Internet access; centralizes storage, memory, processing, and bandwidth; examples include Yahoo email or Gmail with the software managed by the cloud service providers Yahoo and Google.

Closed systems: A limited network of sites that are rated and categorized by maturity level and quality. Within a closed system, children cannot go beyond the network whitelist of approved websites, also referred to as a “walled garden.”

Cookie: A piece of information about your visit to a website that some websites record automatically on your computer. By using a cookie, a website operator can determine a lot of information about you and your computer. Cookies are not always bad. For example, a cookie remembers that you prefer aisle seats in the front of the plane.

Cybercrime: Any Internet-related illegal activity.

Cybersecurity: Any technique, software, etc., used to protect computers and prevent online crime.

Cyberspace: The global network of interdependent information technology infrastructures, telecommunications networks, and computer processing systems; a metaphor for describing the non-physical terrain created by computer systems, it has come to mean anything associated with the Internet and the diverse Internet culture.

Cyberstalking: Methods individuals use to track, lure, or harass another person online.

Denial of Service Attack: Type of online computer attack designed to deprive user or groups of users normally accessible online services; generally involves effort by hackers to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.

Digital: Term commonly used in computing and electronics, describes any system in which data is converted to binary numeric form as in digital audio and digital photography; computers are digital machines because at their most basic level they can distinguish between just two values, 0 and 1, or off and on. All data that a computer processes must be encoded digitally as a series of zeroes and ones. The opposite of digital is analog; a typical analog device is a clock in which the hands move continuously around the face.

Digital signature: An electronic signature that can be used to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of a document; can also be used to ensure that the original content of the message or document that has been sent is unchanged; often used for software distribution, financial transactions, and in other cases where it is important to detect forgery or tampering.

Discussion boards: Also called Internet forums, message boards, and bulletin boards. These are online sites that allow users to post comments on a particular issue.

Domain name: The part of an Internet address to the right of the final dot used to identify the type of organization using the server, such as .gov or .com.

Domain Name System (DNS): A database system that translates Internet domain and host names to IP addresses; DNS automatically converts the name typed into a Web browser address bar to the IP addresses of Web servers hosting those sites.

Download: To copy a file from one computer system to another via the Internet (usually your computer or mobile device).

Electronic footprint: Computers maintain a record of all website visits and e-mail messages, leaving a trail of the user’s activity in cyberspace. These data can still exist even after the browser history has been cleared and e-mail messages have been deleted.

Email: Short for electronic mail, the transmission of digital messages over communications networks, including the Internet; consists of three components: the message envelope, the message header, and the message body.

Encryption: The conversion of digital information into a format unreadable to anyone except those possessing a “key” through which the encrypted information is converted back into its original form (decryption), making it readable again.

Favorite(s): The name for bookmarks (see above) used by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

File sharing: This software enables multiple users to access the same computer file simultaneously. File sharing sometimes is used illegally to download music or software.

Filter/Filtering: Allows you to block certain types of content from being displayed. Some of the things you can screen for include course language, nudity, sexual content, and violence. Different methods to screen unwanted Internet content include whitelisting, blacklisting, monitoring activity, keyword recognition, or blocking-specific functions such as e-mail or instant messages (IM). Filtering options are available through parental control software.

Firewall: A security system usually made up of hardware and software used to block hackers, viruses, and other malicious threats to your computer.

Geotagging: The process of adding geographical location, or label, to photographs, videos,  website, SMS messages, QR Codes, or RSS feeds; a geotag usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, altitude, distance, place names, and other details about the origin of the media being tagged helping users find a variety of online location-specific information.

Global Positioning System (GPS): Space-based satellite navigation system that provides positioning, navigation, and timing/distance information; maintained by the United States government and freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.

Hardware: A term for the actual computer equipment and related machines or computer parts.

History: A tracking feature of Internet browsers that shows all the recent websites visited.

Homepage: The site that is the starting point on the web for a particular group or organization.

HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web, defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands. For example, when an URL is entered into a browser, an HTTP command is sent to the Web server directing it to retrieve and transmit the requested Web page.

HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, provides secure communication over a network, such as the Internet; basically layers additional security measures over HTTP; used by financial and online commerce Web sites to ensure the security of private information.

Hyperlink: An element in an electronic document that links to another place in the same document or to an entirely different document; typically, you click on the hyperlink to follow the link. Hypertext is text with hyperlinks.

Identity theft: In this crime, someone obtains the vital information (e.g., credit card, social security number, bank account numbers) of another person, usually to steal money. E-mail scams, spyware, and viruses are among the most typical methods for stealing someone’s identity.

Instant message/messaging (IM): Private, real-time text conversation between two users.

Intellectual property: Usually governed by patent, trademark, and copyright law, a set of rights that are recognized for owners of various property (e.g., machines, musical, literary and artistic works, discoveries and inventions, and applications); applicability to digital realm is hotly contested area of the law.

Internet (net): A giant collection of computer networks that connects people and information all over the world.

Internet Service Provider (ISP): A generic term for any company that can connect you directly to the Internet. 

IP Address: A unique identifier in the form of a numerical label assigned to each device, such as a personal computer or server, participating in a network, such as the Internet.

JPEG: A standard method of compressing photographic images for storing and transmitting on the World Wide Web; JPEG is also the file format which employs this compression.

Keylogger: Also called keylogging and keystroke logging, is the action of tracking (or logging) the keys struck on a computer keyboard; usually runs hidden in the background and automatically records all keystrokes so that users are unaware of its presence and that their actions are being monitored.

Keyword: In computer programming, a word or identifier that has a particular meaning to the programming language; also a term that captures the essence of the topic of a document used by a search engine to retrieve online documents related to that term or terms.

Malware: Short for malicious software, software that disrupts or damages a computer’s operation, gathers sensitive or private information, or gains access to private computer systems; may include botnets, viruses, worms, Trojans, keyloggers, spyware, adware, and rootkits.

   • Botnet—a network of private computers, each of which is called a “bot,” infected with malicious software (malware) and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge for nefarious and, often, criminal purposes.

   • Virus—type of malware that has a reproductive capacity to transfer itself from one computer to another spreading infections between online devices.

   • Worm—type of malware that replicates itself over and over within a computer.

   • Trojan—type of malware that gives an unauthorized user access to a computer.

   • Spyware—type of malware that quietly sends information about a user’s browsing and computing habits back to a server that gathers and saves data.

   • Adware—type of malware that allows popup ads on a computer system, ultimately taking over a user’s Internet browsing.

   • Rootkit—a type of malware that opens a permanent “back door” into a computer system; once installed, a rootkit will allow more and more viruses to infect a computer as various hackers find the vulnerable computer exposed and attack.

Mobile web: The World Wide Web as accessed from mobile devices such as cell phones, PDAs, notebooks, and other portable gadgets connected to a public network. Access does not require a desktop computer.

Modem: A device installed in your computer or an external piece of hardware that connects your computer to the Internet through a phone or cable line and allows communication between computers.

Monitoring software: Software products that allow parents to monitor or track the websites or e-mail messages that a child visits or reads.

Network: Also called a computer network, is a collection of computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources (hardware, data, and software) and information; most common is the local area network or LAN, anywhere from a few computers in a small office to several thousand computer spread through dozens of buildings; a wide area network or WAN connects computers across multiple geographic locations, even on different continents.

Open source software: Software often developed and distributed to users at no cost in a public, collaborative manner; permits users to study, change, improve, and at times also distribute the software.

Operating system: A set of software or software platform on top of which other programs, called application programs, can run.

Password: A secret word or number that must be used to gain access to an online service or to modify software, such as a parental control.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) computing: A method of sharing files directly over the internet from one Internet-enabled device to another (computer, mobile phone, etc.), without being routed through a server.

Penetration testing: the practice of testing a computer system, network or Web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit.

PDF: Developed by Adobe Systems, a portable document format file that is a self-contained cross-platform document so that files will look the same on the screen and in print, regardless of the computer or printer being used or software used to originally create the file.

Phishing: A type of online fraud, where someone tries to trick the victim into revealing sensitive details, such as a username, password, or credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in electronic communication.

Plug-ins: Sometimes called add-ons, are software modules that add functionality to an application; commonly used in web browsers to play video, scan for viruses, and display new file types; well-known plug-in examples include Adobe Flash Player, QuickTime, and Microsoft Silverlight.

Pop-ups: Or pop-up ads, are a form of online advertising on the World Wide Web intended to attract web traffic or capture email addresses; created by advertisers, pop-ups generally appear unexpectedly in a small web browser window when a user is linking to a new Web site.

Post: To upload information to the Web.

Real-time: “Live” time; the actual time during which something takes place.

RSS: Really Simple Syndication is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works, such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format; users subscribe to RSS feeds, which automatically send favorite content to users who have signed up for the feeds.

Search engine: An Internet service that helps you search for information on the web.

Security software: A generic term referring to any computer program that secures a computer system or computer network; the two main types of security software are virus protection software and software that removes adware and spyware (both require regular updating to remain effective).

Server: A computer program or physical computer that services other computers over a local network or the Internet; network servers typically are configured with additional processing, memory, and storage capacity; specific to the Web, a Web server is a computer program (housed in a computer) that serves requested HTML pages or files.

SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is a protocol for sending e-email messages between servers.

Smart phone: Handheld device built on a mobile computing platform that features, typically, a digital camera, video camera, Global Positioning System (GPS), e-mail, and all the features of a standard cell phone; usually equipped with a high-definition, touch pad screen and miniature keyboard, smartphone allows downloading of apps for a wide range of uses.

SMS: Stands for “short Message service,” a form of text messaging on cell phones, sometimes used between computers and cell phones.

Social Media: Online communities, also known as social networks, where people share information about themselves, music files, photos, etc. There are many social networking websites (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or Friendster).

Social networking: Using Internet-based tools that allow people to listen, interact, engage, and collaborate with each other; popular social networking platforms include Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Software: Specifically, computer software, is a collection of computer programs, procedures, algorithms, and its documentation that provides instructions for telling a computer what to do and how to do it. In contrast, hardware (specifically, computer hardware) is the collection of physical elements that comprise a computer system, including a CPU, monitor, keyboard, hard disk, and printer.

Spam: Any unsolicited e-mail, or junk mail. Most spam is either a money scam or sexual in nature. Internet service Providers, e-mail software, and other software can help block some, but not all, spam.

Spyware: A wide variety of software installed on people’s computers, which collects information about you without your knowledge or consent and sends it back to whoever wrote the spyware program. The programs typically will track computer use and create numerous pop-up ads. in some instances, the spyware can damage the computer and facilitate identity theft.

SQL: Structured query language, a special-purpose programming language designed for managing data in relational database management systems.

Surfing: Similar to channel surfing on a television, Internet surfing involves users browsing around various websites following whatever interests them.

Tablet computer: A kind of mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, usually having a flat touchscreen or pen-enabled interface.

Texting: A method of sending short messages (also called SMSes, txts, or text messaging) between mobile phones and other computer-enabled devices.

TLS: Transport layer security (and its predecessor, secure sockets layer/SSL), are cryptographic protocols that provides communication security over the Internet.

Uniform Resource Locator (url): The address of a site on the internet. For example, the uRL for the White house is: Each URL is unique and there are millions of them.

Upload: To send information from your computer to another computer.

USB Port: Universal Serial Bus port, a single, standardized way to connect devices (modems, printers, scanners, digital cameras, etc.) to a personal computer.

Username: The name a user selects to be identified on a computer, on a network, or in an online gaming forum.

Videocam (webcam): Video cameras that are either attached or built into a computer so that a video image can be sent to another while communicating online.

Virtual Private Network (VPN): A technology that creates an encrypted connection over a less secure network. The benefit of using a secure VPN is it ensures the appropriate level of security to the connected systems when the underlying network infrastructure alone cannot provide it. 

Voice chat: A modern form of communication using the Internet through services such as Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, or Windows Live Messenger.

VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol, a technology that allows voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.

Virus: A self-replicating software program that typically arrives through e-mail attachments and which multiplies on the hard drive, quickly exhausting the computer’s memory. A trojan is a variation that allows unauthorized users access to the computer, from which they can send infected e-mails or spam.

Webcam: A video camera that feeds images in real time to a computer or computer network; can be used to establish video links permitting computers to act as videophones or videoconference stations; also used for security surveillance, video broadcasting, and social videos (such as many viewed on YouTube).

Web server: Computer hardware and software that runs a  website and is always connected to the Internet; using HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), a Web server delivers Web pages to browsers and other data files to Web-based applications; every Web server has an IP address and often a domain name.

Website: A collection of specially formatted, related Web files (or pages) on a particular subject or organization that are stored on a computer known as a web server and accessible through a network such as the Internet; include a beginning file called a home page; a web page can contain any type of content, including text, color, graphics, animation, and sound.

Wi-Fi: A technology that allows an electronic device (personal computer, video game console, smartphone, tablet, digital audio player) to exchange data wirelessly (using radio waves) over a computer network.

Wi-Fi hotspot: A wireless access point to the Internet or other computer network over a wireless local area network through the use of a router connected to a link to an Internet service provider; frequently found in coffee shops and other public establishments, a hotspot usually offers Internet access within a range of about 65 feet (20 meters) indoors and a greater range outdoors; many smartphones provide built-in ability to establish a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wireless computers: Many networks now allow computers access to the Internet without being connected with wires. These networks are becoming increasingly more popular and powerful, allowing people to access the Internet using cell phones and other devices.

World Wide Web (www or web): A hypertext-based navigation system on the Internet that lets you browse through a variety of linked resources, using typed commands or clicking on hot links. 

ZIP: A file format used for data compression and archiving; a zip file contains one or more files that have been compressed to make file size considerably smaller than the original file; the zipped version of files have a .zip file extension; can significantly reduce e-mail transmission time and save on storage space.