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Glossary of Terms


Unknowingly downloaded and installed on your computer and goes beyond reasonable advertising, continually generating pop-up ads while you are web browsing. Not all Adware is harmful, but often users are annoyed by Adware's intrusive behavior.

Antivirus Software
A computer program used to scan for, detect and eliminate malicious software and viruses from your computer. You should periodically download the latest versions of antivirus software to protect your computer from new viruses that arise. No antivirus software can offer total protection against viruses, so it is important to only download programs from secure sites or open email attachments if you know the sender.

A hidden method for bypassing normal computer authentication or access systems.

A jargon term for a collection of software robots, or bots, which run autonomously and automatically. They run on groups of zombie computers controlled remotely. This can also refer to the network of computers using distributed computing software.

Check or "Money Mule" scams
These scams take many forms, such as work-from-home schemes and Internet auction overpayment scams. The common thread, however, is that an unsuspecting victim deposits a check or money order into their bank account then wires a portion of the money to a criminal. By the time the check is confirmed as counterfeit the money has already been wired and picked up by the criminal, leaving the victim without recourse for retrieving the funds they wired.

Credit Monitoring
Immediately reports all changes and inquiries made to a credit report. If your identity has been stolen, you will be able to identify it since you can monitor your ongoing credit history.

One of the most effective methods of securing information on a website or email message so that it cannot be read by a third party. The technique involves scrambling data entered on websites to make the data unintelligible to unauthorized parties. Encryption is often used on websites that conduct eCommerce and store personal information.

A system that prevents unauthorized access to corporate, private and home networks. In the physical sense, it's equivalent to a locked door that only allows access to people who have the key. An enterprise with an intranet that allows its workers access to the wider Internet will install a firewall to prevent outsiders from accessing its own private data resources.

An act that occurs when someone uses your account to make unauthorized transactions. This happens after your card, card number, online credentials or other account details have been stolen.

A computer criminal who tries to get access to a computer system without authorization.

Identity Theft
Occurs when someone steals your name and personal information for fraudulent purposes, typically for financial gain. Most commonly, this term is used in relation to credit card fraud.

Key Logging Software
Monitors each keystroke a computer user types on a specific computer keyboard. Key loggers are widely available on the Internet and can be used by anyone for malicious intent. It is almost impossible to detect a key logger on your computer, and even if you're careful, you'll never know if it is recording information such as bank account passwords and credit card numbers. The best rule of thumb is to carefully monitor what you download on your computer and what sites you visit. Be aware of downloading free software from an unfamiliar site that could leave you vulnerable to a potential hacker.

Malware ("Malicious Software")
Any software developed with the sole purpose to destroy or harm your personal computer or a computer network.

Opt in
Giving permission for an organization to use information in a specific way.

Opt out
Withdrawing permission for an organization to use information in a specific way.

A software update meant to fix problems with a computer program. This can range from fixing bugs, to replacing graphics, to improving the usability or performance of a previous version.

Redirects users to a fraudulent spoof Web site without their knowledge when they type in a legitimate Web site address. Usually the work of a Trojan Horse or other related virus.

"Phishing" (pronounced "fishing") is the act of sending an e-mail that fraudulently represents a legitimate company and "lures" you (hence, the phishing name) into divulging personal and financial information that could then be used for identity theft. The damage caused by phishing ranges from loss of e-mail access to substantial financial loss. This style of identity theft is becoming more popular because of the ease with which unsuspecting people often divulge personal information to phishers, including Social Security numbers and mothers’ maiden names.

Learn more about Phishing.

PIN (Personal Identification Number)
A confidential number created in order for a system to be able to authenticate you as the proper user. This is often used for ATM access with a banking card.

Unwanted advertising that appears when you are connected to the Internet. They usually appear as new, small browser windows. Pop-ups are a form of online advertising on the World Wide Web intended to increase web traffic or capture e-mail addresses. Many web browsers now allow users to block pop-ups completely.

Service pack
A software program that corrects known bugs or problems, or adds new features to a software program already installed on your computer.

Captures the track data from the magnetic stripe on a credit card, Debit Card or ATM card via a device that is illegally added to the ATM swiper.

SMS text Phishing. A text message that appears to be sent from a legitimate source, such as a bank or credit card company, the goal of which is to gain personal details. The message will typically be an urgent appeal to call a phone number or follow a link in the message. The phone number or website will then ask for sensitive account or personal information.

An online identity theft scam. Typically, criminals send emails that look like they're from legitimate sources, but are not (phishing). The fake messages generally include a link to phony, or spoofed, websites, where victims are asked to provide sensitive personal information. The information goes to criminals, rather than the legitimate business. See also Phishing.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
A protocol designed to create a secure connection over the Internet while web browsing. SSL works by creating a temporary, shared code between two computers, allowing you to transmit personal data securely. A site using SSL will display the image of a lock in the bottom-right corner of the status bar. You can also set your Web browser to alert you if you enter a site not secured through SSL.

Shoulder Surfing
Persons standing behind you at ATM machines or phone booths to see what PIN numbers, passwords or credit card numbers you type in or say over the phone. Shoulder surfing is particularly effective in crowded places because it’s relatively easy to stand next to someone and watch as they fill out a form or enter their PIN at an automated teller machine.

Thieves implant a data storage device at an ATM or retail checkout terminal that reads (or "skims") the magnetic strip on your credit or debit card as you swipe it. You still physically have your card, but they have virtually recorded your card's number and can re-create another card with your number.

Social Engineering
Obtaining confidential information through the manipulation of legitimate users. A social engineer will commonly use the telephone or Internet to trick people into revealing sensitive information. Social engineers exploit the natural tendency of a person to trust their word, rather than exploit computer security holes. The simplest, but still effective, attack is tricking a user into thinking one is an administrator and requesting a password for various purposes.

Unwanted or unsolicited messages usually sent in mass quantities through e-mail, typically for advertising purposes.

A software application that can be remotely installed (by a pop-up or a virus) on any computer that you are using (your home PC, an Internet café, library computer, etc.) without your knowledge, which lets a thief track everything you do online. More benign programs attempt to track what types of Web sites a user visits then sends this information to an advertisement agency. More malicious versions try to intercept passwords or credit card numbers.

Trojan Horse
A computer program that masquerades as something it isn't, such as a game, but performs a destructive activity once it is run, such as stealing a password or destroying data on your hard drive. A Trojan Horse is technically a normal computer program and does not possess the means to spread itself. It relies on fooling people to perform actions that they would otherwise not have voluntarily performed. For example, you might click on a link thinking you are downloading a free screensaver, but instead the program starts erasing files off your computer.

A practice of tricking someone over the telephone into giving out personal and financial information. The victim usually receives an automated call telling them their credit card has been used fraudulently and provides a phone number for them to call and report it. The phone number is usually answered by an automated service that proceeds to ask the victim for credit card information, PINs, Social Security numbers, etc. Once the victim enters the information, the visher can use it for unauthorized charges.

Voice Over Internet Protocol is a way to make and receive phone calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a traditional phone line.

Typically, a malicious program that reproduces itself over a network and uses up computer resources or shuts down the system.


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