Internet security glossary

There is a lot of jargon you will encounter as you learn about internet security. You don’t have to be confused as this glossary will break down each and every term so you can know what’s what.



Adware is also known as advertising-supported software and it is responsible for the display of advertisements in your computer in the forms of banners and pop-ups. These ads that are targeted to you are an additional way software companies make money. Adware can be on your computer and running without your knowledge, while some are downloaded intentionally. While adware is basically a nuisance as it interrupts you with all the ads rather than a threat to your internet security, some of them, however, collect your browsing information and sell to third parties.

How Adware Works

Basically, the adware can be classified as a nuisance as those ads can be annoying instead of as a threat to your security. This is not always true as some adware might collect your data about your browsing behavior and sell it to third parties. The information may include the websites you visit, and your duration on each one and is used by advertising companies to target ads to you based on what they assume are your preferences. A device can become infected with adware through two means. The first way it can get it is by being installed alongside other software. This type of infestation is most common with shareware and freeware. The second means is when you visit a website that is infested. Visiting such a website puts your web browser at its most vulnerable state and the adware takes advantage of this and installs itself without you even knowing. Once it gets into your device, it can begin to collect your private information, redirect you from each page link you click on to a malicious website, and inserts more ads to your browser.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is also known as anti-malware software. It functions by scanning your device to detect the presence of malware and restrict its spread. Malware doesn’t stay the same but is constantly evolving and for that reason, anti-virus cannot always detect it. This means that your device could be at risk without you knowing and without your anti-virus knowing. Anti-virus software is also used at an administrative level for example by email servers to scan emails.

How Anti-Virus Software Works

You can use anti-virus to protect your device from different types of threats including malware, malicious browser helper objects, browser hijackers, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoors, rootkits, Trojan horses, worms, malicious LSPs, dialers, fraud tools, adware, and also spyware. Modern versions of anti-virus often come with real-time virus protection to protect your device against attacks as they come, as well as a system scan that goes through all your system files looking for threats. You have different anti-virus programs for every operating system but remember that none of them is perfect. Some operating systems have taken the initiative to install anti-virus software to protect the device. An example is windows 10 with their pre-installed windows defender. It is not impossible to have more than one anti-virus installed on your system, but you need to be aware that this could cause both performance issues and compatibility issues.

Asymmetric Encryption

Asymmetric encryption is also called public-key cryptography. It is a type of encryption that needs two keys before access to a server can be granted. The keys are a public key to encrypt, and a matching private key to decrypt.

How Asymmetric Encryption Works

Asymmetric encryption is used on the internet to allow private communication without either party knowing each other’s private encryption key in advance. The receiver’s public key can be used by anyone to encrypt a message but only the receiver can decrypt it. Asymmetric encryption is more intensive computationally than symmetric encryption and so it is often the preferred choice to establish a ‘handshake’ where a private key is exchanged between the sender and receiver. The private key that is exchanged is then used in symmetric encryption for communication. This is a common process when visiting ‘https’ sites.



A backdoor opens a loophole through which hackers and other individuals with malicious intent can have access to your device and infect it with malware and spam. Just as its name, it opens a backdoor to your device.

How Backdoors Work

Backdoors are used to get around the security of your device and then gain access. Software developers often install backdoors in their program to allow for troubleshooting and as this serves a positive purpose, it can also be exploited by malicious individuals to gain access to your device. The term ‘backdoor’ is used to describe loopholes that exist in your device on purpose for some reasons which could be to allow government surveillance groups to have access to the smartphones and computers of its citizens. The most common backdoor in existence is perhaps the continued use of default passwords. If you have ever had access to a Wi-Fi router’s admin console by typing a password like admin into the username field, and password into the password field, then you have gained access using a backdoor.


A backup as you must have imagined is an extra copy of the files and data you have on your device. Backups are stored in another location for safety such as in another drive or stored to the cloud. If your files stored in your device go missing or get corrupt, your backup will save the say.

How Backups Work

A backup is an exact replica of what exists in the original folder. If you add a file to a backed-up folder, it will also appear in the backup, and if a file is deleted from the backed up folder, it will be deleted from the backup. Some backup programs, however, allow you a period of time for the recovery of deleted files. This feature distinguishes between backup and storage as storage saves files that do not exist in any other location. Examples of storage are google drive and dropbox. What most backup software does is to copy the user files and save them in an external location, away from the computer. User files in this scenario include documents, photos, movies, downloads, and also music. The operating system, settings, or programs are not backed up and if you also want to save these, a full system or bare-bones backup would be needed. Full system backups are clones or they could be images that are useful when there is complete hard disk failure.

Blended Threat

A blended threat just as the name implies is a combination of malware put together into one pesky package. An example of this could be a combination of a keylogger, a Trojan horse, and a worm. These types of threats require the use of a blend of security tools and layers of protection to fight off.

How a Blended Threat Works

Blended threats make up the majority of top-class attacks today. They work by targeting and spreading in networked computers like those with access to the internet. To defend against such threats, the best bet is with the use of up-to-date firewalls, antivirus, and security patches


A blog is the shortened form of weblog and it is a website where users publish web content regularly. Blog posts are usually displayed with the newest appearing first.

How Blog Works

It is relatively easy to publish blog posts so blogs have become more common on the internet. There are several blogging platforms that make it very simple to create a blog and these platforms include WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and a lot more. Blogs are made up of a wide variety of content and with the advancement in blogging and a widened definition, the difference between traditional mass media and blogging seizes to exist more and more.

Bluetooth or IEEE 802.15.1

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that is used for short-distance exchange of data between devices. It also makes it possible for devices to have wireless communication between mice, keyboards, telephones, tablets, headsets, and a lot of other devices.

How Bluetooth Works

Bluetooth can be used to enable communication between devices. This is done by pairing between devices such as headsets, smartphones, keyboards, fitness trackers, speakers, printers, and car stereos too. It is maintained by a private company and various versions of the technology have been released, a new one better than the previous. The latest Bluetooth release, Bluetooth 5, promises to increase the connection range by four, and increase the speed of transfer by two when compared to the previous version.

Bot or Web Bot

A bot is from the term ‘robot’ and it describes a software program that is used to perform automated tasks. Bots have many legitimate uses like crawling and indexing a web page for greater efficiency of web engines, they can also be used for malicious purposes. Malicious bots can be used to take over the operations of a computer, deploy malware attacks and steal or destroy user data.

How Bot Works

Bots have very important uses in the efficiency of a search engine by performing crawling and indexing functions. They can also be used for malicious purposes as evil bots can be used to take over computers and compromise user data. Bots are being used recently in low-level artificial intelligence programs that allow users to communicate with it over chat channels like Facebook messenger. It is still at its primitive stage at the moment, but it is speculated that bots could become a primary feature in eCommerce and customer service delivery amongst others in the nearest future.

Botnet or Zombie Armies

A botnet is also known as a zombie army and it is a collection of computers with compromised systems by an individual with malicious intent. The hacker or cybercriminal uses these devices to cause acts like cyber malice, which could involve spam circulation and denial-of-service attacks.

How Botnet Works

A botnet is a word from both robot and network. The machines that are compromised and used for these malicious attacks are often infected with malware or viruses, unknown to the owner. The bots remain dominant and hidden until activated to perform an attack. Botnets also have some legal applications as well. Distributed computing can make use of a botnet, for example, to take advantage of idle resources on multiple computers to do jobs that would be impossible with a single computer.

Browser Hijacker

A browser hijacker is used to change the settings of your browser without your permission. It replaces your homepage, search page, and error page with its own pages. All your internet activity gets redirected by this program and this way advertising revenue together with your data is collected from you.

How Browser Hijacker Works

Browser hijackers often find their way into computers through malicious websites and software, especially browser toolbars. You can easily remove them using antivirus software, but the software alone may not be enough to repair the damage done to the computer. To fix the damage, a system restore is required.


Certificate Authority

A certificate authority is a third party that is trusted and issues digital certificates. A digital certificate is what verifies ownership of a public key to the individual whose digital signature is on the certificate.

How Certificate Authority Works

Certificate authority has application in asymmetric encryption so as to prevent man in the middle attacks in which case a malicious party intercepts data traffic going to a server and pretends to be the recipient. Trusted certificate authority certificates are stored on the client’s software like a web browser. There is no single provider of certificate authority certificates and the CA market divided according to country and region.

Chat Room

A chat room provides room on the internet for individuals to have real-time communication with each other. Chat rooms are divided based on topics and there are moderators for every chat room that make sure the members and users of each room act according to the code of conduct. Chat rooms do not insist on identity verification and so everyone can be anonymous. This makes it easy for predators with malicious intent to come in and disguise themselves to prey on those who are vulnerable.

How Chat Room Works

Chat rooms could be either public or private and can be made up of hundreds of people. Online video games strive to make gaming more interactive by integrating chat rooms so that players can chat with each other. Chat rooms are also used by those who work online.


A cookie is a piece of data from you that is stored in your web browser. When you visit a website that makes use of cookies, it sends these cookies to your computer so that it can monitor your behavior which includes the links you click, your password, and also data like the items you add to your cart. Cookies are not malicious as they cannot be used to destroy your computer, but they can be used to track your internet activity taking away your internet privacy.

How Cookie Works

Cookies are meant to make your web experience better and more convenient, and they come in different forms. Normal cookies are only active while the user is on the website that created the cookie. Some countries demand that websites let the users know that cookies are being used and ask for permission. Other countries do not make a big deal out of it and users can’t say for sure if the website they visit has cookies or not. Tracking cookies unlike normal cookies are continuously active and continue to collect information even after the user has gone on to another website. The information collected includes websites visited and the duration of browsing on each website. All these data are used to send targeted ads to you that fit your profile and preferences.


Defragment or Defragging

This is the process in which information and data on your hard drive are reorganized into a more logical order. The process of defragmenting can slow down your computer but once the process is complete, your computer should be faster.

How Defragment Works

Defragging your hard drive should be done occasionally as it doesn’t take a lot of time, depending on the hard drive though. Solid-state devices should however not be defragged because doing this will reduce their lifespan and the performance improvement will be negligible. Before you make any move to defrag your hard drive, make sure you know the type of hard drive your computer is using.


This is an acronym that stands for dynamic host configuration protocol. It is a protocol that allows a server to assign an IP address automatically to a computer from a range of numbers that are configured for a given network. When a system with the DHCP client is started, DHCP assigns an IP address.

How DHCP Works

When a system with DHCP is started, DHCP automatically assigns an IP address. For the average user on a Wi-Fi network, the settings can be accessed through the router settings.

Digital Certificate

A digital certificate is also known as an identity key and is issued by a web certificate authority. It verifies the authenticity of a certificate and the legitimacy of the website and it contains the sender’s public key.

How Digital Certificate Works

Trusted certificates are stored on the client software; like a web browser. Certificate authorities exist to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks with the digital certificates they issue. Man-in-the-middle attacks are a type of attack in which a party with malicious intent intercepts data traffic to a server, and impersonates the intended recipient.

Digital Signature

A digital signature is used to validate that encryption data is legitimate, and has its application in public-key cryptography. A digital signature is needed so that the sender and receiver of the digital certificate can be authenticated, and to also check the authenticity of the certificate.

How Digital Signature Works

While a digital certificate verifies the identity of the certificate holder, the digital signature verifies that the document is authentic. A digital signature is a proof that the document has not been tampered with by a third party.


DNS is the abbreviated form of the domain name system. It synchronizes domain names with IP addresses so that users can access IP addresses using domain names. This means that you don’t have to remember the IP address of a domain to have access to it.

How DNS Works

DNS could be likened to a phonebook that brings phone numbers and people together. The phone numbers, in this case, are the IP addresses and the people are web URLs. DNS servers are maintained and run by different bodies and most users go for the ones that are run by their internet service providers by default. Using VPNs can hide user activity from the internet service provider so that the user can even have access to sites that are restricted due to location.

Domain Spoofing or Domain Hijacking

A hijacked or spoofed domain redirects users to an external website that can infect their devices with malicious software.

How Domain Spoofing Works

Hijacking a domain is for the purpose of harming the original domain name holder who is then cut off from the income generated by the site. Hijacking can also be used to steal visitor’s details by making them feel they are on the original site when in reality they are on a duplicate. Hijacked domains can also be sold to third parties.


DoS stands for denial of service. It is an attack in which a website responds by granting access only to legitimate visitors due to a large number of automated requests.

How DoS Works

If you try to liken internet traffic to real-world traffic, then DoS attack can be seen as a way of causing a traffic jam on purpose. DoS attacks on a large scale are referred to as DDoS attacks and this is short For Distributed Denial of Service. In this form of DoS attack, the automated server requests are sent from computers that are infected by malware and these computers could be botnet or zombie computers. The attacks are distributed so that they can cause havoc to servers when activated.

Drive-By Download

A drive-by download happens when a person unknowingly makes a download, or downloads a file without understanding the implications of downloading the file from a website, pop up window, or email.

How Drive-By Download Works

Drive-by downloads come as common software, though counterfeit so as to trick people into downloading them. Such files are malicious and will install malware and other forms of viruses into your computer once the download is complete. Examples of the most commonly counterfeited software are java, flash player, and ActiveX plugin updates.



Encryption is the process of converting data into a form that is unreadable without the use of a separate key to decrypt it.

How Encryption Works

Encryption is one of the cryptographic ways of making the contents of a file and network traffic hidden with the use of a cipher. Encryption exists in different forms called algorithms, and each of them has varying strengths and complexities. Encryption is the most common way to make files and communication on the internet private. All data, devices, and internet traffic can be encrypted with the use of any of the encryption algorithms.


An exploit is a code that makes use of a software loophole to have unauthorized access to a system.

How to Exploit Works

An exploit takes advantage of the weakness in a system which could be a bug, a backdoor, or a loophole as the case may be so as to create an unintended system behavior. Exploits are in a system’s design and not brought about by viruses or malware. When exploits are discovered by hackers, they keep it a secret so they can always have their way because if an exploit is discovered and published, the body that maintains the system fixes the loophole immediately.


File Compression or Data Compression

File compression makes a file smaller by changing its format to a different one. When compression is done, the file is stored in an archive format which could be .zip, .tar, or .jar.

How File Compression Works

Compression could take any of two forms; lossy and lossless. Lossy compression takes away bits from the file that it deems unnecessary so as to reduce the file size. This type of compression often causes a reduction in the quality of music and video. Lossless compression, on the other hand, retains all the information if the file that was compressed, and so the size of the compressed file is usually larger than that from lossy compression.


This is a form of security that regulates the traffic that goes in and out of a network. Firewalls can be used to prevent unauthorized access to a network by outsiders and to prevent insiders from getting hold of unauthorized content.

How Firewall Works

Depending on the application being used, and the device’s port ranges firewall will either block or allow traffic. A firewall can be used to block specific programs or only allow a program to utilize certain ports for internet connection. A firewall can be a security measure or used for censorship or both and its use depends on the intention of the administrator.


FTP represents fir transfer protocol. These are a set of rules that come into play when files are to transfer on the internet, while some web browser has built-in FTP client, separate and dedicated FTP apps also exist.

How FTP Works

FTP allows you to transfer files directly to a server and from a server. In the transfer, one party is considered the server and the other party is considered to be the client even if it is another server. To connect to a server using FTP, you will need a password and username and the transfers are encoded with the SSL algorithm.



GIF represents a graphics interchange format which is a bitmap image format. With their support of up to and not exceeding 256 colors, it is difficult to produce high-quality photos in this format but they are a good option for the production of short, silent, looping videos online as they support animation.

How GIF Works

GIF makes use of lossless compression so as to reduce the image size, making it easier to share them. The ease of sharing is also why most GIF animations do not last for more than a few seconds.



Hacker is a term that is commonly used to describe someone with malicious intent who gains unauthorized access to computer systems. That is just one aspect of it as hacking is also used by the coding community to describe a high-class programmer with top skills.

What a Hacker Does

In terms of computer security, hackers are divided into three; there is a white hat. Black hat, and a grey hat. White hat hackers work to fix bugs and cover-up security loopholes. Black hat hackers exploit the security loopholes in a system to gain unauthorized access and to cause unintended behavior of a system. Grey hat hackers can be said to be a combination of both worlds. Generally speaking, a hacker refers to someone who is skilled or an expert in a particular field.


HTML represents hypertext markup language and this is the standard language for web pages. It is not a programming language but a markup language meaning that it defines the way a web browser reads text and other forms of media on the internet. Examples of its functions are in determining which texts are bold, which text is the heading, which text or image has a hyperlink, and more.

How HTML Works

HTML is maintained by the worldwide web consortium which is in charge of making standards and features of the HTML language. The current HTML version in use is the fifth version even though much of the web content was written in the fourth version. HTML is mostly used in combination with CSS and Javascript on webpages for styling and programming.


Tags are part of a code that markup text in an HTML file for interpretation by the web browser into the webpage. Examples of HTML tags are >p> for paragraphs, <h1> for headings, and <img> for images.

How HTML Tags Work

The correct way of writing tags is to always close it and it should be denoted by a forward slash. Using paragraph as an example, the closing tag in HTML should be </p>. Some tags are self-closing like the image tags or line breaks <br />. Not keeping to the rules and ensuring that a tag is closed is poor style and can result in formatting problems.


HTTP represents hypertext transfer protocol and these are a set of rules that determine the way web browsers and servers communicate with each other.

How HTTP Works

HTTP is a request-response protocol. A web browser which in this case is the client sends a request to the server and gets a response which is the content of a web page. This is not how it happens but for the sake of simplicity so you can get the idea. Hypertext is texts which are linked to other texts.


HTTPS is the more secure version of HTTPS. Seeing HTTPS in a web URL indicates that the website is encrypted or makes use of other forms of authentication to provide security to its connection.

How HTTPS Works

SSL/TLS which stands for secure sockets layer/transfer layer protocol is the most commonly used form of a cryptographic protocol to ensure secure connections on the web. HTTPS encrypts information being exchanged on the internet between the client and the server, and it also authenticates both parties with the use of a public key system to prevent imposters from intercepting the data.


A hyperlink is a text or image that is linked to another page or file on the internet. Hyperlinks can be differentiated from other text by the color and underline.

How Hyperlink Works

Hyperlink gets its name from hypertext, as in HTTP. Hypertext is a text that links other texts, and the text that is linked is called the anchor text. Hyperlinks don’t have their application by only humans. Web crawlers by search engines that are used to index web pages can also use hyperlinks to retrieve the linked documents and files.



IM represents instant messenger. It is a message that is sent online through any number of real-time chat platforms and applications.

How IM Works

Instant messaging apps that are most popular amongst others today are those that are used with mobile devices and they include Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Wechat, Telegram, Viber, and Line. These apps are basically for texting but have over time seen advancements that allow them to be used for voice, video, images, links, stickers, and other forms of conveying information.

Image Compression

Image compression involves the conversion of a raw image file to a format of a smaller storage size. Such formats are JPEG and GIF.


The internet is a global network that has other smaller networks and computers within. It is not to be mistaken for the world wide web as this refers to content and information transferred over the global and publicly available network that is the internet.

How the Internet Works

The internet is decentralized and so no single person or entity has supreme control over what is transferred there or what its content is. All that is needed is an internet connection and any internet user can send and receive data and information from any other computer on the global network.

IP Address

IP address otherwise known as internet protocol address is the number that is used to identify a computer on the internet. IP addresses have the format of a string of digits with dots or colons in between. For example, (IPv4) and also 2001:db8:0>567:8:1 (IPv6). With an IP address, a website can also know the general location of the user.

How IP Address Works

Once a device connects to the internet, it is given an IP address. The IP address is the identifier of the user and device as utilized by websites and other web services. IP addresses are not set in stone and can change with the user’s change on location, or if the user connects to the internet via a VPN. IPv4 has been the standard type of address format given to devices when connected to the internet, but with more devices being connected every second, the number of possible IPv4 addresses is getting short. IPv6 was born out of the need to solve the problem of unavailable IP addresses and it offers a much wider range of addresses. A set back to its use, however, is the issue of compatibility. If you want to know how to check your IP address, click here.



JPEG is a popular image format on the internet because of its ability to retain good image quality even after compression. It stands for joint photographic experts group and you can identify images with this format through the file extension .jpeg or .jpg.

How JPEG Works

JPEG is a format of lossy compression. What this implies is that the quality of the original image before compression is reduced. It is useful for photos that have a smooth transition of tone and color, but it is not the best choice for images that have a sharp contrast between pixels like the images in graphics, text, and drawings. Where repeated editing is to take place, JPEG format would also not be the best choice to be edited from as the quality has already been reduced due to compression, and repeated editing would further reduce the image quality.



A keylogger is a software that records keystrokes on a keyboard. It is sometimes used to offer technical support to the user and can also be used in the wrong hands for malicious purposes. An attacker can use this without the permission or knowledge of the victim so as to collect information like passwords, credit card details, and a lot more.

How Keylogger Works

Keylogging is also referred to as keystroke logging or keyboard capturing. Most keylogging takes the form of an application on the user’s operating system while some are in the form of hardware in which case the circuit is attached between the USB input and the keyboard. Keylogging also could attack the firmware directly by being installed into the computer’s BIOS. Keylogging with malicious intent that is software-based comes as Trojans or as part of a virus. With the use of an up-to-date antivirus, you can prevent keylogging activities that are software-based from infecting your system.



Malware is a type of software that is installed and runs on your device without your knowledge and it is done for malicious purposes. Examples of malware include keylogger, virus, exploits, adware, and spyware.

How Malware Works

Malware is usually made in the form of a non-malicious file, or it is embedded in a non-malicious file and can be run as a script that is executable. Malware is often used as a prank to the user or can be used as a more serious tool to steal financial information. You can guard your device against malware by using up-to-date antivirus software, or firewall.


MP3, also known as Mpeg audio layer 3 is a compression format for audio and is widely popular on the internet today. You can recognize an MP3 file by the file extension.MP3.

How MP3 Works

MP3 is a type of lossy compression and it implies that there is a loss in quality as the file size is reduced. Compression to MP3 format can reduce the size of audio recording by a factor of 10 to 1 and most listeners won’t even know the difference between the original and an MP3. MP3 audio format is mostly used by brands that offer streaming services like Spotify, because of the low bandwidth needed to play the music without buffering. It is also because individual frames of sound can get lost while it is being transmitted without the delivered frames being affected.

Mutual Authentication

Mutual authentication occurs when two parties involved in a transaction simultaneously authenticate each other. Mutual authentication is used online to prevent fraud and it is done with the compliance of both the user’s web browser and the webserver to prove their identities.

How Mutual Authentication Works

Before any application data is sent, both parties involved in the transaction must prove their identities. Some encrypted protocols like SSH and IKE make use of mutual authentication by default, while others like SSL make it optional.



In the world of computing, a network refers to a group of devices that are in communication with one another either through wired or wireless means. The range of networks is on a scale starting from the simple connection of your computer and a wireless router, to its connection to the internet.

How Network Works

When a device is capable of data exchange with another device, both devices are described as being networked together. Connections could be direct or indirect and it can take place with any number of nodes between the networked devices. A node could be any device on the network that is used to send, route, or terminate data including servers, routers, and computers.



A patch, just as the name implies, is a fix from a software update and aims to take care of bugs and vulnerabilities in the software. Good software developers constantly test their code and issue new versions with patches to their users.

How Patch Works

A security patch is intended to close an exploit that exists in software and can be taken advantage of by hackers to cause unintended behavior in the software. There are other types of patches that fix bugs and make improvements to the software by adding features. Patches are mostly made by the original developer but third parties can also create theirs. You can recognize patches by the application version. An example is version 1.0 of an app or software. You could say it is the first version of a video game but the release of version 1.2 shows that patches have been added to fix bugs that existed and also to close up security loopholes. Patches can be downloaded on top of an existing application without having to reinstall the whole application.


Pharming is the process of redirecting a user to another website; an imposter website for malicious reasons. This is done either by altering a file on the user’s computer or altering the DNS server which is responsible for converting URLs into IP addresses.

How Pharming Works

Those who use banking and eCommerce sites are the most likely to be targeted in pharming. To stay safe, users should check that the website they deal with is authenticated and has a verified HTTPS certificate. This will appear as a green closed lock icon on the address bar and the letters ‘HTTPS’ before the site's address. The use of antivirus and antimalware can protect you against pharming attacks that seek to alter host files on the local computer, but these forms of protection are not effective against compromised DNS servers. A DNS server that has been compromised is programmed to direct users to a pharming website.


Phishing involves the impersonation of a trusted authority so as to try and acquire information like a password or credit card details for malicious reasons. A common form of phishing is sending an email to a user, pretending to be the victim’s bank and then asking the victim to enter his/her banking login credentials on another site with a link in the email.

How Phishing Works

In phishing, the attacker doesn’t make use of malware or virus to gain access to a user’s private information but instead relies on social engineering. It involves deceit and making the victim believe false information mostly through the impersonation of a trusted authority or an acquaintance and acting like urgent assistance is needed. Phishing aims to steal information like credit card details, usernames, and passwords. You can protect yourself from this attack by never giving up sensitive information over channels that are not encrypted like emails, chat platforms, and websites that do not use HTTPS protocol.


Podcasts are regularly updated audio files from a content provider and can be compared to a radio program. Podcasts can either be downloaded or streamed onto a smartphone or any mobile device.

How Podcast Works

Podcasts usually come as video or audio and they can be viewed or listened to using a variety of applications based on how they are distributed. The applications used to read podcast formats are called podcatchers. Podcatchers automatically download new episodes of the podcast series and the newest content is always available for the user to either watch or listen to.

Private Key

A private key is used to decrypt the messages that have been encrypted in asymmetric encryption. Just as its name implies, this key is not shared, unlike the public key which is used to encrypt the message.

How Private Key Works

In asymmetric encryption, information and data are encrypted by the sender with the use of a public key, and the encrypted file can only be decrypted with the use of a matching private key. For safety reasons, private keys should be stored in a safe place and hidden on the receiver’s device. The loss of a private key would imply that nothing which has been encrypted with the paired public key can be decrypted. Even if it can be done, it would require a lot of computing resources.


A VPN protocol is simply the method of connection between your device and a VPN server. Some examples of this protocol are UDP, TCP, SSTP, L2TP, and PPTP.


A proxy is a server that stands in-between a user and the internet. It allows the user to make indirect network connections to other network services.

How Proxy Works

The use of a proxy doesn’t stop the user from making requests for resources like files and web pages from other servers. The user has to note however that making requests via a proxy keeps them anonymous and can also give them access to restricted content if their real IP has been blocked by the content provider. This bypass is because the request doesn’t carry the user’s IP address but that of the proxy server.

Public Key

A public key is used to encrypt a message or file in asymmetric encryption. The public key can be shared with anyone without the integrity of the message or file being compromised.

How Public Key Works

The public key provides encryption for messages and other files in one direction only. This means that the public key that is used to encrypt cannot also be used to decrypt. Decryption can be done by the receiver with the use of the paired private key. Unlike private keys, public keys are not hidden and are stored on local machines and also on publicly accessible servers.



Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents the user from having access to normal functions of a system except a ransom is paid to the attacker.

How Ransomware Works

The typical way ransomware works are to encrypt all the data on the victim’s hard drive or server. A message will be displayed stating that the data cannot be decrypted until a ransom has been paid in bitcoin. Once payment has been made, a password will be sent to the victim with which to decrypt the data.


Recovering data is the process of restoring lost data using backups either from a hard drive, online storage, or other storage devices.

How Recovery Works

Data could be lost either through hardware failure, accidental deletion or through file corruption. Data recovery can restore lost data either into the original device or onto a separate one chosen by the user. Recovery isn’t just for data and also refers to the process of regaining access to an online account. For example, if you forget the password to your email account, resetting it in order to regain access is also recovery.

Rogue Security Software

Rogue security software is a type of malware that fronts as antimalware in order to attempt the installation of more malware or to ask for money for its false services.

How Rogue Security Software Works

This software is a form of both ransomware and scareware and what it does is to scare its victims and then manipulate them. This happens when malicious websites display alerts (virus invasion for example) and ask users to download Trojan horses that are disguised as browser plugins, free services, or multimedia codecs. Once the user clicks on this and downloads it, the Trojan horse installs the rogue security software.


A rootkit is a type of malware that is designed to avoid being detected. Due to the stealth nature of rootkits, they are difficult to remove and often require complete wiping of the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system on the device.

How Rootkit Works

The ‘root’ in rootkit refers to top administration privileges that a user can have on a computer. What rootkit does is to attempt to raise its own privileges to root so that no account, no matter then level can remove them. Once a rootkit gets root privileges, it can access, alter, delete, and install software and other files on the device.


A router is a piece of hardware that acts to direct traffic between a computer and the internet.

How Router Works

Routers assign IP addresses to the devices on their network using DHCP protocol and are directly embedded in the device’s firmware. Popular router firmware brands include DD-WRT and Tomato.


RSS represents really simple syndication and is popularly used to publish content that is updated regularly on the internet. Subscribing to an RSS feed takes away the burden of you constantly checking a website for available new content. You get to receive automatic updates instead.

How RSS Works

Information that is published through RSS could be in the form of a text, audio, video, or image and after being published it is sent in XML format and it now contains both the information and the metadata; author name and timestamp. RSS readers use web apps, mobile apps, or native desktop clients to aggregate RSS feeds. Subscription to an RSS feed is free and all you usually have to do is to copy and paste the feed’s URL.



This represents a simple mail transfer protocol, and it is the standard rules that govern the sending of emails through the internet.

How SMTP Works

SMTP is mainly used by email servers and mail transfer agents rather than user-level mail clients. SMTP connections can make use of SSL connections and they become SMTPS.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is the generic term for scams like pharming, phishing, spam, and other types of scams. Social engineering, unlike other forms of hacking with malicious intent, feeds on the victim’s tendency to trust.

How Social Engineering Works

Fraudsters use social engineering by impersonating a trusted authority or acquaintance so as to trick the victim into carrying out a certain activity or give up some personal information like credit card details and passwords.


Spam is any email that is unwanted, and it is also called junk mail. Modern email clients have a separate folder where there automatically sort and send likely spam messages to.

How Spam Works

Spam is a message that is not needed and is sent to a large number of people at the same time. Spammers get the email addresses of their targets through legal and illegal means and the emails usually contain links that could lead to malicious websites that are infected with malware.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is phishing that has a specific target. This targeted attack makes spear phishing more likely to appear authentic to its victim and so has the most effect.

How Spear Phishing Works

Spear phishing attacks impersonates the victim’s acquaintances. The aim of this is to manipulate the victim so they can give up some private information like credit card details or passwords. This is the most successful type of phishing attack as it is targeted to a victim.


This is spam over VoIP. An example of the spit is spam that takes place on Skype or Viber.

Split Tunneling

This process gives a VPN access to a public network, and also allows the user to have access to resources on the VPN.

How Split Tunneling Works

Split tunneling gives you access to the internet and also allows you access devices on a remote network.


Spyware is a type of malware that steals data from the victim’s computer and sends it secretly to someone else. The stolen data could be anything from browser history, username, or passwords.

How Spyware Works

There are different ways spyware can be used. Most of them are used to monitor the victim’s activity, then use the stolen information to tailor targeted ads and pop-ups to the victim. Other forms of spyware are used to take control of a computer and takes them to malicious websites or install software without the user’s permission. The use of up-to-date antivirus can be used to fight off most spyware. 


SSL refers to a secure sockets layer and is the standard security for secure and encrypted connection between a server and a browser. This ensures that every data transferred between the server and the browser is private and secure from attacks.

How SSL Works

When a browser connects to a site with SSL, the URL begins with HTTPS. SSL is the most common transfer protocol that offers security on the internet.

Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric encryption is the opposite of asymmetric encryption. This type of encryption makes use of the same key for both encryption and decryption of a message and so both keys have to be private to ensure that the message stays secure.

How Symmetric Encryption Works

The private key in symmetric encryption needs to be exchanged between both parties for the effective transfer of data. This type of encryption is not practical but requires less computational power than asymmetric encryption. Due to this, asymmetric encryption is used for verification of both parties, while symmetric encryption is used for communication and exchange of data. Symmetric encryption can be used to encrypt the digits of a message one at a time before being sent or to encrypt the digits in blocks before being sent as a single unit.


Trojan horse

A Trojan horse is a type of malware that impersonates a legitimate software. It is named after the Trojan horse from Greek mythology in which Greek soldiers smuggle themselves into troy. Trojans are an example of a backdoor that allows an attacker access to the victim’s computer.

How Trojan horse Works

Trojans contain themselves, unlike viruses and worms that spread themselves in various programs. Trojans are only spread through phishing and other forms of social engineering. They are made for purposes ranging from destroying the victim’s device to extortion and data theft. Your best bet against Trojans is with the use of up-to-date antivirus software and vigilance.



URL stands for uniform resource locator. It is a web address that gets translated into an IP address by a DNS server when it is typed into the address bar of a web browser.

How URL Works

URLs are at the address bar of web browsers and most often point to web pages, while others direct users to email addresses, FTP servers, downloads, and a lot more. They are generally made up of two or three parts joined together: protocol (HTTPS://), hostname (, and sometimes a file (what-is-VPN).

URL Spoofing

This is an attempt by an attacker to mislead a user to a different website. This website is often malicious and the attacker attempts to do this by imitating a legitimate URL.

How URL Spoofing Works

The malicious website an attacker tries to lead a user to has a URL that is identical to that of the original website, but it contains malicious software or is a phishing scam. You can access a spoofed URL if your web browser has a bug or lacks up-to-date security. One of the ways in which a spoofed URL is made to look similar to the real one is by transposing some letters with hopes that the user won’t notice.



A computer virus is a type of malware that replicates itself and has the ability to infect computer data, files, programs, and systems.

How Virus Works

Viruses always attach to other programs and spread. A virus affects a computer by making it slow, steals your information, takes up disk space, corrupts your data, display messages, spams the victim’s contacts, and can also log your keystrokes. You can protect your computer from virus attacks with the use of up-to-date antivirus software.


VoIP represents voice over internet protocol. It can be likened to telephone service and is implemented most commonly by google hangouts and Skype.

How VoIP Works

VoIP allows the digitization of audio and that is then sent over the internet so that two or more parties can have a real-time conversation. It is now a part of most smartphones and computers.


VPN represents a virtual private network. It encrypts the data transfer between your computer and the internet as it allows you to have private and secure access to every website and online service.

How VPN Works

A VPN takes all your internet traffic and routes it through the server which you choose. The traffic has gone through the server arriving at its destination and appears to have come from the chosen IP so you remain anonymous. A VPN’s encryption feature is what sets it apart from other forms of proxy. All internet traffic through a VPN is heavily encrypted so third parties cannot decode or decipher it. Those who might try to decipher your internet traffic and exchanged data include the government, hackers, and your internet service provider.

VPN Client

Limevpn is an example of a VPN client and they offer high-level encryption and security to internet connections.

How VPN Client Works

A user can opt for the services of a VPN client and then choose a server location they wish to use amongst other settings.


In the world of computing, a vulnerability is a weakness that exists in software and could be exploited by a hacker. What good software developers do is test for vulnerabilities and then release patches that are fixed versions of the software.

How Vulnerability Work

Vulnerabilities are a potential security risk and could lead to a breach if a hacker finds it out and exploits it. Not all vulnerabilities are able to be exploited, however. Vulnerabilities are a result of the software design, implementation, or operation of the developer or admin and are not created by hackers.


Web Page

A web page is a file that exists on a server and can be accessed by anyone who has internet access. Files on a web page are generally in HTML format and it includes texts, images, or other forms of media and links to other web pages too.

How Web Pages Work

A web page is not the same as a website. A website consists of web pages and also a home page. Individual web pages are stored as a single file on the website’s server and it may consist of content from different sources. Web pages are not only written in HTML as they can also include codes written in PHP, ASP, and Perl. Features of a web page like its design, formatting, and style are controlled by a CSS file.

Web Server

A web server is a computer whose function is to store, process, and deliver web pages to those who request them. The delivery is via a web browser that displays the page to the user.

How Web Server Works

Web servers communicate with their clients using either HTTP or HTTPS protocol. A web server could be in reference to either the server software or the entire host system which includes the physical server and firmware. The primary function of web servers is to serve content, but they can also receive data.


WEP represents wired equivalent privacy. It is a security protocol that was used by wireless networks but has been replaced by WPA and WPA2 due to security flaws present in WEP. The purpose of creating WEP was to ensure security with a wired network and it is commonly used to provide security on Wi-Fi networks even though it has been noted to be flawed in a way. Due to its continuous use, smartphones and similar devices continue to support this protocol.


Wi-Fi is a local area wireless technology that allows devices to connect using radio frequencies.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

This is a physical location where you can have a Wi-Fi connection and have access to the internet over a public wireless network. You need to be careful though in your connection to such networks because not all Wi-Fi hotspots make use of WEP or WPA security protocols to encrypt your connection and offer you security. Making a connection in the absence of any form of security in place leaves your data vulnerable.


A worm is a self-replicating malware just like a virus, but unlike a virus, it is standalone and functions without the need to be part of another program.

How Worm Works

Some worms only replicate themselves and cause no harm apart from taking up disk space and bandwidth. More malicious forms of worms carry payloads that are capable of destroying files, install backdoors, encrypt files, and install malware. Worms are replicated and spread through spam attachments, so you can protect your device from worms by not opening email attachments you do not trust, and also by keeping your device operating system and other programs including your antivirus up to date.


This refers to Wi-Fi protected access. It is a wireless security protocol that was a replacement for WEP and has better encryption and authentication. WPA2 is the latest protocol and a replacement for WPA.

How WPA Works

WPA2 is the latest recommendation among security protocols for use over Wi-Fi networks. Devices need a password, security code or Wi-Fi protected setup to connect to a WPA protocol network. Note that the use of routers that allow connections using WPS will cause WPA and WPA2 protocols to be bypassed. Being highly recommended, WPA2 certification is mandatory for all devices that bear the Wi-Fi trademark.



XML represents extensive markup language and its function is similar to that of HTML; to format and present content on web pages. This language, however, doesn’t have a fixed set of formatted tags unlike HTML but rather acts as a Metalanguage. The flexibility this brings allows webmasters to be able to construct their own markups.

How XML Works

XML is used to arrange data in a way that is readable for both humans and machines. Several types of documents utilize the XML syntax like the RSS feeds, Microsoft office’s recent document formats, and Apple iWork. XML offers great flexibility and so users can create and nest their own tags and attributes. Developers make it easy by creating and developing interfaces that easily process XML data.


The number of jargon associated with internet security is a lot to take in and can be very confusing to a newbie. Having difficulty in understanding the terminologies can make it hard for you to follow up with what you want and what is necessary to stay safe on the internet. And so with this glossary, we hope to have made it easier for you to understand every term you will likely come across as it relates to your safety on the internet.