Abandonware is software that is shelved by its developer. As such, it is no longer updated nor supported so it may be rife with vulnerabilities.

Account harvesting

Account harvesting is the process of gathering user accounts from a system, service, or database using a variety of methods, such as malware or phishing.

Account hijacking

Account hijacking is the process of taking over user online accounts, such as email and social media accounts.

Ad blocker

An ad blocker is software that blocks advertisements, including pop-ups, when a user visits websites.

Ad fraud

Ad fraud happens when advertisers pay for ads with false impressions. For more information, see this blog post on the difference between adware and ad fraud.

Synonym: invalid traffic

Ad rotator

An ad rotator allows two or more ads to alternately show in the same place on a website. The rotator triggers whenever a user refreshes or revisits a site.


An add-in is software that gives additional functionality to a device or another software.

Address bar

An address bar is the text box in your web browser that displays the web page URL or IP address. At times, it functions as a search bar if the user entered text that is an invalid URL.

Address bar spoofing

Address bar spoofing is a technique where the legitimate URL on a browser address bar is replaced with a rogue one. This then leads to potential data or financial theft.


Adware is a form of malicious software which displays unwanted advertising on your computer. For more information, see this blog post on adware delivery methods.

Air gap

Air gap refers to computers that are incapable of physically connecting to a network or another computer that is connected to the internet. Air-gapped systems were believed to be more secure until Stuxnet disproved this.

Other forms: Air gapping


An always-on device, software, or network denotes that it is constantly accessible.


In computing, analog is usually used as the opposite of digital. Analog signals are continuous and can reach any value between two given extremes. Consider this analogy: If digital can be black or white, then analog can also be any of the gray shades in between.


Android is Google’s flagship operating system for smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers have adapted Android in televisions, smart-watches, cars, and many other electronic devices.

Android app

An Android app is a program designed for the Android OS.


Annoybot is software that repeats an annoying task. IRC bots, for example, are annoybots that send out unsolicited messages to participants in a channel.


Annoyware is software that continuously shows reminders or pop-up windows to remind users to perform a particular action, such as registering or buying software.

Synonyms: Nagware, Begware

Anomaly detection solution

An anomaly detection solution is any next-generation firewall or IDS/IPS in an enterprise network. It is used to monitor, alert, and block potentially malicious or suspicious network traffic.


Anonymization is the action or an attempt to disable the ability to track back information or actions to a specific user.

Other forms: Anonymize


An anonymizer is a tool that minimizes the amount of tracking done during surfing in an attempt to hide the true identity of the user.

Synonyms: Anonymous proxy


Anonymous, in computing, is to keep one’s true name and identity concealed online with the use of various applications.

Other forms: Anonymity


Anti-ransomware is software specifically designed to combat ransomware. Such software could make use of specific techniques that general security tools don’t deploy.


An applet is a piece of software that usually performs one specific task. Applets are often part of a more complex program.

Application security

Are the countermeasures taken to secure an application. This starts during the design and development of the application but broadens to the host and network the application is deployed on. This has to be done to defend against threats and attacks from the outside that will attempt to exploit the application.


Stands for Advanced Persistent Threat, which is a prolonged, aimed attack on a specific target with the intention of compromising their system and gaining information from or about the target. For more information, see this blog post.


Stands for Address Resolution Protocol, which is used to find a physical address that belongs to an IP address.

The normal procedure is to send an ARP request over the network and the machine that has the requested IP will answer with an ARP reply. This procedure then associates a physical machine with an IP address. Attackers can abuse this protocol by ARP spoofing, broadcasting an IP address so that the traffic meant for that IP address can be intercepted by the attacker.


ARPANET stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. ARPANET is the basis for the internet.

Artificial Intelligence

Is sometimes shortened to AI. It describes the science that works on intelligence in machinery (computers/robots). The first discussion being what we define as intelligence and whether we can describe human intelligence close enough to reproduce and recognize it in machines. The main pillars are defined as the abilities to learn, reason, and self-correct. There are several disputed tests that are used to determine intelligence in machines, important ones are those by Turing and Hintze.


Is short for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII tables represent a seven-bit encoding standard for text files. Later, a 8-bit encoding was introduced called the extended ASCII (EASCII), which included the original 128 characters plus additional characters.


Is the masking of initiatives by corporations, governments, or political parties to make the campaign appear to be spontaneous or initiated by civilian groups. Sometimes masking the origin makes the campaign more effective or less controversial.

Attack vector

Is the technique used to obtain unauthorized access to a system or network. It is an important part of vulnerability research to know which attack vector is or might be used. Examples of attack vectors are:


Attribution is the practice of taking forensic artifacts of a cyberattack and matching them to known threats against targets with a profile matching a particular organization. Or in other words, trying to figure out the threat actor based on the methods used and who the target was (or might have been). More in-depth information can be found in these blog posts: Attribution, and when you should care: Part 1 and Attribution Part II: Don’t overthink it.

Augmented Reality

Is sometimes shortened as AR. Augmented reality is a cross between the physical world and virtual reality. It adds images, sounds, motion sense, and even smell to the physical reality.


In computing, it is the process of verifying the identity of a user or process. Usually this is done to check whether the user or process has sufficient rights for access or to make modifications. You can find more information in these blog posts:

Autonomous system

An autonomous system is a group of networks managed by one large entity to ensure there’s a reliable routing policy to the internet.

AV killer

Is malicious code that disables the users antivirus software to avoid detection. The term AV killer is also used sometimes for malware that disables firewalls. Also see retroviruses.



Typically a type of Trojan malware that allows its creator or proponent to gain access to a system by bypassing its security. The term “backdoor” can also refer to the method of gaining access to user systems undetected; should not be mistaken for exploits.

Other form/s: backdooring

Bad sector

A sector on a computer’s disk or flash drive that is already unusable. This is usually caused by physical damage.

Bait advertising

Bait advertising is a form of unethical advertising practice wherein customers are promised a sale or inexpensive item; however, once customers are interested, the advertiser makes the product unavailable then redirects them to a similar product that is more expensive.

Synonym: bait and switch advertising

Banking Trojan

A Banking Trojan is a type of Trojan specifically created to harvest credentials and other sensitive financial and personal information stored and processed through online banking systems.


In the context of computer malware, behavior refers to the actions malware performs on an affected system once executed.

Big data

Big data pertains to huge datasets that can be analyzed computationally to reveal trends, patterns, and associations. Companies use big data to improve their operations and make more intelligent decisions.


Is a numerical system with only two different values: 0 and 1, or True and False. Compare the decimal system which uses 10 different values (or numerals): o to 9. Binary is popular in electronics and therefore in computing because 0 can be regarded as OFF and 1 as ON.


In computing, it is a form of hacking that refers to the application of IT concepts to biological systems, usually the human body. These are usually done as DIY IT projects.

Biohacking can include the modification of the human body, such as introducing implants and other wearable computing tech.


Is the measurement and statistical analysis of people’s physical and behavioral characteristics. In biometrics authentication, this means personally identifiable and unique features are stored in order to give the holder access to certain resources. Consider for example a fingerprint reader to log on to a computer.


Is a cryptocurrency, a payment medium that relies on cryptography rather than on banks or governments. It is very popular among internet criminals as it’s readily exchangeable for other physical currencies and is practically untraceable.

Black Friday

The Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving when retailers make numerous special offers. Because of this, consumers go online or in-store to shop.

Black Friday is regarded as the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season.


In computing, it usually refers to a list of domains and/or IP adresses. Blacklists are long lists of known or suspected malicious servers and/or domains. These lists are used to protect users from receiving mail from these servers or from browsing to sites that are on these domains/IP addresses.

Blended threat

A blended threat is an attack that makes use of multiple vectors to gain leverage on a target. This could include malware, phishing, social engineering and more.

Blue Screen of Death

Abbreviated as BSOD. This occurs on Windows systems where a blue screen is splashed to the user after encountering a fatal error.


Is the act of sending messages between mobile devices via Bluetooth wireless connection.


Refers to the unauthorized access and theft of information through a Bluetooth connection. Mobile devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets, that are Bluetooth-enabled can easily be affected by this.


Is a wireless technology mainly used for short distance connections between devices. Communication is done at a band around 2.45 GHz. To avoid interference between devices, they use a low power signal, which is what makes it a short range connection, but it does not need a line of sight to establish a connection.


In computing, to boot a system is to turn the device or machine on and load the operating system into random access memory. The boot-up process is made up out of different stages, depending on the setup of the system and the operating system that has to be loaded. For most cases, these stages are important parts of them:

  • The BIOS or UEFI are powered up and do the Power-On Self Test (POST)
  • The bootloader loads the operating system
  • Once all the operating systems files have been loaded, control is given to the OS.

Boot sector

Is a part of a physical information carrier (usually a hard drive) that contains the code that has to be loaded in a systems RAM memory first, to start the actual boot process and load the operating system. The boot sector is created when a volume is formatted.

Boot sector virus

Is malware that infects the boot sector of a drive or other storage device. During a boot, this sector is automatically located and loaded into memory. This makes boot sector viruses harder to remove as they will load before normal removal software.


Is a type of rootkit that alters or replaces the bootloader of the affected system in order to take over control. To remove a bootkit, one will need a bootable medium, which has the necessary tools to undo the changes made by the bootkit.


A derivative of the word “robot.” It usually pertains to (1) one or more compromised machines controlled by a bot master or herder for the purpose of spamming or launching DDoS attacks, and (2) an automated program coded with certain instructions to follow, which includes interacting with websites and humans via the use of Web interfaces (e.g. IMs). A collective of bots is called a botnet.

Synonym: zombie machine

Bot herder

Also known as botnet herder, this are threat actor who controls and maintains a botnet.


A collection of bots.  The term also refers to the malware run on a connected device to turn it into a bot.

Also known as zombie network.

In computing, breadcrumbs are navigation aids that tell users where exactly they are while surfing on a site or in a set of folders. It shows the hierarchy of links on a site or the steps in the folder structure. Consider, for example, the address bar in a Windows explorer window.


Refers to the practice or act of rendering an electronic computing device—often a smartphone—useless or inoperable. Bricking usually happens by accident, such as when a firmware update gets interrupted.

Bring your own device

Abbreviated as BYOD. Sometimes called “bring your own technology” (BYOT), this is a trend wherein employees bring their personal computing devices, usually a smartphone, to be used in the workplace. These devices are connected to the company’s network.


Is a contraction of browser and lock. The term is used to describe the state of the internet browser in response to certain sites where the user is unable to perform any of the actions below:

  • close the open tab or window
  • blocks access to the desktop of the system
  • stops you from navigating to another site

The term is also used in cases where malware opens a browser window for the above purposes without the user actively using the browser. The browser controls can be hidden so the user would not recognize it as such.

The objectives for this behavior can be numerous, but it in essence the threat actor wants the user to do something he normally wouldn’t have done, i.e. call a tech support scam number, pay a ransom, or install an extension. You can find more information about browser lockers in our blog post, Regaining Control Over Edge.

Browser helper object

Abbreviated as BHO. This is a DLL component of Internet Explorer that provides added functionality to the said browser.


In computing, a buffer refers to the amount of data stored and shared between applications to compensate for the difference in speed with which these can handle the data. Consider, for example, your browser buffering (part of) a movie while downloading it and, at the same time, while your movie player plays it.

Buffer overflow

Also known as buffer overrun. It’s a computer anomaly wherein a program writes to a block of memory (or buffer) more than what it is allocated to hold.

Bug bounty

A rewards program through which individuals can receive monetary compensation and/or recognition for finding flaws or vulnerabilities on a company’s software or system.


Usually refers to a single installation file containing two or more programs. Many of them are found in freeware download sites. Although in some cases, these “free” software are actually trial versions of applications one commonly pays for.

Bundlers bank on the names of popular programs users generally want to install onto their systems, and those who aren’t familiar with bundlers may welcome the additional free programs. Unfortunately, a majority of these are categorized as unwanted software, such as adware and browser toolbars.

A bundler also refers to software that is pre-installed in newly purchased hardware (e.g. PC, laptop, smartphone).

Synonyms: bundleware, bloatware, bundled software, crapware, pre-installed software


In computing, this refers to the act of writing data to a drive with a recordable disc (CD, DVD). The data is written onto the disc using a laser and, until the invention of rewritable discs (RW), this was considered a one-time only process.



Stands for command and control, which may pertain to a a centralized server or computer that online criminals use to issue commands to control malware and bots and to receive reports from them.

Other forms: command & control, C2


In computing,  a cache is a temporary storage that is used to speed up future requests. For example, a browser cache stores contents of websites, so they can be displayed faster the next time the user visits them. For information about DNS cache poisoning, have a look at the blog post, DNS Hijacks: What to Look For.


Stands for Computer-Aided Design. This is the use of computer technology to help with the design of two- or three-dimensional objects. This specialized type of software helps to design, modify, analyze, optimize, and even create objects in many fields, including architecture, mechanics, engineering, and art.

Click fraud

Also known as pay-per-click fraud. It is the practice of artificially inflating statistics of online advertisements by using automated clicking programs or hitbots.

Also see: Adfraud


Clickbait is content (especially a headline) that uses exaggeration and sensationalism to entice you into clicking on a link to a particular web page. Clickbait often leads to content of questionable value.

Cloud computing

Refers to the delivery of services that are hosted over the internet to computers and other computing devices.

Also see Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS)

Cloud phishing

Refers to a phishing trend that uses the guise of cloud computing services to get users to click on malicious links. Campaigns of this kind usually start off in emails and social media posts. Some examples of cloud computing services that phishers have used in the past are Dropbox and Google Drive.

Cold boot

In computing, cold boot happens when the system gets booted from a shut down or powerless state. Sometimes used in cases to specify that the power to the system was unplugged and then plugged in again to remedy a certain problem. A reboot executed from the OS is called a warm boot.

Companion virus

Is a type of virus that uses two typical Windows properties:

  • Windows does not require file extensions to run a requested file.
  • When more than one file qualify for a command, Windows chooses the one that comes first alphabetically.

To illustrate, let’s say you want to run ipconfig from the command prompt. If you do not specify the extension, this normally runs the file ipconfig.exe. However, if there is a file (companion virus) in the same path that is called, this is executed as, alphabetically, it comes first before ipconfig.exe.


Compromised sites (or servers) are otherwise legitimate sites that are being used by hackers without the owner’s knowledge. Compromised sites are often used to house and spread malware.


Computer ethics

Is a set of moral principles that describe how decisions in the field of computing should be made. Examples would be rules for disclosing of compromised information and vulnerabilities, copying of electronic content, and the impact of computers (artificial intelligence) on human lives.

Computer science

Is a multi-disciplinary collection of studies in the fields that are related to digital information. Computer systems, the internet, programming, data storage, and artificial intelligence are some of the best known fields.

Consumer fraud protection

A law designed to shield consumers against goods and services that didn’t perform as advertised. Consumers are also protected against unfair trade (overcharging) and fraudulent credit practices.


This could either mean:

  1. a piece of software used to figure out passwords using a dictionary attack. It can also be a piece of software or tool used to illegally bypass certain software security features, such as copy protection. This is usually done by individuals who pirate software.
  2. the act of breaking into a secured computer system. The person doing the crack is called a cracker. Some argue that there are distinctions between a cracker and a hacker.


In malware research, this refers to a program that makes malware hard to read by researchers. The crudest technique for crypters is usually called obfuscation. A more elaborate blog post on that is Obfuscation: Malware’s best friend.

Obfuscation is also used often in scripts, like JavaScript and VBScript. But most of the time, these are not difficult to bypass or de-obfuscate. More complex methods use actual encryption. More information about this and related subjects can be found in our blog post, Explained: Packer, Crypter, and Protector


Cryptocurrency is a decentralized digital currency. It is the preferred payment method of ransomware authors, and it can be generated by mining scripts embedded on websites.


Is the knowledge of sending and storing data encrypted. This is done so the data can only be read by the person encrypting the data and the person(s) for whom the information is intended. But encryption techniques are also used by malware called ransomware. Ransomware encrypts a users’ data without his consent and offers to provide him with the key for a certain compensation. More information can be found in our blog post, How to encrypt files and folders.


Also called cryptocurrency mining.

This is the process of adding new transactions to a public ledger of previous transactions (called the blockchain) and introducing new cryptocurrencies into the system. Mining is, by default, resource-intensive.

Related blog post(s):


Is the term for crimes that are related to computers and networks, including traditional crimes like fraud, blackmail, identity theft (to name a few) that are being done over the Internet or by using computing devices. Cybercrime has rapidly become a serious problem because of the growth of computer users and the fact that it knows no borders, which makes finding and punishing cyber criminals difficult.


Data exfiltration

An act of retrieving, copying, and transferring data, such as user credentials, about individuals and/or organizations without authorization.

Synonym: siphoning

Data mining

Is the process of sifting through large data sets in order to identify patterns and/or generate new information.


DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service.  It is a network attack that involves attackers forcing numerous systems (usually infected with malware) to send network communication requests to one specific web server. The result is the receiving server being overloaded by nonsense requests and either crashing the server and/or distracting the server enough that normal users are unable to create a connection between their system and the server.  This attack has been popularized in many “Hacktivism” attacks by numerous hacker groups as well as state-sponsored attacks conducted by governments against each other.


A tool used to transform unreadable data back to its original, unencrypted form. This is normally used by those affected by ransomware to restore their files.


Is the short term for defragmentation. It is the process of reorganizing a file system so that those that were split up when saved and changed are put back together again. This removes pointers to and from the fragments and optimizes the speed with which these files can be used. It also frees up space on the drive.


Also spelled dialler can have several definitions when it comes to computing. All of them involve connections to a telephone or ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) line.

  • A program or app that initiates the best connection for the number chosen by the user
  • A program that connects a system to the internet over a telephone or ISDN line
  • Malware that connects a system to a network or number with fraudulent intent

Dictionary attack

The act of penetrating password-protected computer systems or servers using large sets of words in a dictionary as password. This attack usually works as many users still use normal words for their passwords.


DNS stands for Domain Name Service.  It is an internet protocol that allows user systems to use domain names/URLs to identify a web server rather than inputting the actual IP address of the server.  For example, the IP address for is, but rather than typing that into your browser, you just type ‘’ and your system reaches out to a ‘DNS Server’ which has a list of all domain names and their corresponding IP address, delivering that upon request to the user system.  Unfortunately, if a popular DNS server is taken down or in some way disrupted, many users are unable to reach their favorite websites because without the IP address of the web server, your system cannot find the site.


Is short for Domain Name System Security Extensions. It is a set of extensions that add extra security to the DNS protocol. This is done by enabling the validation of DNS requests, which is specifically effective against DNS spoofing attacks. DNSSEC provides the DNS records with a digital signature, so the resolver can check if the content is authentic. More information can be found in the blog post, DNSSEC: why do we need it?


In computer security related terminology domain refers to either:

  1. A group of computers that are under the control of a common operator and administered as one unit, or
  2. The name of a Web resource following the rules of the Domain Name System (DNS), which translates the Domain Name into an IP address

Domain administrator privileges

Refers to administrator access to all machines within a network.


A downloader, or Trojan-downloader, is malware with the sole intention to download other programs—usually more malware—to the affected system as soon as an Internet connection is available.

Drive-by download

Pertains to (1) the unintended download of one or more files, malicious or not, onto the user’s system without their consent or knowledge. This usually happens when a user visits a website or views an email on HTML format. It may also describe the download and installation of files bundled with a program that users didn’t sign up for. These files can be adware, spyware, or PUPs; (2) the general term used for files that were downloaded unintentionally; i.e. “drive-by downloads.”

Drive-by mining

A term coined to describe a method in which a piece of JavaScript code is embedded into a Web page to perform cryptocurrency mining on user machines that visit this page. This happens in the background and without user consent.

Related blog post(s):


Also called Trojan dropper is a type of malware that installs other malware on the affected system. The other malware is part of the same executable, which is usually in compressed form.

Dwell time

Refers to the amount of time passed from when malware has initially infiltrated a system to when it has been detected and removed.



Is the process of changing data in a way that can not (easily) be undone (decrypted) by parties that don’t have the decryption key. Users encrypt information or messages so they can’t be read by anyone. Ransomware encrypts files so the victim can no longer use them, unless he pays the ransom. More information about encryption can be found in the blog post, Encryption: types of secure communication and storage.

End user

Is the person that a certain product is designed, developed, and created for. For this intended user, the product should be suitable (ease of use), and it should be a finished product. Even if a product can be developed further, this should not hinder the end user from using it.


Also known as electronic sports are basically video games competitions. Any computer- or console-game that has a multi-player competition qualifies as an eSport. Most of them fall in the genre of fighting, be it shooters, strategy or battle arena, but other types of games can fall into this category. Professional players participate in many of them.


Exploits are a type of malware that takes advantage of bugs and vulnerabilities in a system in order to allow the exploit’s creator to take control.

Exploit Kit

A collection of exploits which are packaged up for use by criminal gangs in spreading malware.



In computer security, a family refers to a group of malware variants that all exhibit base characteristics associated only with them.


Stands for Frequently Asked Questions. These are lists drawn up around a certain subject of commonly asked questions and the answers to those questions. These lists are often a first line of support for may products and answer many of the questions that users may have.

File type

This is a name given to a specific kind of file. For example, a Microsoft Excel document and a Python script file. These files are associated with certain applications. Standard file types, such as rich text format (RTF) files and MP3 audio files, can be opened using multiple programs that support it.


File-based attack

Refers to an attack where threat actors use certain file types, usually those bearing document file extensions like .DOCX and .PDF, to entice users to open them. The file in question has been embedded with a malicious code (malcode); thus, once opened, this code is also executed. Usually, the malcode delivers an equally malicious payload.

Below are other file types used in malicious attacks:

  • Binary executables: EXE, DLL, MSI
  • Scripts: JS, VBS, PowerShell



Refers to the process of gathering information about a system at first contact. The information often concerns location, installed operating system, and installed software. Fingerprinting is often used by malware to determine whether the system is vulnerable to certain attacks and to assess whether it is a desirable victim.

Foothold expansion

An act of a threat actor creating backdoors that are used to re-enter a network after initially infiltrating it.


Fraudulent websites appear to be one thing, like a tech support site, a dating site, or a shopping site with illegal products or great deals, but they’re really scams to try to steal your information or credit card details.


Freeware is software that comes without a cost. Some freeware may give the option of voluntary payments to the developer, which is typically be called donationware.


Stands for fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

FUD is a disinformation strategy that is used as a weapon against competitors. This could also mean the spreading of false or harmful information to influence perception and appeal to their fear.

In hacking, FUD could also mean fully undetected. This either means (1) data that has been made to appear like random noise due to encryption, or (2) a piece of software that cannot be detected by AV tools and scanners.



Stands for Graphical User Interface. This is a type of interaction that helps a system user to control and manipulate software. The alternative are command line programs that are usually perceived as hard to understand and hard to learn, where a well-designed GUI can make or break the success of programs.



Is a person that has a profound understanding of particular systems or processes. His knowledge enables him to use those subjects for other goals than they were designed for. This is done by finding flaws or loopholes in them. There is a distinction between white hat hackers that report the flaws they find without abusing them and gray or black hat hackers that use the flaws they find, for personal gain at the expense of others.


Hacktivism is a portmanteau of “hacking” and “activism”. Hacktivism is the defacement of a website where the compromise isn’t as significant as the statement the hackers make through it.


Is a state of inactivity to save energy. In computing this expression is used for powering down a computer while preserving the state it is in. The content of the RAM (Random Access Memory) is saved to a drive (usually the main hard disk of the system) and will be restored in RAM as soon as the system is brought back out of hibernation. Not to be confused with sleep mode, which is another energy saving method that uses a little energy to keep the data in RAM. The advantage of sleep mode is that the system is ready for use almost instantaneously where waking from hibernation takes some time.


A hijacker is a type of malware that modifies a web browser’s settings without users’ permission, usually to inject unwanted ads into the browser or redirect to scam sites.


Stands for Host Intrusion Prevention System, which describes a software package that monitors for suspicious activities occurring within a host machine. This helps keeps a system secure, without depending on a specific threat to be added to a detection update. For more information, see the article HIPS.


A hoax  is the term we use to generally describe a fake or false warning. Hoaxes did start  out as emails, but nowadays they are most active on social media, especially on Facebook. This has considerably increased the speed with which they spread. For more information, see the article hoax.


Is by definition a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not. But in cyber-security this is expanded to include words that look the same. This can be achieved by using numbers that looks the same as a letter or characters from another characterset that look the same to humans, but computers see the difference. For example the letter Omicron from the Greek alphabet looks exactly the same as the “Latin” O, but they have a different code in the Unicode table.

Homograph attacks

Also known as homoglypth attacks, script spoofing, and homograph domain name spoofing.

A homograph attack is a method of deception wherein a threat actor leverages on the similarities of character scripts to create and register phony domains of existing ones to fool users and lure them into visiting.

Related blog post(s):

Host-based solution

Refers to software that is installed in end-point systems as opposed to a centralized solution.



Is short for Input/Output, the expression is used to describe any information exchange between a computer system and the outside, in both directions. Usually this expression is used, but not limited to for the traffic between the system and peripheral devices.


Short for internationalized domain name. It is a domain name containing at least one non-ASCII character.

IDNs enable Internet users from all over the world can create and register domain names using their own native language. IDNs can only be used by applications that were designed for them. Fortunately, all modern browsers and email programs support them.

Related blog post(s):

Incident scope

In a malware attack against enterprises, an incident scope generally refers to the extent of damage against the organization, how much data has been stolen, what the attack surface is, and how much it’d cost them to resolve the attack and prevent it from happening again in the future.

Intellectual property

Refers to creations of the mind, whether they are inventions, art, designs, names, or commercial images. Laws on intellectual property differ from one country to the other, but they usually protect the rights of the person or company that first successfully claims coming up with the creation.


Is a (large) network with restricted access. Usually set up by or for a company or other organization and with access limited to the staff or members of the organization.


In computing IOC stands for indicator of compromise. These indicators can be found after a system intrusion and tell the investigators something about the sort of attack or security breach. These indicators can be IP addresses, domains, hashes of malware files, virus signatures, and similar artifacts. They can lead the investigators to the vulnerabilities that may have been used, possible prevention methods, and sometimes even help in attribution.


Stands for Internet of Things. It represents a host of internet connected devices that do not require direct human input. You can think of refrigerators, cars, security camera’s, but also pacemakers and other biochip transponders. The device has to have a unique identifier and the ability to connect to a network to qualify as a part of the IoT. Many concerns have surfaced about some of these devices due to the weak or complete lack of implemented security in these connected devices.

IP address

An IP address is a number assigned to each system that is participating in a network using the Internet Protocol, such as the World Wide Web.

There are two standards in use: IPv4 and IPv6, but every computer that has an IP address has at least an IPv4 address. An IPv4 address consist of 4 elements each ranging from 0 to 255. A well-known example is the IP-address, which points back at the computer that sends the query.



Is short for Intrusion Prevention System. These systems monitor network traffic to determine whether a security breach or malware infection has taken place. When applicable they can intervene in such cases as pre-determined by the network administrator to avoid further damage. In general, a complete Intrusion Prevention System can include components like firewalls and anti-virus software.


ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. It is a company that provides users with internet services, such as basic connections, broadband, web hosting, and a range of other services.


Is short for Information Technology. Describes the study or the use of systems (especially computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information. Often used to describe the department that focuses on the success of computer operations and other information technologies needs, within an organization.


Joke programs

A joke program is a file that may not have a malicious payload but may inconvenience the user in another way. For example, it might play loud audio files, or pop up a funny video, or move the mouse cursor around the desktop.



Is short for key generator. This is a piece of software that generates random keys, usually software product keys, for the purpose of letting the user activate and operate a program without them actually purchasing it.


In the context of malware, a keylogger is a type of Trojan spyware that is capable of stealing or recording user keystrokes.

Other forms: key logger, keylogging
Synonyms: keystroke logger, system monitor


Is one stroke of any key on a machine operated by a keyboard, as a typewriter, computer terminal, and so on. Sometimes keystrokes per hour (KSPH) or keystrokes per minute (KSPM) are used as a standard of typing speed. And the efficiency of programs is sometimes measured by how little keystrokes it takes to get a job done.



Stands for Local Area Network. It is a network of computers and other devices spread over a relatively small space, e.g. a building or group of buildings. Usually, these devices all connect to a server or group of servers by ethernet or Wi-Fi. Sometimes, they are connected to other LANs and together they form a WAN (Wide Area Network).


In computing, it generally means a time delay from system input to desired output. This can be defined differently, depending on context. There are several types:

  • Network latency
  • Internet latency
  • Interrupt latency
  • WAN latency
  • Operational latency
  • Mechanical latency
  • Computer and OS latency


Lateral movement

Refers to various techniques and/or tactics that threat actors use that allows them to move through a network to access or search for key assets and data within a network. At times, they employ this to control remote systems. Remote administration tools (RATs) are usually used in performing lateral movement.


Is a favorite and most used free, open-sourced OS to date. This term also denotes a family of OS distributions (or distro) built around the Linux kernel.

A distro is an OS made from a collection of software, which is based on the Linux kernel. An example of a distro is Ubuntu.

Unlike Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX, which are compiled, Linux isn’t. As such, humans can easily understand its code.

Local administrator privilege

A local administrator privilege refers to administrator privileged access to a specific machine within a network, allowing an owner to make system configurations, install and uninstall software, and use other OS components.

Local administrator privileges

Refers to administrator access to a specific machine within a network, allowing an owner to make system configurations, install and uninstall software, and use other privileged OS components. The owner of the machine is usually (and by default) the administrator.


On any given system localhost refers to “this computer”, the one . It uses the IP address to use the loopback function in order to reach the resources stored  on the system itself.


Stands for Layered Service Provider. A Layered Service Provider is a file (.dll) using the Winsock API to insert itself into the TCP/IP stack. There it can intercept, filter, and even modify all the traffic between the internet and a system’s applications. More detailed information can be found in the blogpost Changes in the LSP stack. An example of an LSP hijacker can be found in the blogpost Fake Adblocker Bylekh is an LSP Hijacker.


Machine learning

Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) where computers make use of large data sets and statistical techniques to improve at specific tasks without being manually reprogrammed.

Malicious/Destructive payload

Simply known as payload, this refers to a portion of malware that performs its malicious activity. A payload can be as benign as changing an affected system’s desktop screensaver or as destructive as deleting key operating system (OS) files.


Malware which is delivered by email messages.  For more information, see


Malvertising, or “malicious advertising,” is the use of online advertising to distribute malware with little to no user interaction required. More information can be found in our blogs: What is malvertising? and Truth in malvertising: How to beat bad ads.


Malware, or “malicious software,” is an umbrella term that refers to any malicious program or code that is harmful to systems.

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)

In cybersecurity, a man-in-the-middle attack happens when a threat actor manages to intercept and forward the traffic between two entities without either of them noticing. To pull this off, the attacker should not only be convincing in their impersonation but be able to follow and influence the conversation between two or more parties. A MitM attack can be done between browser and internet, for example, or between a Wi-Fi hotspot and an internet user.

Mass malware/Opportunistic attack

In contrast to a targeted attack, an opportunistic attack involves malware that is being distributed in large numbers for anyone to download or injected into websites for anyone to access. Any victim is welcomed. Well-known methods are email and exploit kits.


Stands for Master Boot Record. Typically, the MBR is the first sector on a startup drive (or other partitioned media). It contains the boot loader, which basically is a piece of executable code that starts the loading of the Operating System, or the boot-loader on a system that has more than one operating system installed. More information can be found in the blogpost Meet the Master Boot Record.

Memory dump

A memory dump is the content of the systems RAM (Random Access Memory) created at a specific point in time. Usually this is done at the moment of a program crash or system failure and used to diagnose the problem. But they can also be made manually, for the purpose of memory forensics like the investigation of advanced (e.g. fileless) malware.


Are basically data about data. Metadata gives background information about data that gives the user of the data information about the origin, the relevance and the creation. Examples are geotags in photographs (where was the photograph taken) and the file information of documents ( who created it, when was the last change, size, etc.).


Stands for Multi-factor authentication. The most well-known version of MFA is 2FA (Two factor authentication). Both represent the combination of more than one method of getting access to a resource (logging in). For more information see this blog-post Understanding the basics of Two-Factor Authentication.


Also known as cryptocurrency miner. This is a form of malware that uses the resources of an infected system to mine a cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoins) for the threat-actor.


In computing, this is the process or act of containing the impact and/or risk borne from an attack. Remediation usually follows mitigation.


Is short for Multimedia Messaging Service. This service is an enhancement of the Short Message Service (SMS) and allows the user to send longer messages (SMS is limited to 160 characters), accompanied with pictures, short videos, and audio over a cellular network.


Or cross-platform, is an expression to describe software that has been developed to work on multiple operating systems.

Mumblehard malware

Is a type of malware that specifically targets Linux and BSD servers. It uses spambots to compromise systems. It has derived its name from spam being “mumbled” out of affected systems and servers.



In computing the definition of a network is a group of two or more computers systems linked together. Consider for example your home network or a LAN (Local Area Network). A prime property of networks is their topology. The main topologies  are:

  • mesh
  • star
  • bus
  • ring
  • tree

Network perimeter

Refers to the boundary between a private network and a public network, such as the World Wide Web.


NewTab is software that changes the default page of a new tab on the browser. This can result in similar negative effects and behavior like browser toolbars or browser hijackers. NewTab can manipulate browser(s) to change their home page or search provider in order to hijack internet traffic and inject advertisements.



In computing this stands for Operating System. The most well-known operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Linux, Apple’s MacOS, Android, and Google’s Chrome OS. Most of these can be divided in more specific operating systems (e.g. Windows 8.1) or grouped into more general clusters of operating systems (e.g. Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel)


Is short for Open Systems Interconnection. This is a model that defines a networking framework to implement protocols in seven layers:

  1. Physical
  2. Data Link
  3. Network
  4. Transport
  5. Session
  6. Presentation
  7. Application

This model was designed by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) as a design template for building network systems. The lower layers deal with electrical signals, chunks of binary data, and routing of these data across networks. Higher levels cover network requests and responses, representation of data, and network protocols as seen from a user’s point of view.



Is usually short for runtime packers. It is also known as self-extracting archives, which is software that unpacks itself in memory when the “packed file” is executed. Sometimes, this technique is also called executable compression.

This type of compression is invented to make files smaller, so users wouldn’t have to unpack them manually before they could be executed. However, given the current size of portable media and internet speeds, the need for smaller files is not that urgent anymore. So when you see some packers being used nowadays, it is almost always for malicious purposes. In essence, to make reverse engineering more difficult, with the added benefit of a smaller footprint on the infected machine. For more information about this subject, have a look at the blog post, Explained: Packer, Crypter, and Protector


Is essentially a short and simple password. Consider for example the 4 digit numerical code to unlock a smartphone.


Is essentially a complex password made up of a sequence of words. The differences with a regular password are the presence of spaces and the length that makes a passphrase more complex.


Is a method of authentication that has become popular due to its ease of use. The growing need for complex and longer passwords has diminished that ease of use a bit. More information can be found in our blogpost The Password and You.


In computing and telecommunications, a payload is part of transmitted data that is the actual intended message. In malware research, a payload is the malware that the threat actor wants to deliver to the victim. For example, if the threat actor sent out a document with a malicious Macro as an email attachment and the victim gets infected with ransomware, then the ransomware is the payload. The threat actor did use the email, document, or the packer, crypter or  protector to avoid detection.


Is abbreviated as P2P. In computing, this involves the sharing of files and/or resources between two computers connected to each other through a network. Each of these computers become a file server to the other.

Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing (or “pen testing”) is the practice of running controlled attacks on a computer system (network, application, Web app, etc.) in an attempt to find unpatched vulnerabilities or flaws. By performing pen tests, an organization can find ways to harden their systems against possible future real attacks, and thus to make them less exploitable.


Is the term used to refer to the role of humans/people in information technology, such as the creation of hardware and software.


Pharma is short for “pharmacy.” In cybersecurity, the expression refers to spam or websites that traffic in fake or illegal medication. These sites may also sell legal medication, but in violation of local laws.


Phishing scams attempt to obtain your information by presenting themselves as legitimate websites, then asking for your password, credit card details, or other sensitive information.

Phishing kit

A phishing kit is a set of materials and tools that allows scammers with little technical ability to create a convincing phish. Someone in need of a large-scale attack also uses a kit to deploy a phishing campaign at short notice.


Is a term to describe hacking anything to do with telephone systems. The term is a contraction of the words phone and freaks and goes back to the time when the telephone structure was still gaining popularity and was by far not as secure as it is now. At the time phreaking was more driven by curiosity than pursuing illegal activity.


Is short for Personally Identifiable Information. This phrase is used for data that could be tracked back to one specific user. You will see it used in Privacy Policies and other privacy statements. Examples of PII are names, social security numbers, biometrics, and other data that, in combination with other data, could be enough to identify a user.


See OS.


In computer science this describes the ability to use a variable or function in more than one way. The applied use depends on the context in the program. The easiest example is the use of  “+” (which is in fact a very basic function). In most programming languages, when used with numbers it will calculate the sum, but when a string variable is involved, it will join the strings together.

Power User

In computer science is a user that uses a system or software with more than average skills, knowledge, and demands. Often they will use a system that is equipped for special tasks the Power User often needs it to perform. People can easily be Power Users in one field and be regular users in others.

Privilege escalation

An act or event that occurs when a threat actor or unauthorized user achieves full access to normally restricted resources on a computing device’s operating system (OS) it has gained access to. Currently, there are two kinds: horizontal escalation, in which the actor assumes the identity of another user to gain his/her level of privilege; vertical escalation, in which the actor grants himself a higher access privilege by manipulating the system or taking advantage of its flaws.

Proof of concept

A proof of concept (PoC) is a demonstration that a certain idea or method works. In computer security this often means that hackers show that they have been able to make use of a security flaw in software or hardware. For example, in 2015, a team of software developers have proven that malware can indeed hide on graphic card chips.



In malware research, a protector is software intended to prevent tampering and reverse engineering of programs. The methods used can—and usually will—include both packing and encrypting. This combination, plus added features, makes what is usually referred to as a protector. Researchers are then faced with protective layers around the payload, making reverse engineering difficult.

A completely different approach, which also falls under the umbrella of protectors, is code virtualization, which uses a customized and different virtual instruction set every time you use it to protect your application. Of these protectors, there are professional versions that are used in the gaming industry against piracy. More information about this and related subjects can be found in our blog post, Explained: Packer, Crypter, and Protector


In general, it is the act of performing an action for someone else. In computing, this translates as approaching a resource (like the internet) through a different (proxy) server. This server can act as a simple gateway, but it can also add functionality to the requests it receives and sends. The most well-known proxies are the ones that allow access to resources that are restricted. For example, sites that are only open to visitors from a certain country, or the opposite, sites that are not a allowed at a certain location (work, school).


Pronounced as soo-doh-kohd. It is a detailed human-readable yet detailed description of what a computer program or algorithm is supposed to do. Pseudocode is often used in developing a program. It also provides programmers a template to follow in writing their code.

Related blog post(s):


Stands for potentially unwanted modification. This is an alteration made to a computer’s registry (or other settings), which either damages the computer or changes its behaviour, without knowledge of the user. Such unwanted alterations can be done by legitimate software, malware, grayware, or PUP.


Is a method of encoding that converts Unicode to ASCII. This is especially helpful when representing non-Latin or foreign characters that are used in Internet host names. Internationalized domain names (IDNs) are usually converted to Punycode. For example, the pretend site, bü, is transcoded in Punycode to Here’s a breakdown of that output so we can explain each part:

  • bcher-kva
    • This label is the transcoded form of bücher. It’s called a Letter-Digit-Hyphen (LDH) as such forms follow this syntax.
  • xn--
    • This is called an ASCII Compatible Encoding (ACE) prefix, which is placed before the LDH. This is prepended by default to prevent confusing IDNs with hyphens from those that were converted to Punycode.
    • This is the TLD of a domain name.

Related blog post(s):


PUPs, or Potentially Unwanted Programs, are programs that may include advertising, toolbars, and pop-ups that are unrelated to the software you downloaded. PUPs often come bundled with other software that you installed.


QR Code

Is a 2-dimensional barcode. They are squares filled with black and white blocks invented to keep track of cars during manufacturing. Because of the speed with which they can be read and the amount of data they can store, they are rapidly becoming popular in a growing range of fields.


Is by origin a medical term which means keeping infected persons or animals away from healthy ones, to minimize the chances of spreading a contagious disease. This term was picked up by the AV-industry, that uses the term for files they have moved to a safe location on a system, because they were identified as malware. In quarantine the files can no longer be executed, but the user can restore them if he feels the detection was false.



Ransomware is a form of malware that locks you out of your device and/or encrypts your files, then forces you to pay a ransom to get them back.


Is abbreviated as RaaS. This is a form of software-as-a-service (SaaS) catered by underground vendors to threat actors by providing them a ransomware platform tool. Because of this, even non-technical internet users can create, distribute, and cash in from ransomware attacks.

See: Anything-as-a-Service


RAR files, like other archives, are essentially data containers where one or more files are stored in compressed form. WinRAR is the software typically used to compress these files. RAR files use the .rar extension.


Is short for reconnaissance, which (in the context of information security) describes an act of a threat actor using remote access tools (RAT) to gain access to a target system to assess items of value and map the network landscape.


In computing, this is the process or method of correcting system changes, regardless of severity, on the affected system. Mitigation usually precedes remediation.

Remote access

Is controlling a computer system from another location. There are many programs that enable this method of working. Very convenient if you want to work on your office computer from home. Unfortunately, it is also a tool of choice for Tech Support Scammers.

Remote administration tool (RAT)

A software program that allows users to control another system as if they have physical access to it.

Remote user

Is someone who operates or accesses a computing device from an off-site location.


Are also referred to as anti-anti-virus viruses. Which means that it tries to attack and disable any anti-virus, or other protective software, on the system they are trying to infect, so it won’t get detected.


Riskware, or “risky software,” describes legitimate software programs that contain loopholes or vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers for malicious purposes.


Is software, generally classified as malware, that provides the attacker with administrator privileges on the infected system and actively hides from the normal computer user. They also hide from other software on the system, often even from the operating system.

RunPE Technique

A common technique malware uses: running the original executable, suspending it, unmapping from the memory, mapping the payload on its place, and running it again.


Safe Mode

It’s a boot option that loads only the most basic drivers needed for Windows to run. There are different sets of drivers that can be loaded, depending on the kind of “Safe Mode” the user selects. For more information, see the article safe mode.

Sandbox solution

A type of solution wherein IT administers run a program in a controlled environment to determine whether it is safe to deploy within their network or not.


In cybersecurity, scams are attempts to obtain money or something else of value through dishonest means, mostly over the Internet, though sometimes with a phone call.

Screen scraper

A screen scraper is a form of malware capable of taking screenshots or gathering data from the visible desktop to send them back to its controller.

Script kiddie

A script kiddie is a derogatory term given to hackers who may feel have no technical ability. Some wear the name as a badge of pride.


In computer security related terminology a seed is one of the factors used to create (a series of) seemingly random numbers or strings. Consider for example Domain Generating Algorithms or encryption keys that are created on the fly. In the combination of factors, the seed is the constant that is the same for one set of random items. For example, the seed for the file encryption used on one victim, can be unique for that victim and for all his files. The seed for one series of generated domains is generally the same until the author switches to a new variant of the malware using the domains.


Is short for search engine optimization. This is a set of marketing techniques aimed at raising the popularity of a website. The goal is to have your site high up in the search results when a user searches for certain relevant keywords. This brings more visitors to the site and bring in more business.


Is a form of blackmail in which the victim is forced to perform sexual favors for the blackmailer. This is often done by threatening to make embarrassing pictures public that were obtained under false pretenses over the internet.


Shareware is software that is used and distributed for free, which may or may not have limited features, up to a certain period of time. Once that period is exceeded, users may be required to pay for its continued use.


Stands for Security information and event management. SIEM systems are designed to provide SOCs or other security managers with information about the entire system’s infrastructure to support detection and help with incident response and prevention.

Smart home

Also called smart house or building. This is an establishment that incorporates advanced automated systems that enable users to remotely control an array of electronic devices. For example, a user living in a smart home is capable of controlling appliances, room temperature, lighting, and the security system by issuing commands to a computing device.


Stands for Security Operations Center and is a centralized unit of personnel, processes and technology that guard the security and investigate security breaches for a bigger entity, usually a company or a network. A SOC does not necessarily have to be part of an organization, they can be hired externally.

Social engineering

In cybersecurity, social engineering is the description of methods that attackers use to get the victims to breach security protocol or give up private information. There are many tactics that lead to this goal, and they rely on psychological manipulation, such as seducing the victims by playing to their greed, vanity, or their willingness to help someone.

Software delivery layer

Refers to a method for network administrators to push out and manage software on the systems they are responsible for.

Software vulnerability

Refers to a weakness or flaw in software, which leaves it open to be exploited by threat actors.


Spam is an undesired communication, often an email or call, that gets sent out in bulk. Spam wastes time and resources, so many communication tools have built-in ways of minimizing it.


A program designed to build mailing lists to send unsolicited emails to by harvesting email addresses from websites, newsgroups, and even chat room conversations.

Spear phishing

Is a method of deceiving users with any sort of on-line messages, but usually email, into giving up important data. Spear phishing attacks are phishing attacks that are targeted at a particular user or group of users (e.g. employees of one company). The intended victim(s) will be asked to fill out data or lured into installing data gathering malware on his system. Learn more about phishing in our blog post, Phishing 101: Part 1.


Spyware is a type of malware that gathers information on a device and sends it to a third-party actor or organization that wouldn’t normally have access. In the past, this term was also used for adware and cookies.



Is the science of hiding information. In cyber-security this usually comes down to hiding the malicious information behind seemingly harmless messages. Consider for example malvertising where the code is hidden in images. Or malware where the threat actors used Twitter as their C&C infrastructure.

Supply-chain attack

A type of attack that targets the weakest or most vulnerable element in a business’s or organization’s supply chain network. There are several ways this can be done: one, cybercriminals can continuously attack the system through hacking; another is by embedding malware into a manufacturer’s software. However this is done, the purpose of a supply chain attack is to gain access to sensitive data repositories and damage the company.

Related blog post(s):

Suspicious activity

In our Malwarebytes product, “possible suspicious activity” encompasses a variety of behaviors that are commonly attributed to technical support scams, cryptojacking, browser hijacking, and other types of harmful or potentially unwanted programs.

System optimizer

This type of software combines some or all of the below functionalities:

  • Registry cleaner
  • Driver Updater
  • Temp file cleaner
  • Disk optimizer (disk defragmenter)
  • Report system errors

Since all these functionalities are offered by free tools built into the Windows operating system, many system optimizers are considered Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs), especially if they exaggerate the seriousness of possible improvements that can be made on user system.


Targeted attack

Refers to an attack aimed at a certain person or group of people. The attackers can be an organization or people that work in a certain field.

Third party

Is a term used to describe an entity that is involved in a deal, but not directly as one of the entities that close the deal. In privacy policies, the term is often used to avoid being blamed, as the publisher, for something any third party might do to the user. For example, additional software that is included in a bundler, will usually be referred to as “third-party software”.

Threat actor

In cybersecurity, a threat actor is a group or person behind a malicious incident. As it is sometimes unclear whether an attack was done by one person or whether there is a group or organization involved, we use this as a general term to describe the responsible entity.


Is short for Top Level Domain. This is the right hand part of a domain name. Examples are .com, .gov, and . info. In the hierarchical structure of the DNS system these are at the highest level, hence the name. A complete list of valid TLDs can be found at the site.


In information security, a token is a small hardware device that, together with what a user knows—such as a PIN—gives him/her authorized access to a computing system or network. A smart card and a key fob are examples of security tokens.


Trojans are programs that claim to perform one function but actually do another, typically malicious. Trojans can take the form of attachments, downloads, and fake videos/programs and, once active on a system, may do a number of things, including stealing sensitive data or taking control of the device.


Is a systematical approach to finding the cause of a malfunction or other problem. With computers this usually starts with studying logs, some of which may have been created specifically for the problem at hand, others may be error logs or even memory dumps.


Typosquatting is the practice of deliberately registering a domain name which is similar to an existing popular name, in the hope of getting traffic by people who mis-type the URL of the popular domain.  For more information, see the article typosquatting.



Pronounced as oo-boon-too. It is a Linux distro that is based on the Debian architecture. It was designed for use on personal computers; however, it can be used on network servers as well. In fact, it is the most used OS in hosted environments, i.e., the cloud, and it’s also arguably the most famous distro.


Is a global standard for character encoding. It provides a unique number to every character in existence, which comprises of scripts and symbols. As such, it simplifies the localization of software and supports multilingual text processing.

The Unicode Consortium maintains, develops, and promotes the use of the Unicode standard.

External link(s):


Urban legend

In computing, urban legends are typically viral scare stories warning of a particular hacker’s skill, or how something bad will happen on a social network by a precise date unless people perform some tasks.


Stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is a method to find resources located on the World Wide Web. A URL consists of (at least) a protocol (i.e. HTTP) and either a domain or an IP address. They can also include a path on the server to point to a particular file or site.

USB attack

Refers to an attack where threat actors use a USB drive to spread malware. In a targeted attack, infected USB drives are deliberately dropped in public locations, such as parking lots, to entice victims to picking it up and opening it using their computers.

USB boot

A USB boot is booting up a computer using an OS or recovery program located on a USB stick as opposed to the computer’s hard drive.

User interface

In information technology, a UI is the visual part of an operating system or software that allows users to interact with a computing system, an application, or a website via input devices. There are three (3) known types of UI: command language, menu, and graphical user interface (GUI).



In computer slang, it is a non-existent hardware or software that is publicly announced and actively promoted.

A vaporware announcement may be a marketing strategy to gauge user interests in a particular product.


Often refers to closely related malware strains or types of malware that are in the same family. Usually, it is a version of an existing malware family with modifications.

Virtual machine

A software computer or application environment that runs on another computer or OS. User experience with virtual machines is the same as they would have on dedicated hardware.

Virtual memory

Is a memory management technique in use by the Windows operating system to enlarge the address space. It uses a part of the hard drive to store pages and copy them into the RAM memory when they are needed. This method is slower then using RAM only, but it enables the user to run programs even if his RAM memory is already all in use.


A virus is malware attached to another program (such as a document) which can replicate and spread after an initial execution on a target system where human interaction is required. Many viruses are harmful and can destroy data, slow down system resources, and log keystrokes.

Virus hoax

A false message warning users of having a computer virus. It comes in many forms, some are emails and some are pop-up windows.


Short for voice phishing. It is a phishing tactic that uses voice, either via VoIP or phone, to steal information from call recipients.

See also:

Visual spoofing

Is a type of threat vector where the similarities of characters and letters from different languages are used (deliberately or accidentally) to confuse and/or trick users. According to Chris Weber, a cybersecurity expert, there are several possible scenarios where visual spoofing can be used to give threat actors the advantage:

  • Domain name spoofing
  • Fraudulent vanity URLs
  • User interface and dialog spoofing
  • Malvertising
  • Internationalized email forging
  • Profanity filter bypassing

Related blog post(s):


Is short for Virtual Local Access Network. It describes a network of systems that are simulating to be on the same network. They are bound at OSI Layer 2 (the datalink layer) which means they can communicate as if connected by wire while they can in fact be on different LAN‘s and be physically far apart. VLAN’s are often used to divide LANs into subsets that are allowed to share certain information and devices. Or to create a group of systems around the world that belong to a certain group in the same organization.


Short for Virtual Local Area Network (LAN).

It’s a group of devices on different physical LANs that are configured to communicate with each other as if they are connected to the same wire. If set up right, a VLAN can significantly improve the overall performance of a network.


A capability of malware to detect and identify that the environment it resides on is a virtual machine (VM). Some methods of determining a VM are simple while others are not. Once the malware is aware that it’s on a VM, it usually ceases functioning as its supposed to.

Related blog post(s):

Voice authentication

Sometimes called voice ID. It is a type of biometric verification wherein a user’s voiceprint is applied to confirm his or her identity. This relies on the fact that vocal characteristics are as unique as fingerprints and iris patterns of each individual.


Stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.

VoIP is a technology that allows users to make voice calls over an Internet broadband connection instead of an analog connection, which is used by a regular phone line. In short, it’s a phone service over the Internet.



Is short for virtual private network. This is a virtual extension of a private network over the internet. It is often used to allow employees that are not in the physical office to connect to resources on the intranet as if they were in the office. But there are also commercial VPNs that can be used to anonymize your internet traffic.  You can find more information about those in our blog post, One VPN To Rule Them All!


Is short for Virtual Reality. It’s a computer generated simulation of an environment, using images, sound, and sometimes other sensations like for example “force feedback” to give the users the illusion that they are in that environment and can interact with the objects in that environment. VR is primarily used in medicine, military training and video games.


Walled garden

This term is used in a lot of ways in computing and technology. Generally, this is an environment that limits user access to certain content and services.


Stands for wide area network. It is a private telecommunications network that interconnects multiple LANs and metro area networks (MANs).

A WAN covers a wide geographical area. A router is typically used to connect a LAN to a WAN.


Stands for Wireless Application Protocol. This is a standardized set of communication protocols that allows wireless devices (usually mobile devices, two-way radios, smartphones, and pagers) to securely access the Internet. WAP supports most wireless networks and is supported by all operating systems.


Is an internet slang that means software that has been illegally copied and made available to users.

This shouldn’t be confused with shareware or freeware.

Warm boot

In computing, this is also called a soft boot. It restore the system to its initial state without shutting it down completely. It is often used when applications are hanging or frozen, or after installing software. In Windows ,for example, this can be achieved by choosing “Restart” in the shutdown menu. Also see cold boot.

Warm standby

It is a redundancy method involving two systems running simultaneously: the primary system at the foreground and a secondary or backup system at the background.


Short for wireless application service provider. These are services similar to regular application service providers (ASP) but are accessible via wireless devices, such as smartphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

Wayback Machine

This is a website that allows Internet users to see what certain websites look like at some point in the past. These sites are archived and are currently inaccessible outside the Wayback Machine.

The Wayback Machine is created by the Internet Archive.

Wearable computer

Also known as body-borne computers or wearables. An electronic computing device that can either be strapped on or carried around on (like being incorporated in clothing and personal accessories) a user’s body. This is also capable of storing, processing, and transmitting data.

Wearable device

See: Wearable computer


Pertains to the World Wide Web (W3). Although many define the Web as “the internet”, they are not synonymous. The Web is a way of accessing information that is on the internet. It’s an information-sharing model. The internet, on the other hand, is a massive global network infrastructure comprising of millions of computers.

Web application security

This deals with the security of websites, Web applications, and Web services. It aims to address and/or fulfill the four principles of security, which are confidentiality, integrity, availability, and nonrepudiation.

Web scraping

Also known as screen scraping, Web data extraction, and Web harvesting among others. This is an automated technique used in extracting large amounts of data from websites to be saved locally in a computer as a file or a database (in spreadsheet format). Web scraping is usually done with the aid of software.


A product or service is called “Web-enabled” if it can be used in conjunction with or through the World Wide Web.

This was once a famous buzzword; nowadays, it’s rare to find products or services that don’t use the Web.

Website defacement

Website defacements happen when a hacker compromises a site to promote a message, cause general annoyance, boost search rankings, and also potentially load a webpage with malware or spyware.


A slang term pertaining to the human element of an IT architecture. An IT system is comprised of hardware (or the physical computers), software (or the applications installed on the computers), and wetware (or the people using and maintaining the computers).


In IT, this is a term used to describe a situation where a problem keeps recurring after it is supposedly fixed. The term was inspired by the arcade game, Whac-A-Mole.

An example of a whack-a-mole situation is when one cleans a malware-ridden computer only to find it re-infected again.


Also known as whale phishing. It’s a type of fraud or phishing scheme that targets high-profile end-users, usually C-level businessmen, politicians, and celebrities. Fraudsters behind whaling campaigns aim to trick targets into giving out their personal information and/or business credentials. Whaling is usually done through social engineering efforts.

White hat hacker

A term most commonly used within the computer security circle to describe a type hacker who uses their knowledge and skills to help improve the security of a product and/or service by identifying their weak points before threat actors take advantage of them.




In computing, it is a list of resources and destinations that we decided to trust. Application whitelisting is a method that allows only specific software and applications to run in order to maintain security. This is more restrictive than blacklisting processes, which has pros and cons. Whitelisting is more secure yet time-consuming to manage.


Pronounced “who is”. This is not an abbreviation; however, it stands for “Who is responsible for this domain name?”

It’s an internet service used to look up information about domain names.


Is a trademarked phrase for connections compliant with the IEEE 802.11 standard. This is a wireless technology used to provide internet and other WLAN connections. Wi-Fi-certified products are interoperable with each other. The IEEE 802.11 is often combined with a letter to indicate the radio frequency band the products use.


Is short for Windows Sockets API. It is a standard that specifies how Windows networking software should deal with TCP/IP traffic. One of the features of Winsock 2 is the LSP (Layered Service Provider). A method to insert a file (usually a DLL) into the TCP/IP stack and intercept and modify inbound and outbound Internet traffic. You can read more about LSP hijackers in our blog post, Changes in the LSP stack.


Is the name for any means of transferring information or power over a distance without the need of an electrical conductor (wire).

Wiretap Trojan

A program capable of secretly recording VoIP calls and IM conversations. This malware usually comes with a backdoor, which allows a threat actor to retrieve the recordings.


Stands for Wireless Local Area Network. This is also referred to as LAWN or Local Area Wireless Network.

This is a type of network connection that uses high-frequency radio waves rather than wires to communicate. As it’s wireless, users connected to a WLAN are free to move around provided they stay within the coverage area.

Also see Wi-Fi.


Worms are a type of malware similar to viruses, but they do not need to be attached to another program in order to spread.


Stands for the Web of Things. This is considered as a subset of IoT that focuses on software standards and frameworks. One can think of them as everyday objects capable of communicating with Web services.


Is short for Wi-Fi Protected Access. WPA and WPA2 are security protocols designed for the secure access of Wi-Fi. WPA was intended as an easy upgrade from WEP, but that turned out to be less straightforward than expected. Later WPA2 replaced WPA and supports CCMP, an encryption mode with strong security.

See also WPA2 and WPA-PSK.


Short for Wi-Fi Protected Access Pre-Shared Key. Also known as WPA Personal. This is a security method that uses Pre-Shared Key (PSK) authentication, which is designed for homes, to validate users over a wireless internet. WPA-PSK is a variation of the WPA protocol.

See also WPA2.


Short for Wi-Fi Protected Access II or Wi-Fi Protected Access 2. This is a security standard for computers connected to the internet over a wireless network. Its purpose is to achieve complete compliance with the IEEE802, an IEEE standard for LANs and MANs.

WPA2 generally doesn’t work with old network cards.

See also WPA and WPA-PSK.


Stands for Wireless Personal Area Network. This is a network for various interconnected devices within the circumference of an individual’s workspace. The connection among these devices is usually wireless, and the area of coverage is no greater than 10 meters. An example of a WPAN technology that permits this short-range communication is Bluetooth.

See also WPA2.

Write protection

The ability of a physical, hardware device or software to prevent old information from being overwritten and new data from being written.

Write protection features are normally found in computers and devices that can carry or store information.


Short for White screen of death, o.therwise known as White Death.

This is an error in the OS, particularly Mac OS and Linux, causing it to display a white screen. A WSoD also happens when an application, such as a Web page, locks up or freezes.

Sometimes, a WSoD also happens on Windows.


WYSIWYG, pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”, stands for What You See Is What You Get. In computing, it refers to an editor or tool that allows the developer to see the changes they make on what they’re creating in real time.



XaaS is the abbreviated form of Anything-as-a-Service. XaaS is a catch-all term referring to all available services provided online instead of locally or on-premise.

Synonym: Everything-as-a-Service, Cloud computing



Stands for “year 2000”. This abbreviation is well known today because of the term “the Y2K problem” or “the millennium bug”. The Y2K problem stemmed from fears of computer programs that store year values as two-digits figures—”97″ to mean the year 1997, for example—would cause problems as the year 2000 rolls in.



Zbot is a known family of Trojans capable of stealing user information, such as banking credentials, using man-in-the-browser (MiTB) keystroke logging and form grabbing. For more information, see this blog post on the analysis of a Zbot variant.

Synonym: Zeus/ZeuS

Zero Administration for Windows

Abbreviated as ZAW. This refers to an initiative led by Microsoft that allows administrators to install, update, and manage Windows from a central server to LAN-connected machines. Microsoft has aimed to decrease the amount of time it takes for administrators to perform these tasks  and to reduce the cost of maintaining PCs in large corporations.



A zero-day vulnerability is an exploitable vulnerability in software that has not been disclosed yet. Zero days sarcastically stands for the time the software creator has then left to patch the vulnerability. More information can be found in our blog post, What is a Zero-Day?


Is the description for systems that have been infected by a Trojan that added the system to a botnet. The term is used because the system is taken out of control of its owner, and now obeys the botherder like a zombie. You can read more about these botnets in our blog post, The Facts about Botnets.

Zombie network

See botnet.

Zombie process

Also known as defunct process. It’s what you call a process in its terminated state.

In programs with parent-child functions, a child usually sends an exit status message to its parent after executing. Unless the parent receives and acknowledges this message, the child is in a ‘zombie’ state. This means that it has executed but hasn’t exited.

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