Frequently used online identify theft and online security terminology.

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Antivirus Software

A computer software program that detects and responds to viruses and worms, blocking access to infected files and performing frequent updates.



A computer software program that is used to view and interact with Internet material on the World Wide Web. Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer are two of the most popular browsers.


Denial of Service (DoS) Attack

An attack that attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services by targeting your computer and its network connection, or the computers and network of the sites you are trying to use. This can prevent you from accessing email, websites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack

A Denial of Service attack that is "distributed" from multiple computers to launch the Denial of Service attack.

Dumpster Diving

Thieves rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper that includes your personal information.



A process in which data is scrambled before it is transferred so that it cannot be read by unauthorized parties.

Enhanced Security Login

Provides security at login, no matter what computer you sign in from, using additional end user authentication that helps to protect against online fraud.



A gateway supported by hardware or software that limits access between computer networks. Firewalls can protect your home computer from hackers and your family from web sites that may contain offensive material.



A person who tries to gain unauthorized access to a computer system. Hackers are known to modify computer programs and security systems that protect home and office computers.


Keystroke Capture

A spyware program or device that records what user's type on their computer. Also referred to as Keystroke Logger.



Also known as ‘malicious software’, malware is designed to harm, attack or take unauthorized control over a computer system. Malware includes viruses, worms and Trojans. It’s important to know that Malware can include a combination of all three of the types noted.



Permission granted to a business or organization to use your email address for promotional or marketing purposes, or to rent your email address to another organization.


The opposite of Opt-In- not granting permission for a business or organization to use your email address for promotional or marketing purposes, or to rent your email address to another organization.



A new software release created to update a computer software program. Updates may include security, performance, or usability enhancements.


Pharming takes place when users type in a valid URL and you are illegally redirected to a web site that is not legitimate in order to capture personal information through the internet such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number and other sensitive information.


The process of seeking to obtain personal information illegally through email or pop-up messages in order to deceive you into disclosing your credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information. May involve the use of replicas of existing Web pages to try to deceive you. Phishers often use urgency or scare tactics, such as threats to close accounts.

Pop-Up Ads

A form of web advertising that appears as a "pop-up" on a computer screen, they are intended to increase web traffic or capture email addresses. However, sometimes popup ads are designed with malicious intent like when they appear as a request for personal information from a financial institution.

Privacy Policy

A standard policy included on most corporate websites that explains how personal information collected about visitors to a company's site is handled.



This virus specifically targets your computer defenses. It will look for vulnerabilities within your computer operating system or any third party security software. Most security vendors have some form of tamper-proof measure in place, so it is important to keep your patches up-to-date. Retro Viruses are usually combined with another form of attack.


Service Pack

A software program that updates fixes and/or enhances a software program found on your computer, typically delivered in the form of a single, installable package.


When an unauthorized second copy of a credit or debit card is taken by an employee at a store by using a storage device that copies the details held within the card's magnetic strip.


Unsolicited bulk electronic "junk" messages sent to huge numbers of people via email, instant messaging, Usenet newsgroups, and more.


Spoofing is when an attacker masquerades as someone else by providing false data. Phishing has become the most common form of Web page spoofing. Another form of spoofing is URL spoofing. This happens when an attacker exploits bugs in your Web browser in order to display incorrect URLs in your browser location bar. Another form of spoofing is called "man-in-the-middle". This occurs when an attacker compromises the communication between you and another party on the Internet. Many firewalls can be updated or configured to significantly prevent this type of attack.


Loaded on to your computer unbeknownst to you, spyware is a type of program that watches what users do and forwards information to someone else. It is most often installed when you download free software on the Internet. Unfortunately hackers discovered this to be an effective means of sending sensitive information over the Internet. Moreover, they discovered that many free applications that use spyware for marketing purposes could be found on your machine, and attackers often use this existing spyware for their malicious means.



A Trojan is malicious code that is disguised or hidden within another program that appears to be safe (as in the myth of the Trojan horse). When the program is executed, the Trojan allows attackers to gain unauthorized access to the computer in order to steal information and cause harm. Trojans commonly spread through email attachments and Internet downloads. A common Trojan component is a "keystroke logger" which captures a user’s keystrokes in an attempt to capture the user’s credentials. It will then send those credentials to the attacker.



Vishing is a type of phishing attack where the attacker uses a local phone number in the fake email as a means of obtaining your sensitive information. The goal is to fool you into believing the email is legitimate by instructing you that responding to the request by phone is safer than responding by email and shows authenticity. The unsuspecting caller is then tricked through an automated phone system to relinquish their sensitive information.


A computer virus is a malicious program that attaches itself to and infects other software applications and files without the user’s knowledge, disrupting computer operations. Viruses can carry what is known as a “payload,” executable scripts designed to damage, delete or steal information from a computer.

A virus is a self-replicating program, meaning it copies itself. Typically, a virus only infects a computer and begins replicating when the user executes the program or opens an “infected” file. Viruses spread from computer to computer only when users unknowingly share “infected” files. For example, viruses are commonly spread when users send emails with infected documents attached.



A worm is similar to a virus but with an added, dangerous element. Like a virus, a worm can make copies of itself; however, a worm does not need to attach itself to other programs and it does not require a person to send it along to other computers. Worms are powerful malware programs because they not only copy themselves, they can also execute and spread themselves rapidly across a network without any help.

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