Glossary

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ActiveX

ActiveX is a model for writing programs so that other programs and the operating system can call them. ActiveX technology is used with Microsoft Internet Explorer to make interactive Web pages that look and behave like computer programs, rather than static pages. With ActiveX, users can ask or answer questions, use push buttons, and interact in other ways with the Web page. ActiveX controls are often written using Visual Basic.

Active X is notable for a complete lack of security controls; computer security experts discourage its use over the Internet.

Adware

Adware is often combined with a host application that is provided at no charge as long as the user agrees to accept the adware. Because adware applications are usually installed after the user has agreed to a licensing agreement that states the purpose of the application, no offense is committed.

However, pop-up advertisements can become an annoyance, and in some cases degrade system performance. Also, the information that some of these applications collect may cause privacy concerns for users who were not fully aware of the terms in the license agreement.

Archive

A disk, tape, or directory that contains files that have been backed up.

A file that contains one or more files in a compressed format.

Backdoor

A hole in the security of a system deliberately left in place by designers or maintainers. The motivation for such holes is not always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come out of the box with privileged accounts intended for use by field service technicians or the vendor's maintenance programmers.

Boot sector

A sector at the beginning of each disk that identifies the disk's architecture (sector size, cluster size, and so on). For startup disks, the boot sector also contains a program that loads the operating system.

Boot virus

A virus that infects the boot sector of a fixed or floppy disk. An attempt to boot from a diskette infected with a boot sector virus will cause the virus to become active in memory. Every time you boot your system from that point on, you will have the virus active in memory.

Browser

Short for Web browser, a software application used to locate and display Web pages. Popular browsers include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. These are graphical browsers, which means that they can display graphics as well as text. In addition, most modern browsers can present multimedia information, including sound and video, though they require plug-ins for some formats.

Command line

In a command line interface, the user types commands in the space provided directly on the screen using command language.

Cookie

Within the Internet industry, cookies are described as small files containing information about individual computers that can be analyzed and used by advertisers to track your online interests and tastes. In this realm, cookie technology is still being developed and the intention is to target ads directly to what you've said your interests are. It's a double-edge sword for many people because on one hand, it's efficient and pertinent as you only see ads about what you're interested in. On the other hand, it involves actually "tracking" and "following" where you go and what you click. Understandably so, there is a debate over privacy and many people feel offended by the notion that they are viewed as a "SKU number" (you know, the bar code on the back of packages that gets scanned at the grocery check-out line). While this viewpoint may be extreme, in some cases it is accurate.

Disk drive

It's a machine that reads data from and writes data onto a disk.

A hard disk drive reads and writes hard disks.

A floppy drive accesses floppy disks.

Disk drives can be either internal (housed within a computer) or external (housed in a separate box that connects to the computer).

Download

To copy data (usually an entire file) from a main source to a peripheral device. The term is often used to describe the process of copying a file from an online service to one's own computer. Downloading can also refer to copying a file from a network file server to a computer on the network.

E-mail

Electronic mail. A service that sends messages on computers via local or global networks.

Events

An action or occurrence detected by a program. Events can be user actions, such as clicking a mouse button or pressing a key, or system occurrences, such as running out of memory.

False positive

Occurs when a scanner identifies a file as infected when in fact it is not.

Filename extension

The portion of a filename, following the final point, which indicates the kind of data stored in the file.

Many operating systems use filename extensions, e.g. Unix, VMS, and MS-DOS. They are usually from one to three letters (some sad old OSes support no more than three). Examples include "c" for C source code, "ps" for PostScript, "txt" for arbitrary text.

Heuristic

A rule-based method of identifying new viruses. This method of scanning does not rely on specific virus signatures. The advantage of the heuristic scan is that it is not fooled by a new variant of an existing virus. However, it might occasionally report suspicious code in normal programs, generating the so-called "false positive".

IP

Internet Protocol - A routable protocol in the TCP/IP protocol suite that is responsible for IP addressing, routing, and the fragmentation and reassembly of IP packets.

Java applet

A Java program which is designed to run only on a web page. To use an applet on a web page, you would specify the name of the applet and the size (length and width, in pixels) that the applet can utilize. When the web page is accessed, the browser downloads the applet from a server and runs it on the user's machine (the client). Applets differ from applications in that they are governed by a strict security protocol.

For example, even though applets run on the client, they cannot read or write data onto the client's machine. Additionally, applets are further restricted so that they can only read and write data from the same domain that they are served from.

Keylogger

A keylogger is an application that logs anything you type.

Keyloggers are not malicious in nature. They can be used for legitimate purposes, such as monitoring employees or children activity. However, they are increasingly being used by cyber-criminals for malicious purposes (for example, to collect private data, such as login credentials and social security numbers).

Macro virus

A type of computer virus that is encoded as a macro embedded in a document. Many applications, such as Microsoft Word and Excel, support powerful macro languages.

These applications allow you to embed a macro in a document, and have the macro execute each time the document is opened.

Mail client

An e-mail client is an application that enables you to send and receive e-mail.

Memory

Internal storage areas in the computer. The term memory identifies data storage that comes in the form of chips, and the word storage is used for memory that exists on tapes or disks. Every computer comes with a certain amount of physical memory, usually referred to as main memory or RAM.

Non-heuristic

This method of scanning relies on specific virus signatures. The advantage of the non-heuristic scan is that it is not fooled by what might seem to be a virus, and does not generate false alarms.

Packed programs

A file in a compression format. Many operating systems and applications contain commands that enable you to pack a file so that it takes up less memory. For example, suppose you have a text file containing ten consecutive space characters. Normally, this would require ten bytes of storage.

However, a program that packs files would replace the space characters by a special space-series character followed by the number of spaces being replaced. In this case, the ten spaces would require only two bytes. This is just one packing technique - there are many more.

Path

The exact directions to a file on a computer. These directions are usually described by means of the hierarchical filing system from the top down.

The route between any two points, such as the communications channel between two computers.

Phishing

The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user's information.

Photon

Photon is an innovative non-intrusive Is3 technology, designed to minimize the performance impact of antivirus protection. By monitoring your PC's activity in the background, it creates usage patterns that help optimize booting and scanning processes.

Polymorphic virus

A virus that changes its form with each file it infects. Since they have no consistent binary pattern, such viruses are hard to identify.

Port

An interface on a computer to which you can connect a device. Personal computers have various types of ports. Internally, there are several ports for connecting disk drives, display screens, and keyboards. Externally, personal computers have ports for connecting modems, printers, mice, and other peripheral devices.

In TCP/IP and UDP networks, an endpoint to a logical connection. The port number identifies what type of port it is. For example, port 80 is used for HTTP traffic.

Report file

A file that lists actions that have occurred. Total Security, Security Shield, and Shield Deluxe all maintain a report file listing the path scanned, the folders, the number of archives and files scanned, how many infected and suspicious files were found.

Rootkit

A rootkit is a set of software tools which offer administrator-level access to a system. The term was first used for the UNIX operating systems and it referred to recompiled tools which provided intruders administrative rights, allowing them to conceal their presence so as not to be seen by the system administrators.

The main role of rootkits is to hide processes, files, logins and logs. They may also intercept data from terminals, network connections or peripherals, if they incorporate the appropriate software.

Rootkits are not malicious in nature. For example, systems and even some applications hide critical files using rootkits. However, they are mostly used to hide malware or to conceal the presence of an intruder into the system. When combined with malware, rootkits pose a great threat to the integrity and the security of a system. They can monitor traffic, create backdoors into the system, alter files and logs and avoid detection.

Script

Another term for macro or batch file, a script is a list of commands that can be executed without user interaction.

Spam

Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Generally known as any unsolicited e-mail.

Spyware

Any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet; however, it should be noted that the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers.

Spyware's similarity to a Trojan horse is the fact that users unwittingly install the product when they install something else. A common way to become a victim of spyware is to download certain peer-to-peer file swapping products that are available today.

Aside from the questions of ethics and privacy, spyware steals from the user by using the computer's memory resources and also by eating bandwidth as it sends information back to the spyware's home base via the user's Internet connection. Because spyware is using memory and system resources, the applications running in the background can lead to system crashes or general system instability.

Startup items

Any files placed in this folder will open when the computer starts. For example, a startup screen, a sound file to be played when the computer first starts, a reminder calendar, or application programs can be startup items. Normally, an alias of a file is placed in this folder rather than the file itself.

System tray

Introduced with Windows 95, the system tray is located in the Windows taskbar (usually at the bottom next to the clock) and contains miniature icons for easy access to system functions such as fax, printer, modem, volume, and more. Double click or right-click an icon to view and access the details and controls.

TCP/IP

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol - A set of networking protocols widely used on the Internet that provides communications across interconnected networks of computers with diverse hardware architectures and various operating systems. TCP/IP includes standards for how computers communicate and conventions for connecting networks and routing traffic.

Trojan

A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but they can be just as destructive. One of the most insidious types of Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto your computer.

The term comes from a story in Homer's Iliad, in which the Greeks give a giant wooden horse to their foes, the Trojans, ostensibly as a peace offering. But after the Trojans drag the horse inside their city walls, Greek soldiers sneak out of the horse's hollow belly and open the city gates, allowing their compatriots to pour in and capture Troy.

Update

A new version of a software or hardware product designed to replace an older version of the same product. In addition, the installation routines for updates often check to make sure that an older version is already installed on your computer; if not, you cannot install the update.

Total Security, Security Shield, and Shield Deluxe have their own update modules that allow you to manually check for updates, or let it automatically update the product.

Virus

A program or piece of code that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs against your will. Most viruses can also replicate themselves. All computer viruses are manmade. A simple virus that can copy itself over and over again is relatively easy to produce. Even such a simple virus is dangerous because it will quickly use all available memory and bring the system to a halt. An even more dangerous type of virus is one capable of transmitting itself across networks and bypassing security systems. Learn More

Virus signature

The binary pattern of a virus, used by the antivirus program to detect and eliminate the virus.

Worm

A program that propagates itself over a network, reproducing itself as it goes. It cannot attach itself to other programs.