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Milan's Jargon Buster

Milan's Jargon Buster

by Milan A Nobilo

One of the most annoying things about computers is the jargon. In this and following FREE issues of JARGONBUSTER we’ll explain some of the terms and hopefully do a little bit to ease your I.T. frustration.

ISSUE 1 - SECURITY
High-tech crime has been a hot topic in the news recently. The good news is that a little bit of protection goes a long way. And first and foremost that means education. Unlike a lot of computer jargon, the terms in security are actually descriptive and helpful…

MALWARE:
Any program which aims to do something nasty to your computer. Malware includes viruses, worms, and spyware. You protect your computer from MALWARE with firewalls, and anti-virus scanners.

VIRUS:
Part of an existing program which has been altered to do something abnormal.

Viruses in a sense hide inside normal programs and wait for them to be run. Programs are lists of instructions and your computer doesn’t notice if a few of the instructions change. Viruses are always Operating System specific; i.e. a virus for Windows will not work on a Mac.

WORM:
A stand-alone program, spread via the Internet, which usually corrupts or takes control of your computer.

Whereas viruses hide inside normal programs, worms are programs in their own right. Like animals passing on parasites, worms are sent between computers talking on the Internet. One of the most common functions for a worm is to make the infected computer a “relay” for spam.

SPYWARE:
....records information on your computer and sends it to another when connected to the Internet. Spyware secretly records your keystrokes, websites visited, system information and so forth. Usually spyware is created by unscrupulous businesses and used for niche marketing. Often you get spyware after you run movies or music downloaded from the Internet.

ANTI-VIRUS:
...checks for known viruses on a computer. This program is always ready to recognize a known virus’s tell-tale signs. As new viruses emerge, your anti-virus needs to be updated so it can recognize them.

FIREWALL:
...monitors all the traffic coming into your computer from a network (e.g. the Internet) and blocks unwelcome traffic. Without a firewall, your computer is very trusting. A firewall is set up with rules to tell it to shut out unknown or suspicious traffic. Firewalls are good for blocking worms.

PHISHING:
Scams sent by e-mail which try to get you to reveal your password, PIN number or bank account details.

ACTIVEX:
...improves web and e-mail on Windows computers by allowing different programs to help out. ActiveX is not inherently evil. It enables a kind of “sub-contracting” to occur between programs, for example Internet Explorer sub-contracting a task to Adobe Acrobat. Unfortunately, there’s nothing stopping a webpage trying to get a task sub-contracted out to malware.

COOKIE:
A file that “tags” your computer so it can be recognized when you visit websites. Cookies aren’t dangerous at all, they just invade your privacy a bit.

HEURISTICS:
Formulae to help anti-viruses recognize a new virus or worm which it hasn’t seen before. This is an attempt to overcome the difficulty that an anti-virus only catches known, familiar malware. Skillful anti-virus programmers try to program the anti-virus to in effect guess well. However it’s a gamble, and no substitute for daily updates.

CRACKER:
Someone who tries to access your computer secretly to steal valuable information or money. Usually just called a “Hacker.”

BOTNET:
A network of “bots” - computers controlled by the same worm in order to execute a coordinated attack on some other computer. The same type of worm can infect multiple computers and tell them all to bombard some other computer – usually a very important one, like a hotmail web server – with meaningless requests. The owners of these PC’s are none the wiser.

RE-FORMAT HARD DRIVE:
To erase and recreate the index of the hard drive, so that it is like new again. A hard drive stores data on billions of magnetic fields inside it, and must keep an index of all the fields, so it can find the data again. If you take the index back to its new “out of the box” state, it completely loses track of what’s on the hard drive. That includes malware.

Make a bit better sense now? Please contact us if you want to ask any questions.

We offer a FREE onsite consultation to assess your business computing needs. phone 027 443 0166, fax 09 443 0347, sales@computer-network.co.nz

IMPORTANT – if you have financial information on your computer, do not mess around with “D.I.Y.” Call in a qualified computer professional.


TIP OF THE MONTH
If worst comes to worst you can always erase and reformat your hard drive. No virus can survive this. But you'd better have a backup of your data BEFORE the infection! So in a sense, regular, reliable back-up is the most fundamental part of security.

Here are some useful sites for more information:

http://www.staysafeonline.org/practices/index.html
http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-virus.htm

In next month’s issue of JARGONBUSTER……Microsoft Windows!


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