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A type of software that often comes with free downloads. Some adware displays ads on your computer, while some monitors your computer use (including websites visited) and displays targeted ads based on your use.

Anti-virus Software

Protects your computer from viruses that can destroy your data, slow your computer’s performance, cause a crash, or even allow spammers to send email through your account.


A measure of the “speed” of an Internet connection.


Shorthand for “business opportunity;” some schemes involve extravagant and unfounded earnings claims and are actually fraudulent business ventures.


A web browser feature that allows you to save the addresses of interesting or frequently used websites, so that you can readily revisit them.


A program that allows a user to find, view, hear, and interact with material on the Internet.

Browser Hijacker

A common spyware program that changes your web browser’s home page automatically, even if you change it back.


A form of computer memory that allows you to access stored information, such as web addresses you’ve recently typed into your browser, more quickly. Pronounced “cash.”


A law that prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial email from using false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines, and requires they identify each email as an advertisement, among other provisions.

Chat Room

The name given to a place or page in a website or online service where people can type messages which are displayed almost instantly on the screens of others who are in the “chat room.”


A small text file that a website can place on your computer’s hard drive to collect information about your activities on the site or to allow other capabilities on the site.


Used to distinguish the physical world from the digital, or computer-based world.


A segment of Internet space, denoted by the function or type of information it includes; current domains include “.com” for commercial sites, “.gov” for governmental ones, and “.org” for non-commercial organizations.


To copy files from one computer to another; to view a website or other web material with a browser.

Drive-by Download

Software that installs on your computer without your knowledge when you visit certain websites. To avoid drive-by downloads, make sure to update your operating system and Web browser regularly.


Digital Subscriber Line: A means of accessing the Internet at high speed using standard phone lines.


The scrambling of data into a secret code that can be read only by software set to decode the information.

End User Licensing Agreement (EULA)

A provider’s legal terms. You, as the “end user,” may be required to “click” to accept before you can download software.


When sensitive data is released to someone without authorization.

Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID)

The name a manufacturer assigns to a router. It may be a standard, default name assigned by the manufacturer to all hardware of that model. Users can improve security by changing to a unique name. Similar to a Service Set Identifier (SSID).


Software that screens information on the Internet, classifies its content, and allows the user to block certain kinds of content.


Hardware or software that helps keep hackers from using your computer to send out your personal information without your permission. Firewalls watch for outside attempts to access your system and block communications to and from sources you don’t permit.


A measure of computer memory equaling 1,024 megabytes.


Someone who uses the Internet to access computers without permission.


The mechanical parts of a computer system, including the central processing unit, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, as well as other equipment like printers and speakers.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

A coding language used to create documents on the Internet and control how web pages appear.

Hidden Dialers

Programs that you may unknowingly download that can use your computer to silently dial expensive phone calls which later show up on your phone bill.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

The standard language that computers connected to the World Wide Web use to communicate with each other.

Instant Message (IM)

Technology, similar to a chat room, which notifies a user when a friend is online, allowing them to “converse” by exchanging text messages.

Internet Protocol (IP)

The computer language that allows computer programs to communicate over the Internet.

IP Address

A computer’s “address,” it consists of a series of numbers separated by periods.


A computer programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that enables web pages to include animations, calculators, scrolling text, sound effects, and games.


Short-hand for “Joint Photographic Experts Group,” a computer file format that reduces the size of graphics by using compression.

Keystroke Logger

A device or program that records each keystroke typed on a particular computer.

LAN (Local Area Network)

A network of connected computers that are generally located near each other, such as in an office or company.

Media Access Control (MAC) Address

A unique number that the manufacturer assigns to each computer or other device in a network.

Monitoring Software

Programs that allow a parent or caregiver to monitor the websites a child visits or email messages he or she reads, without blocking access.


The informal rules of internet courtesy, enforced exclusively by other Internet users.


A group of two or more computers that are able to communicate with one another.

Online Profiling

Compiling information about consumers’ preferences and interests by tracking their online movements and actions in order to create targeted ads.

Operating System

The main program that runs on a computer. An operating system allows other software to run and prevents unauthorized users from accessing the system. Major operating systems include UNIX, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.


When a user explicitly permits a website to collect, use, or share his or her information.


When a user expressly requests that his/her information not be collected, used and/or shared. Sometimes a user’s failure to “opt-out” is interpreted as “opting in.”

P2P, Peer-to-Peer

An informal network that allows users to share music, games, software, or other files with other users online.

Parental Controls

Tools that allow parents to prevent their children from accessing certain Internet content that they might find inappropriate.

Personal Information

Information that can identify you, like your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); or your name, address, and phone numbers.


A scam that involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.

Pop-up Messages or Ads

Unsolicited advertising that appears as its own browser window.


Short-hand for “Random Access Memory,” it’s the hardware inside your computer that retains memory on a short-term basis and stores information while you work.


A device that connects two or more networks. A router finds the best path for forwarding information across the networks.

Social Networking Sites

Websites that allow users to build online profiles; share information, including personal information, photographs, blog entries, and music clips; and connect with other users, whether it be to find friends or land a job.


A computer program with instructions that enable the computer hardware to work. System software — such as Windows or MacOS — operate the machine itself, and applications software — such as spreadsheet or word processing programs — provide specific functionality.


Unsolicited commercial email, often sent in bulk quantities.


Someone who sends unsolicited commercial email, often in bulk quantities.


A software program that may be installed on your computer without your consent to monitor your use, send pop-up ads, redirect your computer to certain websites, or record keystrokes, which could lead to identity theft.


Programs that, when installed on your computer, enable unauthorized people to access it and sometimes to send spam from it.


An online seal program. websites displaying the seal have agreed to abide with certain principles regarding user privacy. You can access the site’s privacy policy by clicking on the seal.


To copy or send files or data from one computer to another.


A program that can sneak onto your computer — often through an email attachment — and then make copies of itself, quickly using up all available memory.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)

A security protocol developed to fix flaws in WEP. Encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

A security protocol that encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network. Not as strong as WPA encryption.

Wireless Network

A method of connecting a computer to other computers or to the Internet without linking them by cables.

World Wide Web

An Internet system which distributes graphical, hyperlinked information through a browser.


A program that reproduces itself over a network and can use up your computer’s resources and possibly shut your system down.

Spam Zombies

Home computers that have been taken over by spammers who then use them to send spam in a way that hides the true origin.