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Worm, Virus, Malware, Phishing, Spoofing, Hacking, Phreaking, Spyware … What’s What? Cybercrime Lingo — Deciphered!

No matter what you call it, cybercrime can be a real pain. So it’s good to understand the different kinds of crimes out there so you can be alert, protect yourself and your company, and understand what might be going on if your computer or network starts acting weird.

The truth is, you can’t participate in cyberspace without cybercrime touching you in one way or another, so why not understand what you’re talking about?

Adware: Displays ads on your computer. Not dangerous but very lucrative.

Backdoor: Opens a backdoor into your computer to provide a connection for other malware, viruses, spam, or hackers.

Cracking: Gaining access into a system specifically to commit a crime.

Hacking: When someone breaks into a computer or network.

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Hacktivism: Hacking for politically or ideologically motivated reasons.

Hijackware: Malware that changes your browser settings to direct you to malicious sites or show you ads. Also known as browser hijacker.

Hoax: Message that warns of a non-existent threat, usually related to chain letters and usually harmless.

Keylogger: Spyware (or hardware) that tracks and records keystrokes, particularly passwords and credit card information.

Malware: Any “malicious software” designed to secretly access your computer.

Password Sniffing (or Password Stealer): malware that examines your network traffic to find usernames and passwords. Most passwords are encrypted now so this technique is less of a threat.

Pharming: When website traffic is redirected to a bogus website, usually an e-commerce or banking site.

Phishing: When cybercriminals try to get sensitive information from you, like credit card numbers and passwords. Some specific techniques include spear phishing (targets specific people or departments), whale phishing (targets important people like CEOs), and SMiShing (phishing via text messages) and vishing (voice phishing that takes place over the phone, usually through impersonation).

Phreaking: When phone networks are hacked in order to make free calls or have calls charged to a different account.

Piggybacking: Gaining access to a network by using a legitimate user’s connection, often when they don’t log out before walking away.

Polymorphic Virus: Virus that changes its digital footprint every time it replicates to elude antivirus software.

Pwned: Having appropriated or gained control of your email address or other cyber personal information.

Ransomware: Malware that encrypts data or locks computers until a ransom is paid.

Rogue Security Software: Malware that pretends to be malware removal software.

Rootkit: Disguises itself as normal files that “hide in plain sight” so your antivirus software overlooks them. The goal is usually to steal the identity information from your computer, often to gain control of a system. It’s difficult to detect and remove.

Sextortion: Blackmail schemes that threaten to distribute your sensitive or embarrassing private material unless you pay a ransom or provide them with sexual images or favors.

Sniffing attack: Capturing unencrypted network data using sniffer malware.

Spoofing: When cybercriminals try to get into your computer by masquerading as a trusted source. Examples include email spoofing (using email header that appears to be from someone you trust), IP spoofing (using a fake IP address to impersonate a trusted machine) and address bar spoofing (using malware to force you to view a specific web page).

Spyware: Malware that gathers information about you, usually to track your internet use and deliver pop-up ads.

Time Bomb: Malware that executes at a specific time and/or date. Similarly, a Logic Bomb is malware that executes when specific criteria are met, such as when a file is opened.

Trojan horse: Software that pretends to be useful but is really malware.

Virus: Malware that copies itself and infects your computer and files.

Wardriving: Driving around in a vehicle to exploit or collect data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Worm: Malware that self-replicates and sends itself to other computers in your network.

Zombie: Malware used to take control of a system remotely at a later time.

There’s one more piece of cybercrime lingo you need to know — social engineering. It’s when scammers trick people (including customer service reps) into giving up information that allows access into accounts, networks, and systems. It can also be a lot easier to trick a person than to trick a system, especially one with multi-factor authentication. So, beware!

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