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Virus Terms

ActiveX - A Microsoft technology that extends the capabilities of a web browser.
Applet - A small application. Usually refers to Java applets .
ASCI I- American Standard Code for Information Interchange. The standard system for representing letters and symbols.
Attachment - A document, spreadsheet, graphic, program or any other kind of file attached to an email message.
Back door - An undocumented means of bypassing the normal access control system of a computer.
Backdoor Trojan - A Trojan horse program that gives a remote user unauthorised access to and control over a computer.
Bayesian filtering - A statistical approach to determining whether email is spam
BIOS - The Basic Input/Output System. The lowest level of software which interfaces directly with hardware.
Blackhole list - A published list, usually commercial, of addresses known to be sources of spam.
Blacklist - A list of email addresses and domains from which no mail will be accepted.
Boot sector - The part of the operating system which is read into memory from disk first when a PC is switched on. The program stored in the boot sector is then run, which in turn loads the rest of the operating system.
Boot sector virus - A type of virus which subverts the booting process.
CGI - Common Gateway Interface. A mechanism that allows a web server to run programs or scripts and send the output to a userís web browser.
Checksum - A value calculated from item(s) of data which can be used to verify that the data has not been altered.
Companion virus - A virus that exploits the fact that when there are two programs with the same name, the operating system uses the file extension to decide which one to run. For example, DOS computers will run a .com file in preference to an .exe file. The virus creates a .com file containing the virus code and gives it the same name as an existing .exe file.
Complex dictionary checking - A feature of anti-spam software that finds words often used in spam, even if letters are replaced with lookalike numerals or characters .
Cookie - A small packet of data that stores information on a userís computer. Cookies are usually used to enable a website to track visits and remember visitorsí details.
CSV - Comma Separated Values. A file format in which values (e.g. the values from an Excel spreadsheet) are shown separated by commas. The format does not support macros, so that it cannot spread macro viruses.
Denial of service attack - An attempt to prevent the use of an email system or web server by sending unusual or excessive messages or attachments.
Dictionary attack - A program that bombards a mail server with alphabetically-generated email addresses in the hope that some addresses will be guessed correctly. The same method can be used to guess passwords.
Digital signature - A means of ensuring that a message has not been tampered with and that it originates from the claimed sender.
DOS boot sector - The boot sector which loads DOS into PC RAM. Common point of attack by boot sector viruses.
False positive - A report that a virus has been found when this is not the case.
Firewall - A security system that is placed between the internet and an organisationís network, or within a network, and only passes authorised network traffic.
FTP - File Transfer Protocol. A system that allows internet users to connect to remote sites and upload or download files.
Gateway - Either a computer that serves for the transfer of data (e.g. a mail gateway that handles all the mail coming into an organisation), or a computer that converts data from one protocol to another.
Greylist - Email senders who are not blacklisted (excluded) or whitelisted (accepted) can be placed on a greylist and requested to prove that they are sending legitimate mail.
Hacker - Someone who intentionally breaches computer security, usually to cause disruption or gain confidentialinformation such as financial details. Originally the word ďhackerĒ referred to any person who was interested in computer technology, but is now commonly used by the public and media to refer to those who havemalicious intentions.
Harvesting - Scanning the internet for email addresses that can be put on spammers’ mailing lists.
Heuristic scanner - A program that detects viruses by using general rules about what viruses are like or how they behave.
Hoax - A communication, often by email, which is intended to deceive.
Honeypot - A computer system on the internet set up to attract and trap spammers and hackers.
HTML - Hypertext Markup Language. The format for most documents on the web.
HTTP - Hypertext Transport Protocol. A protocol used by web servers to make documents available to web browsers.
HTTP scanning - Real-time scanning of HTTP traffic to ensure web pages you are viewing or downloading are free from viruses.
Java - Platform-independent programming language for the web, developed by Sun Microsystems. Programs written in Java are either applications or applets (small applications). Java applet - Small application generally used to create effects on web pages. Applets are run by the browser in a safe environment (see Sandbox) and cannot make changes to your system.
Java application - Java-based program that can carry out the full functions that might be expected, e.g. saving files to disk.
Link virus - A virus which subverts directory entries so that they point to the virus code, allowing it to run.
Macro - Sets of instructions inside data files that can carry out program commands automatically, e.g. opening and closing files.
Macro virus - A virus which uses macros in a data file to become active and attach itself to other data files.
Mail drop - An email address set up to receive replies to spam. The spammer then cancels the account from which the spam was sent in an attempt to avoid detection.
Master boot record - Also known as the partition sector.The first physical sector on the hard disk which is loaded and executed when the PC is booted. The most critical part of the startup code.
Memory-resident virus - A virus that stays in memory after it becomes active and after its host program is closed (unlike otherviruses that are activated only when an infected application runs).
Modem - A MOdulator/DEModulator converts computer data into a form suitable for transmission via telephone line, radio or satellite link.
Multipartite virus - A virus which infects both boot sectors and program files.
Munging - Disguising email addresses so that they cannot be harvested. Recipients are told how to decode the address.
Obfuscation - Spammers’ attempts to hide messages so that they will not be detected. Sometimes used to refer to disguising email addresses so that spammers cannot harvest them.
Open relay - An SMTP email server that allows the third-party relay of email messages. Spammers can hijack such servers and use them to send spam.
Phishing - Tricking users into submitting confidential information or passwords by creating a replica of a legitimate website.
Polymorphic virus - Self-modifying virus. By changing its code, the virus tries to make itself harder to detect.
Program virus - A computer virus which attaches itself to another computer program, and is activated when that program is run.
Proxy server - A server that makes requests to the internet on behalf of another machine. It sits between a company and the internet and can be used for security purposes.
RAM - Random Access Memory. A form of temporary memory in a computer. RAM acts as the computer’s workspace, but data stored there is lost once the computer is switched off.
Real-time blackhole list (RBL) - A list that rejects all mail, valid or not, from addresses known to send spam or host spammers. This can induce internet service providers to take anti-spam measures.
Reverse DNS check - Checking an email’s sender address against a Domain Name System database to ensure that it originated from a valid domain name or web address.
ROM - Read Only Memory. A form of permanent memory in a computer. A ROM is usually used to store a computer’s startup software.
RTF - Rich Text Format. A document format that does not support macros, so that it cannot spread macro viruses.
Sandbox - A mechanism for running programs in a controlled environment, particularly used with Java applets.
SHS - File extension for Windows “scrap object” files. SHS files can include almost any code and run automatically if you click on them. The extension may be hidden.
SMTP - Simple Mail Transport Protocol. The delivery system for internet email.
Spam - Unsolicited commercial email (UCE) and unsolicited bulk email (UBE) that a recipient does not want.
Spambot - A program that spammers use to harvest email addresses from the internet.
Spoofing - Forging the sender’s address in email. Spoofing can be used to hide the origin of spam, or to convince recipients that unsafe email is from a reliable source.
Spyware - Software that tracks user activity and reports information to others, such as advertisers. Usually, the tracking is concealed from the software user.
Stealth virus - A virus which hides its presence from the computer user and anti-virus programs, usually by trapping interrupt services.
Tarpitting - Monitoring email traffic to identify addresses sending a suspiciously large volume of email, which may be spam.
Tarpit - An intentionally slow email server that aims to trap spammers using harvesting programs.
TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The collective name for the standard internet protocols. Trojan horse - A computer program with (undesirable) effects that are not described in its specification.
VBS - Visual Basic Script. Code embedded in an application, document, or web page that can run as soon as the page is viewed.
Virus - A program which can spread across computers and networks by attaching itself to another program and making copies of itself.
Virus identity - A description of virus characteristics used for virus recognition.
Virus scanner - A program that detects viruses. Most scanners are virus-specific, i.e. they identify those viruses that are already known. See also Heuristic scanner.
Web bug - A small graphic inserted in an email or web page that alerts a spammer when a message is read or previewed.
Whitelist - A list of external email addresses, IP addresses and domains from which email is accepted without being checked for spam and/or viruses.
Worm - A program that distributes multiple copies of itself. Unlike a virus, a worm does not need a host program.
Zombie - An insecure computer that is hijacked and used to send spam or launch a denial of service attack .

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