In this issue of In Layman’s Terms, let’s have a look at some pretty common terminology surrounding Malware. Illegitimate software designed with malicious, usually illegal, intent.
Cookie: A cookie is a text file stored on your computer whenever you visit a website. Generally, these files store user information and other pertinent data regarding your browser. If you want a website to keep you logged in after you close your browser, for example, the information on how to do that will be stored in a cookie. When next you open your browser and click over to that website, the browser will read through the cookie so it knows you’re logged in and can restore the website to the ‘logged in’ state.
Think of them as tiny instruction booklets for your web browser.
While cookies can’t generally be infected with malware, they can be used to track a user’s browsing habits and tendencies. This is information that’s usually sold to marketing agencies. Tracking cookies are considered adware and are detected and removed by most spyware scanners.
Trojan: A Trojan is a breed of virus but not just any virus. See, Trojans have code in them that can effectively make them invisible, or at the very least, disguise them as legitimate applications. This one’s a pretty easy analogy, mostly because of where Trojan Horses get their names. The false gift of the Wooden Horse is the Trojan’s disguise, while the Greek soldiers are the malware’s ‘payload’ (the malicious code that makes the virus do what it does). Makes sense, right?
Worm: A worm is the nastiest kind of virus – one that propagates itself. While many viruses can only find their way into a system if a user opens an infected file, worms can be downloaded to a computer simply by browsing an infected network or interacting with an infected computer system. These pieces of code are almost a little fascinating, as they autonomously exploit security holes in people’s systems in order to spread themselves to other systems.
Back Door: A Back Door, in general, refers to a security hole or program which allows an unscrupulous individual access to a computer system. Again, I don’t think this one bears much explanation. Basically it’s a little bit like a criminal breaking into your house through an open window then going downstairs and unlocking the door for all his buddies.
Spoofing: Spoofing is a process in which a mass-mailer virus will ‘mask’ itself. See that email that looks like it’s from your Aunt? It’s not from your Aunt. A virus infected the email account of someone in her address book, then took her email and pasted it into the “from” line, making it look like she sent it when in actuality it was someone else entirely. Remember when I said that emails from your contacts aren’t always from your contacts? This is what I meant. This is spoofing.
Image Credits: Technology Headlines
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