Internet Safety & Security Glossary

Table of Contents

Let’s be honest: we all go on the Internet too many times a day to count. From checking our email when we first wake up to seeing the score of the game near bedtime, our days are filled with the Internet, even in ways that we may not realized, like with connected devices. But one thing that you may not consider is your safety online. This glossary outlines some basic cybersecurity words and phrases that you should definitely know if you’re an Internet user. Let’s get started!

Internet Safety & Security Glossary


Adware: A code or program that installs unsolicited ads on computers.

Antivirus: Software that is designed to prevent malware from harming a computer. Its functions typically include checking all executable files for signs of malware infection and scanning the computer’s file system for potentially infected files.

Bot: A malicious program, or malware, that installs itself onto a computer without permission. Bots connect to a central server and can steal data such as passwords or financial information from a computer, log keystrokes, induce the computer to interfere with the normal operation of other networks, or send spam.

Cyberbullies: Bullies who attack their victims on the Internet are called cyberbullies. Their methods include stalking, threats, personal attacks and name-calling, betraying a victim’s sensitive and embarrassing information to the public for the purposes of ridicule, and defamation of character, including maliciously false accusations.

Cybercrime: Any activity that is a violation of the law and is carried out using computers and the Internet.

Cyberstalking: The act of tracking, harassing, or otherwise stalking a person online.

Firewall: Security software or hardware that serves as a protective shield for a computer or network. Its purpose is to filter all incoming and outgoing data to prevent malware or malicious information from entering the system and prevent the unauthorized distribution of information outside of the system.

Griefing: Bullying or harassment of players while playing online games.

Hacker: A person who uses a computer or other online device to gain unauthorized access to data and/or control of computer systems or digital devices.

Identity theft: A crime in which a person’s private and vital information, such as their banking information or Social Security number, is stolen and used, typically for financial gain. Viruses, online scams, and spyware are all common methods used in identity theft.

Related: Most Americans Fear Identity Theft, Says Survey

Malware: Programs created to compromise the security of a computer or network. Malware comes in many forms, including adware, browser-hijacking code, spyware, and worms. Malware can damage or delete important files or copy sensitive data, including passwords, Social Security numbers, and other personal information, and distribute it to unauthorized recipients.

Monitoring software: Software that enables parents to monitor their child’s Internet use, including emails and websites visited.

Password: A secret code that a user must know in order to prove their identity and log into a network or system. It usually accompanies a username. Passwords are very important, as they are necessary for access to most computers and networks.


Related: The Best Password Managers of 2019

Pharming: The redirection of users from a legitimate site to a fake one that looks real, where scammers steal personal information.

Phishing: A form of cybercrime that uses Internet-based or other electronic communications to fraudulently acquire personal information from a person. It involves tricking the intended victim into giving away critical details about their identity, account passwords, or access to financial assets, among other forms of sensitive information. Typical examples of phishing include scam emails, phone calls, or IMs or using fake websites to trick people into submitting vital information. Phishing is a form of social engineering.

Related: How To Protect Your iPhone From Hackers


Ransomware: A form of malware that makes your data unavailable until you pay a ransom to regain access.

Scareware: Malware meant to scare computer users into purchasing and downloading dangerous software.

Security software: Software such as antivirus and firewall programs that protects computers and their data against online threats.

Sexting: Sending and receiving sexually explicit messages, images, and/or videos using digital devices. Sexting is common among tweens and teens but can be very dangerous to future reputations.

Spam: Unsolicited email that is intended to sell something to the recipient or scam them.

Spyware: Software that’s installed on a person’s computer without their consent or knowledge. Once installed, it gathers or tracks information on how the computer is used, then sends it back to the cybercriminal who created it.

Social Engineering: A method of psychological manipulation by which the perpetrator convinces someone to do something, often giving away important information that compromises security in some way. Examples include phishing, leaving malware-infected USB drives around for curious people to insert into their computers (baiting), and tricking businesses into divulging customer information (pretexting), which is a tool often used by private investigators as well as cybercriminals.

Trojan: A form of malware that pretends to be something benign and useful in order to access sensitive files and information, install spyware, or otherwise make a computer vulnerable to hackers.

Virus: A self-replicating program that spreads from one computer to another, compromising the security of each one that it infects.

Vulnerability: A flaw in a system that leaves it susceptible to infection or exploitation by hackers.

Additional Resources for Staying Safe Online

Want to learn more? Check out some additional resources to improve your cybersecurity.

General Internet Safety

Keeping Kids Safe Online

Social Media Safety


Privacy and Personal Information

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.