By Katie Llorens
Internet security and privacy risks are growing, capitalizing on fears related to COVID-19 and taking advantage of our increased dependence on the internet. As part of Computer Crunch Time week, the kick-off to our #InternetIntelligence campaign, here are some terms describing the risks to online privacy and safety.
- IP Address (Internet Protocol Address): a numeric address assigned to internet-connected devices by an Internet Service Provider, web services like email servers, and websites (ex. 22.214.171.124).
IP addresses are often dynamic, meaning they may change over time. They are also traceable, meaning an ISP or given website knows which IP address was used to browse and access online content.
- Cookie: a small data file sent to a web browser that tracks visits and activity while on a website. Cookies are created to provide the website with data related to who visits their site but may also improve the web browsing experience by storing small pieces of data such as usernames and passwords. Web browsers offer cookie-disabling settings, but this may affect performance of some sites.
- Hacking: the process of gaining unauthorized access to a connected device. Hacking can take several forms. The following terms describe some of the ways devices are hacked.
- Spam: unsolicited and unwanted messages received by email, text or as website links. The same message is sent to thousands of users or posted multiple places. There is legislation against spam in Canada but it is hard to track and enforce.
- Phishing: a type of spam designed to look like it came from a trusted source like a bank, government or service provider to trick someone into giving away their personal information.
- Pharming: similar to phishing, pharming is the presence of spoof/fake websites that attempt to steal confidential information (ex. a fake PayPal site). Pharming redirects users from a legitimate website to a fraudulent site without their knowledge.
- Malware: also known as malicious software, it is a program that can damage a connected device like a computer, smartphone or tablet. Malware can appear in different forms such as viruses or worms. To avoid malware, be careful of clicking unfamiliar links in emails or on websites, have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, and keep a device’s operating system up-to-date.
- Virus: a software that infects a connected device to steal data, delete files, or take over your computer to be used by another user or computer network. Viruses spread by being accidentally downloaded and installed from an infected file found online, local storage devices like USB keys, or through spam.
- Worms: cause similar issues to viruses, but are standalone software capable of spreading from one machine to another without being downloaded or shared by users. Worms were first distributed via the Internet in 1988.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some articles you can view to learn more about Internet terminology you may not know:
Comentum – Internet Terms and Definitions
Electronic Frontier Foundation – Surveillance Self-Defense Glossary
Lifewire – Top 20 Internet Terms for Beginners