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Computer words and technical talk defined!

Computer words and the technical definitions are often hard to understand. It can be difficult to understand the problem with your machine, if you can not relate to it. When we went to standard dictionaries, we found that many of these terms are not included. So to help you learn about the techno talk, we have compiled an dictionary for you to use. 



There are so many words that we have arranged them on two pages. This page will deal with words starting with the letters A - M and the next page will list the letters N - Z.


A - M


A     B    C     D     E     F     G     H     I     J     K     L     M



ActiveX - ActiveX controls are software modules based on Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) architecture. They add functionality to software applications by seamlessly incorporating pre-made modules with the basic software package. Modules can be interchanged but still appear as parts of the original software. On the Internet, ActiveX controls can be linked to Web pages and downloaded by an ActiveX-compliant browser. ActiveX controls turn Web pages into software pages that perform like any other program launched from a server. ActiveX controls can have full system access. In most instances this access is legitimate, but one should be cautious of malicious ActiveX applications.


Acrobat PDF - Cross-platform format for any computer document. Uses include sharing text-base files and multi-media information.


Adware - while not necessarily malware, is considered to go beyond the reasonable advertising that one might expect from freeware or shareware. Typically a separate program that is installed at the same time as a shareware, freeware or similar program, it will usually continue to generate advertising even when the user is not running the originally desired program. See also cookies, spyware, and web bugs.

Often times with software that is free to the user, supported by advertisers but is found with a lot of items you pay for like a new Mouse or Keyboard. It may have been installed on your computer by a remote site. Many free utilities that you download from the Internet will install hidden software that sends details of the websites you visit and other information from your computer (which can include your email address) to advertisers so they can target you with popup ads, banner ads and spam. See Spam, spyware.


AGP -This is a special slot designed for video cards. AGP slots are designed for fast and direct communication between the video card and the processor, greatly increasing the performance of games- and graphics-intensive programs.


Algorithm - A sequence of steps needed to solve logical or mathematical problems. Certain cryptographic algorithms are used to encrypt or decrypt data files and messages and to sign documents digitally.


ALT tag - When you use JPEG or GIF images on your webpage, you can add a text description to show on your page, while the image loads. This tag is called an Alternate tag or ALT. 


Anti-antivirus Virus - Anti-antivirus viruses attack, disable or infect specific anti-virus software. Also: Retrovirus


Anti-virus Software - Anti-virus software scans a computer's memory and disk drives for viruses. If it finds a virus, the application informs the user and may clean, delete or quarantine any files, directories or disks affected by the malicious code. Also: Anti-virus Scanner


Antivirus Virus - Antivirus viruses specifically look for and remove other viruses.


Applet - Any miniature application transported over the Internet, especially as an enhancement to a Web page. Authors often embed applets within the HTML page as a foreign program type. Java applets are usually only allowed to access certain areas of the user's system. Computer programmers often refer to this area as the sandbox.


Armored Virus - An armored virus tries to prevent analysts from examining its code. The virus may use various methods to make tracing, disassembling and reverse engineering its code more difficult.


ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange - Usually refers to coding system that assigns numerical values to characters such as letter, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols. Basic ASCII allows only 7 bits per character (for a total of 128 characters). The first 32 characters are "unprintable" (line feed, form feed, etc.). Extended ASCII adds an additional 128 characters that vary between computers, programs and fonts. Computers use these extra characters for accented letters, graphical characters or other special symbols.


ASCII Files - ASCII files are usually text files consisting of only ASCII characters. With effort, it is possible to write program files consisting only of printable characters (See: EICAR Standard Anti-virus Test File). Windows batch (BAT) files and Visual Basic Script (See Also: Batch Files, VBS) files are also typically pure text, and program files. Because of the danger macro viruses can pose, using ASCII files in e-mail communications may by less risky. While it is possible for ASCII files to contain program code, and thus to contain viruses, ASCII files let you control both content and layout exactly, ensuring your e-mail is legible by the most e-mail programs.


ASP - Active Server Pages.


Attack - An attempt to subvert or bypass a system's security. Attacks may be passive or active. Active attacks attempt to alter or destroy data. Passive attacks try to intercept or read data without changing it. See Also: Brute Force Attack, Denial of Service, Hijacking, Password Attacks, Password Sniffing.


Attributes - Characteristics assigned to all files and directories. Attributes include: Read Only, Archive, Hidden or System.



Back Door - A feature programmers often build into programs to allow special privileges normally denied to users of the program. Often programmers build back doors so they can fix bugs. If hackers or others learn about a back door, the feature may pose a security risk. Also: Trapdoor.


Back Orifice - Back Orifice is a program developed and released by The Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC). It is not a virus; it is a remote administration tool with potential for malicious misuse. If installed by a hacker, it has the ability to give a remote attacker full system administrator privileges to your system. It can also 'sniff' passwords and confidential data and quietly e-mail them to a remote site. Back Orifice is an extensible program--programmers can change and "enhance" it over time. See Also: Password Sniffing.


Background Scanning - A feature in some anti-virus software to automatically scan files and documents as they are created, opened, closed or executed.


Background Task - A task executed by the system but generally remain invisible to the user. The system usually assigns background tasks a lower priority than foreground tasks. Some malicious software is executed by a system as a background task so the user does not realize unwanted actions are occurring.


Backup - n. A duplicate copy of data made for archiving purposes or for protecting against damage or loss.

v. The process of creating duplicate data. Some programs backup data files while maintaining both the current version and the preceding version on disk. However, a backup is not considered secure unless it is stored away from the original.


Batch files - Text files containing one MS-DOS command on each line of the file. When run, each line executes in sequential order. The batch file AUTOEXEC.BAT is executed when the computer is booted and loads a series of controls and programs. This file type has the extension BAT.


Bots - are automated programs that control your system when the ‘bot controller’ commands it to do something. It installs itself then beacons a signal to home base/bot controller and he controls your complete machine like a remote controlled toy, doing as he pleases. This can happen to you and will at some point if you do not learn to stop such attacks by NOT becoming INFECTED. You must find it and destroy it before you go back on-line and it calls home. Bots are also used by search engines to crawl your site for their indexing system. This type of bot is safe for your site and is required.


Bimodal virus - A bimodal virus infects both boot records and files. Also: Bipartite; See Also: Boot Sector Infector, File Virus, Multipartite.


BIOS - Basic Input/Output System. The part of the operating system that identifies the set of programs used to boot the computer before locating the system disk. The BIOS is located in the ROM (Read Only Memory) area of system and is usually stored permanently.


Bitmap - A computer graphic file that is internally coded as a single-layer grid of pixels arranged in regular columns and rows.


Bluetooth - A wireless standard created by Ericsson (a Swedish company), in the 90's. The name was used as an reference to the Viking King Harald Blatand (English translation; "Harold Bluetooth") who ruled Scandinavia in 940 A.D. 


Boot To start - (to completely turn off for 1-2 minutes and turning back on) computers reset changes and gets things in order to run programs for a new user. Booting the computer executes various programs to check for problems and prepares the computer for use. You can fix most small problems by doing this two or three times a week. See Also: Cold Boot, Warm Boot.


Boot Record - The program recorded in the boot sector. This record contains information on the characteristics and contents of the disk and information needed to boot the computer. If a user boots a PC with a floppy disk, the system reads the boot record from that disk. See Also: Boot Sector.


Boot Sector - An area located on the first track of floppy disks and logical disks that contain the boot record. Boot sector usually refers to this specific sector of a floppy disk, whereas the term Master Boot Sector usually refers to the same section of a hard disk. See Also: Master Boot Record.


Boot Sector Infector - A boot sector infector virus places its starting code in the boot sector. When the computer tries to read and execute the program in the boot sector, the virus goes into memory where it can gain control over basic computer operations. From memory, a boot sector infector can spread to other drives (floppy, network, etc.) on the system. Once the virus is running, it usually executes the normal boot program, which it stores elsewhere on the disk. Also: Boot Virus, Boot Sector Virus, BSI.


Browser chrome - Collection of browser window effects that surround a web page, including the status bar, Icons and the favorites bar.


Browser detect script - A type of JavaScript inserted into your web page header to detect the version and brand of browser you are using. If your browser is older than the code you are writing your site with, it will redirect and substitute some of your page for a viewable version, so this visitor can see your website.


Browser safe colors - There are 216 RGB standard colors that will work with all computers, regardless of the platform or the type of monitor your visitors are using.


Brute Force Attack - An attack in which each possible key or password is attempted until the correct one is found. See Also: Attack.


BSI - See: Boot Sector Infector.


Bug - An unintentional fault in a program that causes actions neither the user nor the program author intended.



Cache - In order to save time, some internet service providers store previously viewed web pages on your computer hard drive. This saves time downloading the site the next time you visit. This type of storage area is called an cache.


Cavity Virus - A cavity virus overwrites a part of its host file without increasing the length of the file while also preserving the host's functionality.


CGI scripts / PERL - Active content on your website, like a guestbook uses this type of programming language to process their data entered into a form box and return information back to them and to your log file.


Checksum - An identifying number calculated from file characteristics. The slightest change in a file changes its checksum.


Clean - adj. A computer, file or disk that is free of viruses.

v. To remove a virus or other malicious software from a computer, file or disk. Also: Disinfection.


Cluster Virus - Cluster viruses modify the directory table entries so the virus starts before any other program. The virus code only exists in one location, but running any program runs the virus as well. Because they modify the directory, cluster viruses may appear to infect every program on a disk. Also: File System Virus.


Cold Boot - To start the computer by cycling the power. A cold boot using a rescue disk (a clean floppy disk with boot instructions and virus scanning capabilities) is often necessary to clean or remove boot sector infectors. See Also: Boot, Warm Boot.


COM File - A type of executable file limited to 64 kb. These simple files are often used for utility programs and small routines. Because COM files are executable, viruses can infect them. This file type has the extension COM.


Companion Virus - Companion viruses use a feature of DOS that allows software programs with the same name, but with different extensions, to operate with different priorities. Most companion viruses create a COM file which has a higher priority than an EXE file with the same name. A virus may see a system contains the file PROGRAM.EXE and create a file called PROGRAM.COM. When the computer executes PROGRAM from the command line, the virus (PROGRAM.COM) runs before the actual PROGRAM.EXE. Often the virus will execute the original program afterwards so the system appears normal.


Compromise - To access or disclose information without authorization.


Cookie - Cookies are blocks of text placed in a file on your computer's hard disk. Web sites use cookies to identify users who revisit the site. Cookies might contain login or registration information, "shopping cart" information or user preferences. When a server receives a browser request that includes a cookie, the server can use the information stored in the cookie to customize the Web site for the user. Cookies can be used to gather more information about a user than would be possible without them.


CSS / Cascading Style Sheets - Enhanced HTML formatting code that provides aesthetics and productivity upgrades over standard HTML text code.


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Default Password - A password on a system when it is first delivered or installed.


Denial Of Service (DoS) - An attack specifically designed to prevent the normal functioning of a system and thereby to prevent lawful access to the system by authorized users. Hackers can cause denial of service attacks by destroying or modifying data or by overloading the system's servers until service to authorized users is delayed or prevented. See Also: Attack.


Description Tag - A META tag that describes your website. Usually a brief sentence that tells search engines what you do at your site.   


DHTML - Dynamic HTML code allows special layering and animations to be included on your web page.


Direct Action Virus - A direct action virus works immediately to load itself into memory, infect other files, and then to unload itself.


Disinfection - Most anti-virus software carries out disinfection after reporting the presence of a virus to the user. During disinfection, the virus may be removed from the system and, whenever possible, any affected data is recovered.


DNS - Domain Name System is a standard used to locate websites. When you type a name like www.micaspecialties.org into an search engine, they cross reference this at a DNS server computer to get the numbered address. All sites are located by their numerical address, not their name. Names are used so businesses can market their company and users can remember the site easier.


DOC File - A Microsoft Word Document File. In the past, these files contained only document data, but with many newer versions of Microsoft Word, DOC files also include small programs called macros. Many virus authors use the macro programming language to associate macros with DOC files. This file type has the extension DOC.


Domain name - Text based web addresses, such as www.micaspecialties.org that computers translate into an IP address (111.123.456.00). These computers are called DNS (domain name system) servers. 


Doorway Page - Some websites use an entry page to enter the site. You can not return to this page once you click the link to enter the site. This type of web page is called an doorway page.


DOS (Disk Operating System) - Generally any computer operating system, though often used as shorthand for MS-DOS--the operating system used by Microsoft before Windows was developed.


Dropper - A dropper is carrier file that installs a virus on a computer system. Virus author often use droppers to shield their viruses from anti-virus software. The term injector often refers to a dropper that installs a virus only in memory.


DSL - A Digital Subscriber Line is a high speed digital network connection. This type of internet is considered a little slower than an broadband cable connection.



EICAR (European Institute of Computer Anti-Virus Research) - in conjunction with several anti-virus software companies, EICAR has developed a test file for anti-virus software. See Also: EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File.


EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File - This text file consists of one line of printable characters; if saved as EICAR.COM, it can be executed and displays message: "EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!" This provides a safe and simple way of testing the installation and behavior of anti-virus software without using a real virus.


Encrypted Virus - An encrypted virus's code begins with a decryption algorithm and continues with scrambled or encrypted code for the remainder of the virus. Each time it infects, it automatically encodes itself differently, so its code is never the same. Through this method, the virus tries to avoid detection by anti-virus software.


Encryption - Encryption is the scrambling of data so it becomes difficult to unscramble and interpret.


EXE file - An executable file; as contrasted with a document or data file. Usually, executed by double-clicking its icon or a shortcut on the desktop, or by entering the name of the program at a command prompt. Executable files can also be executed from other programs, batch files or various script files. The vast majority of known viruses infect program files. However, real-world infections by program-infecting viruses are much less common. Also: Program File.


Expansion slots -Expansion slots are sockets built-in to the motherboard for plugging in new hardware. The type of slot determines the type of expansion card you can plug into it.


Exploits – These are attacks that target a security hole within a program.



False Negative - A false negative error occurs when anti-virus software fails to indicate an infected file is truly infected. False negatives are more serious than false positives, although both are undesirable. False negatives are more common with anti-virus software because the may miss a new or a heavily modified virus. See Also: False Positive.


False Positive - A false positive error occurs when anti-virus software wrongly claims a virus infects a clean file. False positives usually occur when the string chosen for a given virus signature is also present in another program. See Also: False Negative.


FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions refers to the common questions asked at a website.


Fast Infector - Fast infector viruses, when active in memory, infect not only executed programs, but also those that are merely opened. Thus running an application, such as anti-virus software, which opens many programs but does not execute them, can result in all programs becoming infected. See Also: Slow Infector.


FAT (File Allocation Table) - The file system used for MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, 9x, and NT (in some cases.) The FAT is located in the boot sector of the disk and stores the addresses of all the files contained on a disk. Viruses and other malicious programs, as well and normal use and extended wear and tear, can damage the FAT. If the FAT is damaged or corrupt, the operating system may be unable to locate files on the disk. It is a 16 bit environment, which is less secure than the 32 bit NTFS.

See also: NTFS


FDISK /MBR - If you have MS-DOS version 5.0 or later, the command FDISK /MBR can remove viruses which infect the master boot sector but do not encrypt it. Using this command can produce unexpected results and cause unrecoverable damage.


File Viruses - File viruses usually replace or attach themselves to COM and EXE files. They can also infect files with the extensions SYS, DRV, BIN, OVL and OVY. File viruses may be resident or non-resident, the most common being resident or TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) viruses. Many non-resident viruses simply infect one or more files whenever an infected file runs. Also: Parasitic Virus, Fire Infector, File Infecting Virus.


Firewall - A firewall prevents computers on a network from communicating directly with external computer systems. A firewall typically consists of a computer that acts as a barrier through which all information passing between the networks and the external systems must travel. The firewall software analyzes information passing between the two and rejects it if it does not conform to pre-configured rules.


Flash - Interactive vector-based coding embedded into HTML pages to allow animation on your web page. This type of programming is provided by the company Macromedia.


Flash Interface - Graphics, text, links and animations created in Flash that will allow visitors to interact with your website.


Flash Movies - Active movie content that allows visitors to view movie like images and  it can include interactive content as well.


FTP - File Transfer Protocol is used to transfer larger file to a server. When you create websites, they will need to uploaded to your server. This standard protocol is employed to accomplish this task. An FTP utility tool is required to use FTP.  



GIF - Graphic Image Format is a standard cross-platform format for bitmap graphics. They are limited to 256 distinct RGB colors, which is why their file size is small.


Good Times - See: Virus Hoaxes.


Graphic Text - When you enter text into an image-editing program to change it into an image, rendering it static and saved as an image.



Hand-Coded - HTML code produced on a word processor, writing the code instead of using a program to write the code for you.


Heuristic Analysis - behavior based analysis of a computer program by anti-virus software to identify a potential virus. Often heuristic scanning produces false alarms when a clean program behaves as a virus might. Also: Heuristic Scan.


Hijacking - An attack whereby an active, established, session is intercepted and used by the attacker. Hijacking can occur locally if, for example, a legitimate user leaves a computer unprotected. Remote hijacking can occur via the Internet.


Hole - Vulnerability in the design software and/or hardware that allows circumvention of security measures.


Home page - Main page of your website.


Host - A term often used to describe the computer file to which a virus attaches itself. Most viruses run when the computer or user tries to execute the host file.


HTML - Hyper Text Mark-up Language, these are pages formatted to open with your browser, such as web pages.


HTTP - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, is used to open web pages and surf the web.


Hyperlink - Active content in the form of text or images that link to another location.


Hypertext - Active content in the form of text that links to another location.



In The Wild - A virus is "in the wild" if it is verified as having caused an infection outside a laboratory situation. Most viruses are in the wild and differ only in prevalence. Also: ITW; See Also: Zoo Virus.


Infection - The action a virus carries out when it enters a computer system or storage device.


Injector - See: Dropper.


Intranet - A private website that restricts the visitors to approved users only.


Interactive content - Any item that lets visitors to websites interact with that page. Examples include search boxes, hyperlinks, forms, guest books and other items like this. 


IP - Internet Protocol.   


ISP - Internet Service Providers connect users to the internet. They buy access to the internet and lease you bandwidth.


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JavaScript - JavaScript is a scripting language that can run wherever there is a suitable script interpreter such as Web browsers, Web servers, or the Windows Scripting Host. The scripting environment used to run JavaScript greatly affects the security of the host machine: A Web page with JavaScript runs within a Web browser in much the same way as Java applets and does not have access to host machine resources. An Active Server Page (ASP) or a Windows Scripting Host (WSH) script containing JavaScript is potentially hazardous since these environments allow scripts unrestricted access to machine resources (file system, registry, etc.) and application objects.


Joke Programs - These are not viruses, but may contain a virus if infected or otherwise altered. They cause funny things to happen on your machine that act like viruses or broken equipment. Also: Practical Joke Programs.


JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group is a standard cross-platform format for bitmap graphics that compresses the file size of the graphic by eliminating minute color differences between contiguous pixels. JPEG images have no upper limit to how many colors they contain.



Key - The Windows Registry uses keys to store computer configuration settings. When a user installs a new program or the configuration settings are otherwise altered, the values of these keys change. If viruses modify these keys, they can produce damaging effects.


Keyloggers - They will track what your typing on your keyboard. 


Keywords Tag - A META tag that defines your website content. Usually a several words separated by commas that tells search engines what type of content is at your site. They will use this to categorizes your site within their database.   



Library File - Library files contain groups of often-used computer code that different programs can share. Programmers who use library code make their programs smaller since they do not need to include the code in their program. A virus that infects a library file automatically may appear to infect any program using the library file. In Windows systems, the most common library file is the Dynamic Link Library; its extension is DLL.


Logic Bomb - A logic bomb is a type of trojan horse that executes when specific conditions occur. Triggers for logic bombs can include a change in a file, by a particular series of keystrokes, or at a specific time or date. See: Time Bomb.



Macro - A macro is a series of instructions designed to simplify repetitive tasks within a program such as Microsoft Word, Excel or Access. Macros execute when a user opens the associated file. Microsoft's latest macro programming language is simple to use, powerful, and not limited to Word documents. Macros are in mini-programs and can be infected by viruses. See Also: Macro Virus.


Macro Virus - A macro virus is a malicious macro. Macro viruses are written a macro programming language and attach to a document file (such as Word or Excel). When a document or template containing the macro virus is opened in the target application, the virus runs, does its damage and copies itself into other documents. Continual use of the program results in the spread of the virus.


Mailbomb - n. Excessively large e-mail (typically many thousands of messages) or one Large message sent to a user's e-mail account, for the purpose of crashing the system, or preventing genuine messages from being received.

v. To send a mailbomb.


Malicious Code - A piece of code designed to damage a system or the data it contains, or to prevent the system from being used in its normal manner.


Malware / Malicious Software - A generic term increasingly being used to describe any form of malicious software. That is where the name came from (malicious software) and can be used to describe bad things like viruses, trojan horses, bots and any malicious active content or rogue programs or software that is designed by people to attack some part of a computer system. They can be hidden in the music you download or even in the jokes you are reading.


Mapped Drives - Network drives assigned local drive letters and locally accessible. For example, the directory path \\MAIN\JohnDoe\ might be mapped as drive G: on a computer.


MBR / Master Boot Record - The 340-byte program located in the master boot sector. This program reads the partition table, determines what partition to boot and transfers control to the program stored in the first sector of that partition. There is only one master boot record on each physical hard disk. Also: Partition Table; See Also: Boot Record.


Master Boot Sector - The first sector of a hard disk. This sector is located at sector 1, head 0, track 0. The sector contains the master boot record. See Also: Master Boot Record.


Master Boot Sector Virus - Master boot sector viruses infect the master boot sector of hard disks, though they spread through the boot record of floppy disks. The virus stays in memory, waiting for DOS to access a floppy disk. It then infects the boot record on each floppy disk DOS accesses. Also: Master Boot Record Virus; See Also: Boot Record.


Memory-resident Virus - A memory-resident virus stays in memory after it executes and infects other files when certain conditions are met. In contrast, non-memory-resident viruses are active only while an infected application runs.


META Tags - Tags are embedded text that indicates certain information about your site. Some of the tags most often used are description, keywords, alternate, authorship, language and contact information.


MIME - Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions.


Motherboard - The motherboard is the main circuit board connecting all of the components of your PC together. Because of its role as the central connection point, the motherboard plays a big role in determining how many other devices you can attach as well as how well they perform. A motherboard with plenty of expansion slots and available ports gives you room to grow and expand in the future.


MP3 File (Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 File) - MP3 files are highly compressed audio tracks, and are very popular on the Internet. MP3 files are not programs, and viruses cannot infect them. This file type has the extension MP3.


MS-DOS - The Microsoft Disk Operating System. The operating system Microsoft developed for the IBM platform before Windows. Windows 3.x, 95 and 98 rely heavily on MS-DOS and can execute most MS-DOS commands.


Multipartite Virus - Multipartite viruses use a combination of techniques including infecting documents, executables and boot sectors to infect computers. Most multipartite viruses first become resident in memory and then infect the boot sector of the hard drive. Once in memory, multipartite viruses may infect the entire system. Removing multipartite viruses requires cleaning both the boot sectors and any infected files. Before you attempt the repair, you must have a clean, write-protected Rescue Disk.


Mutant - See: Variant.


Mutating Virus - A mutating virus changes, or mutates, as it progresses through its host files making disinfection more difficult. The term usually refers to viruses that intentionally mutate, though some experts also include non-intentionally mutating viruses. See Also: Polymorphic Virus.


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The Definitions N  - Z are available on the next page.



If you did not find the information you were searching for, just drop us a line and we will be glad to help out and add the information to this page for other guests. We are always adding new information so check back and discover something new! 

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Technology Terms

Definitions A - M ««

Definitions N - Z