Cyber crime - A to Z glossary of terms

Let's face it. Most of us have been bamboozled by computer technicians at some point in time with their dictionary of technical terms.Here are definitions for many of the words and phrases used in discussions about cyber crime.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 22nd July 2017, 1:15 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:34 pm

Let’s face it. Most of us have been bamboozled by computer technicians at some point in time with their dictionary of technical terms.

Here are definitions for many of the words and phrases used in discussions about cyber crime.

Back up: The safety process of copying and storing data to devices such as external hard drives or memory sticks to ensure its availability in the case of computer failure or theft.

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Bitcoin: A legal if controversial online currency used to buy goods and services via computer. Cyber blackmailers will often ask for ransoms to be paid in bitcoins as their path becomes increasingly difficult to trace with each subsequent transaction or transfer.

Botnet: A collection of otherwise unrelated personal computers (PCs) which have been infected by a virus and which are under the central control of criminals or hackers. Short for robot network.

Catfish: While primarily a term used to describe the bogus images of perverts pretending to be a younger person on social media sites to attract children, adults too can be duped. Beware fake financial or betting experts with slick websites and even slicker hairstyles promising instant dividends in return for online fees.

Clickjacking: Usually where fraudsters target children to click on a link containing malware or trick them into sharing private information via social media sites. Examples include funny videos with tempting messages such as “OMG? You won’t believe what this girl did next!”

Dark Web: The illicit and secret section of the internet which requires special browsers to access that give surfers anonymity. All types of criminal products and services are available for sale, including contract killings, drugs and firearms.

Denial of service attack: Deliberate overloading of a service by criminals to make it unavailable to legitimate users. For example, by arranging millions of simultaneous visits to a website – normally from a botnet.

Encryption: Legitimately, this converts data into cipher text (a type of computer code) to prevent it from being understood by an unauthorised party. Hackers also encrypt victims’ data as part of their ransomware demands so that the owners cannot access it.

Honey pot: A security feature built into a network which is designed to lure hackers into meaningless locations to avoid harm to genuine and crucial data. Eventually hackers will be tempted to search for easier targets.

Malware: Software used or created by hackers to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information or gain access to private computer systems. Short for malicious software, it is often contained within a website link or attachment.

Money mule: Someone recruited by fraudsters to transfer money illegally gained in one country to another country where one of the criminal masterminds lives. Organised gangs can have armies of mules transferring small amounts of money swiftly to other mules to avoid detection.

Pharming: Where criminals take over a computer’s software so that users are redirected to a fake website even though they enter an address correctly.

Phishing: Generally an extension of pharming, users are duped by fake websites into sharing vital data such as user names, passwords and bank details. Often the “” end of a legitimate address is changed to “” or vice-versa.

Ransomware: A form of malware accompanied by a message stating that a computer or network’s data is held hostage until a ransom, usually in bitcoins, is paid. If refused, the virus is triggered remotely by the hackers.

Spoofing: When an unauthorised person makes a message (typically an email) appear to come from a legitimate sender by using either the genuine or a very similar address.

Spyware: Malware that secretly monitors a user’s activity or scans for private information.

Trojan: A software programme posing as an authentic application to conceal an item of malware. The term comes from Trojan Horse story in Greek mythology.

Vishing: The practice of attempting to obtain personal or financial information via a telephone call in order to commit fraud or identity theft. Often callers will pretend to be computer engineers wanting to take over your PC remotely to make imaginary repairs while searching for passwords and bank details.