Computer Security- Some basic Terms

Recently, a Microsoft Security Intelligence Report said that though in terms of cyber security, the world is turning further secure, in India the computer infection rate is hiking. The report says that India is having about 3 times the worldwide avg of certain threat categories such as viruses and worms. India’s infection rates have climbed 0.7% in the last quarter alone, while worldwide figures report a 1.1% fall.

In India, various Trojans, Trojan downloaders, password stealers and monitoring tools all outnumber the situation globally. India is home to 3 of the World’s most unsafe bots (software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet) – Win32/Lethic + Cutwail + Pramro

The common error that computer users in India commit is that they do not update their S/W or they use pirated S/W, whilst in a few computers even essential security features are absent which includes anti-virus S/W. We use this opportunity to define some computer security related terms:


  • It is a field that studies how to use cryptography to design powerful malicious

Computer Virus

  • A computer virus is a computer program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another.
  • The term “virus” is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability.
  • A true virus can spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer.
  • Viruses are sometimes confused with worms and Trojan horses, which are technically different.

Computer Worm

  • A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program, which uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network) and it may do so without any user intervention.
  • This is due to security shortcomings on the target computer. Unlike a computer virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program.
  • Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, even if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.


  • Malware, short for malicious software, consists of programming (code, scripts, active content, and other software) designed to disrupt or deny operation, gather information that leads to loss of privacy or exploitation, gain unauthorized access to system resources, and other abusive behavior.
  • The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code. Software is considered to be malware based on the perceived intent of the creator rather than any particular features.
  • Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, dishonest adware, scareware, crimeware, most rootkits, and other malicious and unwanted software or program. In law, malware is sometimes known as a computer contaminant.

Trojan Horse:

  • A Trojan horse, or Trojan, is software that appears to perform a desirable function for the user prior to run or install, but (perhaps in addition to the expected function) steals information or harms the system.
  • The term is derived from the Trojan Horse story in Greek mythology.


  • Spyware is a type of malware that can be installed on computers, and which collects small pieces of information about users without their knowledge.
  • The presence of spyware is typically hidden from the user, and can be difficult to detect. Typically, spyware is secretly installed on the user’s personal computer.
  • Sometimes, however, spywares such as keyloggers are installed by the owner of a shared, corporate, or public computer on purpose in order to secretly monitor other users.


  • Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.
  • While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam.

Computer Virus Hoax

  • A computer virus hoax is a message warning the recipient of a non-existent computer virus threat.
  • The message is usually a chain e-mail that tells the recipient to forward it to everyone they know.
  • Anti-virus specialists agree that recipients should delete virus hoaxes when they receive them, instead of forwarding them.


  • Crimeware is a class of malware designed specifically to automate cybercrime. The term was coined by Peter Cassidy, Secretary General of the Anti-Phishing Working Group to distinguish it from other kinds of malevolent programs.
  • Crimeware (as distinct from spyware, adware, and malware) is designed (through social engineering or technical stealth) to perpetrate identity theft in order to access a computer user’s online accounts at financial services companies and online retailers for the purpose of taking funds from those accounts or completing unauthorized transactions that enrich the thief controlling the crimeware.
  • Crimeware also often has the intent to export confidential or sensitive information from a network for financial exploitation. Crimeware represents a growing problem in network security as many malicious code threats seek to pilfer confidential information.

Multipartite virus

  • A multipartite virus is a computer virus that infects and spreads in multiple ways. The term was coined to describe the first viruses that included DOS executable files and PC BIOS boot sector virus code, where both parts are viral themselves. For a complete cleanup, all parts of the virus must be removed.
  • The term was coined, as prior to the discovery of the first of these, viruses were categorized as either file infectors or boot infectors. Because of the multiple vectors for the spread of infection, these viruses could spread faster than a boot or file infector alone. Ghostball was the first multipartite virus, discovered by Fridrik Skulason in October 1989.


  • Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer.
  • These advertisements can be in the form of a pop-up. They may also be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. The object of the Adware is to generate revenue for its author.
  • Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keyloggers and other privacy-invasive software.

Antivirus or anti-virus software:

  • It is used to prevent, detect, and remove malware, including but not limited to computer viruses, computer worm, trojan horses, spyware and adware.
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