Glossary of Terms for Internet Privacy, Anonymity and Security

Helpful definitions without mumbo-jumbo, BS or techno-babble

The topics of Internet privacy, security and anonymity are not always easy. To help you, below are some words and terminology listed in alphabetical order and expressed in plain English to help you understand these important topics.


adware – software that causes pop-up or other advertisements to appear on your computer. Adware is often installed without your express knowledge and is often difficult to uninstall (also see spyware)

anonymous remailers – services that allow you to send email messages or post to news groups without any trace of your (the sender’s) name or IP address (also see Cypherpunk remailers, mixmaster remailers, NYM servers and web-based anonymous remailers)

apps – software applications that run on devices

autotrigger – the name of a mIRC script that automates the trading of files on IRC

AVI – an image compression standard for moving pictures (i.e., a type of movie format)

body – the part of an email message after the headers (the substantive contents of an email message)

bookmarks (see favorites)

BIOS – an acronym for Basic Input Output System. The BIOS resides in your hardware and directs how your computer boots up and accesses the operating system

bit (short for binary digit) – the tiniest unit of data, represented by a 0 or 1

brute force attack – a method of defeating security measures by trying all possible dictionary terms, sometimes using supercomputers, to resolve a password or passphrase

byte – eight bits (also see bit)

cache – a store of information where your computer can access it rapidly; a web browser cache is a database stored on your computer that saves the actual web pages and contents you accessed with your browser. A browser’s cache retains information including URLs (web addresses), pictures and other data to make your browsing experience faster. When you request a site, the browser first reloads any data it can from the cache
rather than from a distant server on the web. The cache is meant to speed things up for your browser by saving and keeping temporary copies of files you visit (e.g., web pages and images) on your computer

chat (see IRC)

checksum – a unique fingerprint for every file; as every data file has an almost unique checksum it is used to verify torrents, images and any other kind of data. For example, forensic software uses checksum
methods to verify that an exact copy of a hard drive was made. P2P software uses checksum to verify downloaded torrents. Sometimes checksum is called a hash or hashcheck

cipher – the form which data takes when converted during the encryption process; for example, when text is transformed into unintelligible data

cluster – the logical address space used to describe the minimum amount of physical disk sectors to which data may be allocated by the operating system; the smallest space to which data can be saved by your computer’s operating system

cookies – small text files downloaded to your computer from a website to help it to identify you. Cookies enable websites to remember your user preferences and settings, track your navigation of the site, offer you extra services or even log on to the site automatically. Depending on your browser settings, cookies may be stored on your computer without your knowledge. Most websites use cookies and some use more than one

cryptography – the science of secret codes; encryption is only one form of cryptography

CRC – an acronym for cyclical redundancy check. Your operating system uses CRC values to verify that data has properly been read, copied or moved. If a CRC value differs, your system is able to report back that the data has been corrupted. (also see checksum)

ctcp – client-to-client protocol. A particular protocol for offering and getting downloads on IRC

cyclical redundancy check (see CRC)

cypherpunk remailers (or “Type I” remailers) – remailers that strip all of the headers from an email message and forward it on to the intended recipient. It is an almost untraceable way of sending anonymous
messages, but also means that the recipient will not be able to send you a reply

DALnet – a collection of IRC servers

DCC – an acronym for direct client-to-client. DCC allows you to connect directly with another IRC user, bypassing an IRC server altogether. The 3 basic features of DCC are: Send, Get, and Chat

decoding – a term that describes changing a binary file into a text file so that it can be sent via email or posted to Usenet newsgroups

devices – desktop computers, laptops, tablets and/or smart phones

directory entry – a term for how the Windows operating system records filenames and folder names. Empty directory entries are the index entries of old, deleted filenames and folder names

domain name – the name that identifies an Internet website so that you do not have to remember its IP address. Domain names consist of two or more parts, separated by dots; for example, and are domain names both pointing to the same IP address for the COGIPAS website

drive imaging – a means of forensically storing everything contained on a hard drive

drive letter – the letter (usually C to Z) that your operating system assigns to one or more logical volumes (drives) on your computer

dynamic IP address – an IP address that is assigned (by your ISP for example) from a block of available addresses each time you connect to the Internet; in other words, you have a potentially different IP
address each time you connect

email bugs – invisibly small or transparent images embedded in an email that can be used to track you

encoding – the process of changing a text file received via email or downloaded from Usenet newsgroups into a binary file (e.g., an image or video file)

encryption – the process of converting information into an unreadable form (called a cipher) that cannot be understood unless a decryption key is applied to the cipher; in more layman terms, the scrambling of data to make it readable only by someone in possession of the proper decryption key (usually a password or passphrase)

encrypted virtual drive – a feature of some encryption software that, once enabled, displays encrypted data as another logical drive on your computer; a drive icon pops up on your system much like when you plug-in a USB stick or insert a DVD/CD-ROM

ESMTP – an acronym for Extended SMTP, a type of email protocol

Facebook – a popular social networking site

FAT (or FAT32) – an acronym for file allocation table. FAT is a convention for formatting and keeping track of files stored on a hard drive. FAT32 sets the minimum cluster size at 4k thereby reducing the amount of wasted space or “file slack” compared to the 16k minimum imposed by the older FAT standard (also see cluster; file slack; NTFS)

favorites (or bookmarks) – a collection of Internet locations (URLs) stored in your web browser or otherwise on your computer or via an online service that represent websites you want to revisit or that you frequently visit

file extension – normally three letters to the right of a filename’s last dot; for example, the file extension of the file report.doc is DOC, a file
extension for a word processing document

file header – a sequence of data at the start of an electronic file (essentially invisible) used to determined what type of file it is and whether a program can open it. Not to be confused with a file

file slack – the space between the logical end and physical end of a data file. The logical size of a file is the exact size of a file in bytes; this is the size of the file you see reported in
Explorer. The physical size of a file is the amount of space that the file physically occupies on the disk which is almost always larger than the logical size

firewall – software or hardware that helps protect your computer from external threats by examining incoming connections and data before they reach your computer

forums (aka message boards) – areas on websites that allow users to post messages and replies. Forums are a way for websites to build communities

fserve – a way in IRC to access someone else’s computer (with their consent) and download from it

FTP client – software used to access an FTP server

FTP server – software that allows other Internet users (clients) to transfer files to and from a server

GIF – an acronym for graphical interchange format, a type of image format with the file extension, *.gif

Google+ – a popular social networking site

headers – a reference to the collection of the To:, From: and Subject: fields at the start of an email message or newsgroup post; sometimes not all of the headers are visible in your software or reader

history – a record stored in your web browser or otherwise on your computer of the most recent websites you have visited

HTML – an acronym for hypertext mark-up language. Refers to the format used to create and view pages on the Internet’s worldwide web

https:// – a reference seen at the beginning of a URL indicating that an encrypted Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection is activated for the particular web page

IDENT – a command used to identify a particular user on an (Internet) TCP connection usually using port 13; often associated with IRC and FTP

IM – an acronym for instant messaging, a type of software that allows two or more users to type message to and from one another in real time

IP address – a numerical address assigned to a computer connected to the Internet

IRC – an acronym for Internet Relay Chat, the original and oldest type of chatting on the Internet. It is basically a place for people of similar interests to meet in cyberspace and trade conversation (by typing) or downloads (by file transfers). Chat rooms are called channels in IRC

ISP – an acronym for Internet service provider, the business from which you get your Internet access from

JPEG – an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group referring to a type of image format with the file extension *.jpg

log – a record of a user’s download or URL requests on the Internet whether via the Web, P2P, Usenet and IRC; logs are often compiled by IP address

login – the username required to access an online resource and often used in conjunction with a passphrase (e.g., for accessing a website account)

lurker – a term often used to describe a person who (i) enters Internet chat rooms and watches the goings on, but does not actively participate or (ii) browses and downloads Usenet messages but does not upload posts (sometimes also called a “leecher“)

malware – short for malicious software which includes viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits, email/web bugs, spyware and adware

mail2news gateway (or mail-to-news gateway) – a process that allows you to post a message to a Usenet newsgroup by sending an email message to a specific mail2news gateway address

message boards (see forums)

Mixmaster remailers (aka “Type II” remailers) – a type of remailer that adds the security of encryption to Type I remailing technology ensuring that the message is unreadable and untraceable before reaching the remailer (i.e., making it unreadable should it be intercepted or monitored enroute)

MPEG or MPG – an image compression standard for video and movie files

MRU – an acronym for ‘most recently used’

multi-media – a term pertaining to anything audio and/or visual in nature

news server (aka NNTP server) – a computer that handles Usenet newsgroup posts and traffic

newsgroups (aka Usenet) – the name for a collection of Internet discussion groups

newsreader – software that allows you to read, download and post messages to Usenet newsgroups

ng – shorthand in Usenet-speak for newsgroup

NNTP – an acronym for Network News Transfer Protocol. The protocol used by newsreader software to access Usenet newsgroups

NTFS – an acronym for New Technology File System. NTFS replaced FAT as a newer standard for formatting and keeping track of files on hard drives

nym server – short for anonymous server; a type of pseudo-anonymous remailer

open news server – a news server that is publicly open and accessible at no additional cost

operating system – the software that controls your hardware and all of your other software. Microsoft Windows, Apple O/S and Linux are examples of operating systems

OS (or O/S) – an acronym for operating system

paging file (or swap file) – an area on your hard drives used by Windows as virtual memory (i.e., your computer’s virtual memory swaps data with its main RAM memory)

pass – short form of password or passphrase

passphrase – a word or phrase usually needed in conjunction with (i) a login to access an online resource (e.g., a website account) or (ii) software to encrypt and decrypt data

password (or pass or passphrase) (see passphrase)

peer-to-peer (or P2P) – a communications protocol for file sharing on the Internet; a way to share downloads on the Internet (see torrents)

PEM – an acronym for Privacy Enhanced Mail

PGP – an acronym for Pretty Good Privacy, a suite of privacy software products now owned by Symantec

POP3 mail server – a type of email protocol that allows you to send and receive messages over the Internet. POP3 severs allow you to easily change your settings on the fly as often as you like

private key (or secret key) – the decryption key of a key pair (the other key in the pair being the public key) used to create digital signatures; your private key (e.g., your passphrase) should not be disclosed to anyone

proxy (or web proxy) – a separate computer that acts as an intermediary between your computer and the websites you access with your web browser. Sometimes a proxy server is used to cache popular websites to speed up Internet access, but a proxy can also be used to enhance online privacy as the IP address of the proxy server will be reported to the sites you visit, rather than your own

public key – the encryption key of a key pair (the other key in the pair being the private key); your public key may be disclosed to third parties that wish to send you encrypted messages

Registry (or regedit) – a collection of files in which Windows stores application and system data. The Registry is accessible with the built-in program Registry Editor

RFC – an acronym for request for comments; proposed or standardized Internet protocols

rip and ripping – the term used for (i) downloading an entire website to your computer including for off-line browsing or (ii) copying songs from a CD, DVD or Blu-Ray (i.e., ripping it); it does not mean “rip off”

rootkit – a concealed set of tools on your computer which allow a hacker to continue accessing your system after it has been initially breached; rootkits are often installed at a very base technical level of your system to hide their presence from detection

script – a sequence of instructions executed by an application; a (read) program running on your system

SMTP – an acronym for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, a type of email protocol that allows you to send and receive messages over the Internet (also see POP3 mail server)

SOCKS (proxy) – a type of proxy server protocol which derives its name from using sockets to keep track of individual connections

spam – unsolicited commercial email

spyware – software that without your express knowledge gathers information about you, including information that may be sensitive like your surfing habits, and which may send this information to a third party. Spyware is often difficult to uninstall (also see adware)

SSL – an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer, a protocol that enables encrypted and authenticated communications across the Internet; for example, URLs beginning with “https” for websites represent such SSL connections

static IP address – an IP address that does not change, in contrast to a dynamic IP address

steganography (or stego for short) – a means of secretly hiding a message or data inside the data of another file, often as text within binary files such as sound or image formats (e.g., *.wav or *.jpg)

swap file (see paging file)

temp – usually short for “temporary” (e.g., the folder C:WINDOWSTEMP contains temporary data used by the Windows operating system)

TEMPEST – an acronym for Transient Electromagnetic Pulse Emanation Standard, a means of monitoring and reading from a distance what is on your computer screen

torrent – a type of file that facilitates peer-to-peer file sharing on the Internet (see peer-to-peer)

tracking dots (or microdots) – tiny, usually yellow dots that are secretly placed on printed pages that identify a printer’s unique serial number and, in some cases, the printout’s timestamp

Trojan – a malicious software program that poses as a legitimate or a useful application; a type of malware

type I remailer (see Cypherpunk remailers)

type II remailers (see Mixmaster remailers)

URL – an acronym for uniform resource locator, a universal method for accessing locations and documents on the Internet or your local machine with the protocol [HTTP]://[host]/[path]

Usenet (or newsgroups) – a completely decentralized collection of many thousands of Internet newsgroups. Essentially a huge database of a mass of newsgroup messages (including attachments) that is continually on the move between the thousands of various computer servers hosting its contents

virtual drive – part of a hard drive used as a storage area for data which, when activated or ‘mounted’, shows up as a drive letter on your system

web-based anonymous remailers – web-based forms for sending messages through anonymous remailers

web bugs – invisibly small or transparent images embedded in a web page that can be used to track you

WHOIS – a service or command that can be used to look up information about who is connected to the Internet; for example, to look up the owner of a domain name or to see the IP address behind an IRC nickname

wipe and wiping – deleting of data by over-writing the physical space on a hard drive where a deleted file previously resided in such a way that the original file cannot be recovered even by forensic software

worm – software that spreads by itself from computer to computer and exploits how the Internet works to cause disruption. Some worms launch distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, meaning they attack and flood Internet servers with many requests, blocking or crashing them

WWW – an acronym for world-wide web

zombie – a computer taken over by hackers that may be used to launch unwitting attacks on other computers

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August 2, 2022

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  1. Great information but a little too unix-based. I imagine the author wearing t-shirt, jeans and wide suspenders and a full beard. (Sigh. Another blast from the past in an old guys memory.) Thanks

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