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Geek Speak

By Dan Beyers
The Washington Post
Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page F08

Half the battle is figuring out what all those darn computer terms mean. Here's a glossary of common terms you may encounter as you go about maintaining your machine.

Anti-virus software: A program that scans your computer to detect and remove malicious computer code.

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Browser: A program that allows a user to locate and view material on the World Wide Web. The best-known names are Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

Cookie: A piece of information sent from a Web site (actually, from the computer that hosts the Web site) to a user's browser. This information is often used to identify users who have previously visited the site. Cookies are the reason Amazon.com can greet you by name each time you log on after your initial purchase.

Firewall: Hardware or software that monitors Internet traffic coming into or out of a computer.

Phishing: A type of scam that lures consumers, by means of e-mail, to bogus Web sites mimicking legitimate business sites and then asks visitors to confirm or update account information, thereby gathering private data.

Privacy policy: The terms by which a company or Web site promises to handle the personal information it collects from visitors or shoppers.

Search engine: Typically a Web site (such as Google.com, Teoma.com and others) that allows users to find information on the Web.

Spam: Unsolicited, junk e-mail and other messages.

SSID: An abbreviation for Service Set IDentifier, or the name given to a home wireless network.

Trojan: A program that appears to be benign but can hide malicious code that can launch a virus or worm or give unauthorized users access to someone's computer.

Virus: Malicious computer code that spreads from computer to computer, sometimes embedded in e-mail.

WEP: Short for Wired Equivalent Privacy, this is a protocol for encrypting wireless communications.

Worm: A program that replicates itself over a network, usually performing malicious actions. Unlike viruses, worms typically do not infect other computer programs.

-- Dan Beyers


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