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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
'Geek speak' confuses net users
Cartoon depicting the confusion over tech jargon
Terms like "phishing" only confuse people
The average home computer user is bamboozled by technology jargon which is used to warn people about the most serious security threats online.

Many are often left vulnerable because they have no idea what they are supposed to be protecting themselves against, a survey for AOL UK has found.

Confusing "geek speak" used by experts and media included "phishing", "rogue dialler", "Trojan" and "spyware".

Eighty-four percent did not know that phishing describes faked e-mail scams.

The most common phishing scam is one used to con people into handing over bank account details online.

Virus: Malicious program designed to damage data; usually spread via infected e-mail attachments
Trojan: Malicious software disguised as harmless program
Firewall: Software to protect computers against hackers
Keylogging: Software/hardware to track keystrokes on a computer to gather passwords, credit card numbers
Pharming: When fraudsters redirect net users from legitimate to fake sites
Phishing: Fraudulent e-mails and pop-ups to fool you into revealing personal information for criminal gain
Rogue dialler: Software that installs itself on computers and changes settings to dial a premium rate number instead of usual dial-up account
Spam: Unsolicited e-mails, often offering products or services in which you have no interest
Spyware: Small programs that secretly monitor sites visited, potentially violating privacy and slowing computers
Source: AOL UK
A quarter said they knew what "spyware" was, although almost one in 10 of those thought it was a computer program that kept an eye on unfaithful partners.

"Some of the terms being bandied around are more suitable for a computer programmers' convention than for people who want to go online at home, " said Will Smith, AOL's net security expert.

"If internet users can't understand the language used to describe these risks, they are going to find it hard to protect themselves from being ripped off."

It is particuarly important that people know what threats there are to security online, and how they can easily protect themselves, as more people get high-speed net connections.

"Keylogging" is a particular threat that hit the headlines recently.

Computer criminals, who unsuccessfully attempted to steal money from Sumitomo Mitsui bank last month, used keylogging to record every key pressed on the bank's computers to get at sensitive passwords and other data.

Horse in my PC?

The "Do you speak geek?" report found that 83% people were worried about personal information getting into the wrong hands.

Install anti-virus software
Keep your anti-virus software up to date
Install a personal firewall
Use Windows updates to patch security holes
Do not open e-mail messages that look suspicious
Do not click on e-mail attachments you were not expecting

Yet, only 39% knew what a "Trojan" was when asked.

A Trojan is a malicious piece of software which installs itself on a person's computer without their knowledge.

One of the most common net security threats, it hides in the background and can trigger programs to run that steal personal information or details stored on that computer, for instance.

A surprising 16% had never heard of the term "spam" to describe unsolicited e-mail, even though 76% were worried about junk e-mails.

Twenty percent admitted they did not know what to do to protect themselves generally online.

Q&A: Safe online banking
05 Nov 04 |  Business
Q&A: Rogue-dialling scams
29 Nov 04 |  Technology
The spies watching while you type
17 Mar 05 |  Technology
Threats on the net
07 Jan 05 |  Click Online
Solutions to net security fears
25 Feb 05 |  Technology
One in four 'touched' by ID fraud
03 Mar 05 |  Business
Have hackers recruited your PC?
17 Mar 05 |  Technology
Hi-tech babble baffles many
08 Jul 03 |  Technology

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