A cybersecurity glossary

Antivirus software Computer programs that can block, detect, and remove viruses and other malware.

Backups/backing up files Extra copies of computer files that can be used to restore files that are lost or damaged.

Bandwidth The amount of data that can pass through a network or part of a network per second.

Botnet Multiple computers on a network that are infected with a program that can be controlled remotely. The infected computers are usually used to cause damage that couldn’t be achieved with a single computer.

Computer network Two or more interconnected devices that can exchange data.

Computer virus A computer program that can copy itself and cause harm in various ways, such as stealing private information or destroying data.

DDoS A distributed denial of service attack attempts to make an online service, like a website, unavailable by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic from a team of computers.

Doxnet A fictional virus modeled after the Stuxnet virus. Like Stuxnet, Doxnet is able to damage physical infrastructure.

Encryption The process of using codes to make readable information unreadable. Encrypted information cannot be read until it is decrypted using a secret key.

Firewall Software designed to block malware from entering protected networks.

Hacktivist Someone who uses computers and computer networks to disrupt services or share secret information in an effort to draw attention to political or social issues.

Internet service provider (ISP) A company or organization that gives users and devices access to the Internet.

Keylogger malware A program that records every key struck on a keyboard and sends that information to an attacker.

Malware Software that harms computers, networks, or people. Includes viruses, worms, ransomware, and other computer programs.

Phishing Attempting to trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, often by using emails or fake websites that look like they are from trusted organizations.

Ransomware A type of malware that holds victims’ computer files hostage by locking access to them or encrypting them. It then demands a ransom if the victim wants his or her files back.

Server A computer or computer program that provides specific services on a network, such as an email server that directs emails and a web server that serves up web pages.

Software Consists of code written in a programming language that instructs computers to perform specific tasks.

Software patch A piece of software designed to update a computer program in order to fix a software vulnerability or improve the program.

Software vulnerability A flaw or weakness in a computer program that hackers or malware can exploit to gain access to a system or damage it.

Spam Unsolicited emails sent to many addresses. The purpose of most spam is to make money through advertising or identity theft.

USB drive A data storage device that is used to store, back up, and transfer computer files.

USB port A type of connection between devices that can exchange information and power supply.

Taken from the Khan Academy’s brief cybersecurity presentation.

Open-sourced, at last

I have finally let go of my ISP, after… many years of hosting. They (a2hosting) served me well, but now I have to try things on my own and practice what I preach. Exciting times, yes. I wish this had happened 20 years ago, or better yet, 30. (EDIT 2: I see what I did there… -30-)

EDIT: At this location, the blog is running on Google’s blogger.com platform, where the site is redirected courtesy of my domain name provider, namesilo.com. They’re inexpensive and I find them to be very reliable. Other domains I own are also hosted in the cloud (including github.io spaces) and my costs are way down. I just make sure my stuff is backed up.

Computer Skills Requirements

You need to have a basic knowledge of computer and Internet skills in order to be successful in an online course. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Knowledge of terminology, such as browser, IMHO, application, etc.
  • Understanding of basic computer hardware and software; ability to perform computer operations, such as:
    • Using keyboard and mouse
    • Managing files and folders: save, name, copy, move, backup, rename, delete, check properties
    • Software installation, security and virus protection
    • Using software applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email clients
    • Knowledge of copying and pasting, spell-checking, saving files in different formats
    • Sending and downloading attachments
  • Internet skills (connecting, accessing, using browsers) and ability to perform online research using various search engines and databases.
  • Ability to use online communication tools, such as email (create, send, receive, reply, print, send/receive attachments), discussion boards (read, search, post, reply, follow threads), chats, and messengers.

Strong reading and writing skills

You need to have strong reading skills and be able to communicate effectively through writing. Most of the material in the online environment will come from your textbooks and written lectures, therefore strong reading and critical thinking skills are very important for success in an online course. Online students communicate through such text-based tools, as emails, discussion forums, chats and instant messaging. You need to feel comfortable expressing yourself in writing.

Self-motivated and independent learner

While online courses can offer more flexibility in scheduling, they require more self-discipline and independence than on-campus courses. Some students can find this uncomfortable and not suitable for their learning style. They may miss face-to-face interaction with an instructor and peers, which helps to keep them on track. In the online environment, you have to be able to start and to work on tasks on your own, without someone keeping you focused, and you have to be self-disciplined in order to follow the class schedule and meet deadlines.

Time commitment

Online classes take as much time as regular on-campus classes. You need to set aside sufficient time for study. Plan to spend at least as much time working on the assignments and studying as you would with a traditional course. Note that some students report spending even more time for online classes than for traditional ones. Time that you need to devote to a 3-credit course will be approximately 12 hours a week.

Time management: log-in frequently and develop study schedules

Even though you may not have to “be” in class on some specific day and time, you still have to follow the course schedule provided by your instructor. Remember that online classes are not independent study courses; you are still required to “show up” and participate actively.

Since online courses are asynchronous, they will continue developing and changing even if you are not online. You need to be online frequently enough and log in at least three to four times per week in order to keep up with the content flow, complete assignments, follow discussions and communicate with your classmates and instructor. Some courses may even require you to log in every day.

Never wait until the last minute to complete your assignments. You may have a technical problem or run out of time which will cause frustration. One of the major reasons for failing online classes is procrastination, since it is very easy to fall behind in the online environment. Make sure to set aside specific time on a regular basis to participate in your course. Schedule specific times to log in and to study.

Active learner

Online students must be active learners, self-starters who are not shy or afraid to ask questions when they do not understand. Remember that you, not the instructor, must be in control of your learning process.

Since your instructor cannot see you, you need to “speak up” right away if you have problems and be as explicit as possible; otherwise there is no way others will know that something is wrong.

Remember that your instructor is not the only source of information. Most of the time you will be able to post your question in the discussion forum and your classmates will help you as well.

If you have technical difficulty, problems understanding course content or difficulty meeting the deadline, seek help right away and contact your instructor to make arrangements.

Why IT support is hated

This morning I had an issue creating a new content folder using the Blackboard software we use at the college when suddenly it stopped dead on its tracks and warned me of an unidentified error. I tried to copy an existing folder to see if I could coax the system into cooperating, but still — no love.

I asked a colleague about whom I should call to clear up the problem, and after a couple of tippy-taps on the keyboard, and navigating through a maze of vaguely worded headers on the Interweb, we came upon a sole PDF file proudly displaying a phone number for faculty to use in case there were some kind of problem with the system (DON’T SHARE THIS NUMBER WITH STUDENTS, a legend blazened below the digits).

I returned to my office and sat to follow the same rigamarole path that led us to the PDF, but before doing so, I decided not to call the IT desk number provided, but rather called myself to see if I had any answers. I extended my thumb and pinky finger on my right hand and cradled a make-believe phone on my chin and dialed my number. I already knew what I was going to ask myself, so I quickly told myself that yes, I had already logged off the system and logged in again, I had quit the browser and restarted it and yes, I had even turned the computer off and then back on again.

What I did not expect was my next question: “What browser are you using?”

“I use only Chrome,” I answered, with such disdain that surely I would quit answering the phone when people called for IT advice. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

My response sent chills down my spine, because not once during the 20 to 30 minutes of having this issue had I even considered what I recommended: “Have you tried opening the page using Internet Explorer?”

No. Not at all. Not for a second.

I sat and clicked the Start button to find IE, since I don’t even have the shortcut embedded in my taskbar anymore, and upon pasting the offending URL and requesting a new folder, a shiny icon popped to inform me of the successful build on the system.

“I hate you,” I spoke into my my hand, and quickly air-slammed the receiver above my desk. “I hate all of you.”

The Age of Marvels

I clearly remember picking out this magazine from the rack and shelling out the three bucks it cost. A bit pricey for those days (1981, 82?) but I definitely got my money’s worth. I must have read it dozens upon dozens of times:

I loaned it to friends, got it back, kept it in my locker, in my parent’s car, in the living room, in the kitchen, and literally carried it with my like a four-year-old carries a security blanket. During its first year of publication, Electronic Games magazine told and retold the history of video games (about 10-15 years worth at that time) over and over again, and soon enough I was an authority on everything in cyberentertainment.

Those were the days.

EDIT: This being the early days of computer geekdom, this mag had a couple of pages that could put you ahead of the curve in computer knowledge, which was basically non-existent. A little information went a long way back then, and soon enough a select group knew more about “computers” than any of the teachers in my school. Really, ANY of the teachers.

All you need to know