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Mar 1, 2008 | 06:00 GMT

8 mins read

Cyberwarfare: A Glossary of Useful Terms

Editor's Note: The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Internet terms but rather a useful collection of core concepts needed to understand cyberwarfare.
Altruism: a broad and indistinct category of hacker motivations characterized by a subjective conception of "doing good." Black Hat (also Dark Side Hacker): a malicious or criminal hacker. Bot: a piece of software that automates routine, repetitive tasks and performs them much more quickly than a human operator could. A given bot may or may not be malicious, depending on how it is used. In the context of cyberwarfare, the term refers specifically to a parasitic program that hijacks a networked computer and uses it to carry out automated cyberattacks on behalf of a hacker. Individual bots can be building blocks for powerful conglomerations of bots known as botnets or bot armies. A computer wholly or partially controlled by a bot is known as a "zombie." Bot Herder (also Bot Wrangler): a program designed to produce bots autonomously, a tedious and time-consuming process for a human hacker. A bot herder can replicate itself and create additional bot herders as well as bots. Botnet (also Bot Army): a collective computing network consisting of many bots and bot herders under the control of a single hacker, giving him or her access to the computing power of many thousands of machines simultaneously. Coder (also Writer): a programmer who is the primary creator of viruses, worms and other malware used by hackers. The ability to write code is a handy skill for any hacker to have, but it is not absolutely essential. Cracker: a user who attempts to bypass copyright protections on software and digital media, thus making programs and applications more accessible in the hacker community as a whole. Cybermercenary: a special group of hackers (often of the black-hat class) who are sufficiently skilled to rent out their services, most often for malicious purposes. Cyberterrorist: one who uses hacker skills and techniques for goals consistent with terrorist organizations. Denial of Service (DoS) Attack: a concerted malevolent effort to deny access to any electronic device, computer, server, network or Internet resource by its intended users. This can be accomplished in numerous ways. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack: a DoS attack accomplished by using multiple systems — often large numbers of systems like botnets — to direct overwhelming numbers of signals or requests to a target or group of targets. A single hacker can orchestrate such an attack by hijacking other computers and servers with malicious bots and organizing them into large botnets. Domain Name: a name that identifies computers or devices on the Internet or on a network. Domain Name System (DNS) Server: a server that acts as an Internet directory or phone book, translating domain names or hostnames into numerical IP addresses that computer networks use to relay information. Exploit: a flaw or bug in a program, piece of software, command sequence or code that allows a user to use programs, computers or systems in unexpected or unauthorized ways. Exploration: one of the first ideologies many burgeoning hackers adopt. Exploration is simply the motivation to explore new aspects of the Internet, bypassing security along the way — often simply to learn more. Forum: a type of virtual messaging board or discussion room where users sharing a common interest can gather and exchange information, data, thoughts and personal opinions. GNU Project: a computing project started by Richard Stallman to develop free software for public use. GNU stands for "GNUs Not Unix." Grey Hat: A hybrid between a black hat and a white hat; a grey hat can be especially skilled because he or she may have experience with both black-hat and white-hat techniques. Hacker: an individual who possesses an intimate working knowledge of computers, electronic systems and the Internet that he or she uses to bypass the security of a given system and explore its functions and limitations. Hacking is almost universally illegal. Hacker Ethic: the fundamental ideology of the hacker community. The Hacker Ethic basically holds that information should be free, authority is not to be trusted, decentralization is to be embraced, and computers and cyberspace are of enormous benefit to mankind. Hacktivism: the use of hacker skills and techniques to accomplish political goals or advance political ideologies. Handle: an alias or nickname that hackers use to safeguard their real identities while maintaining virtual identities. Some hackers use multiple handles in order to ensure greater personal security. Informationism: One of the most widely held ideologies among the hacker community. Informationism holds that all information should be allowed to flow freely through the Internet and throughout all human societies. Internet: an internet (lowercase i) is a super-network that connects various smaller computer networks together. "The Internet" (uppercase I) is the highest-level internet, the worldwide super-network comprising all other interconnected networks. Internet Protocol (IP) Address: a unique numeric address that identifies computers and electronic devices within a given network and enables them to communicate with one another. Internet Service Provider (ISP): an organization that offers individuals and other businesses access to the Internet. Malware: a category of software encompassing viruses, worms, Trojans and any other program designed to hijack, compromise or damage computers. "Malware" is short for "malicious software." Nationalism: a patriotic ideology, rare among hackers, that can temporarily unite hackers behind the cause of national interest. Network: a collection of terminals, computers and servers that are interconnected to allow data to flow easily among them. Operating System: software that manages the operations of a computer or a computer system. It allocates memory, manages system requests, controls input and output devices, manages files, and acts as an interface to allow a user to control various other functions of a system. Ping: a variety of very simple test actions within a computer system or network. This can include verifying a particular system is connected, or testing the amount of time a particular server or computer takes to respond to a request. Rally Around the Flag: an ideological motivation, similar to nationalism, that can emerge when a compelling cause other than national interest (one that is controversial, substantial and out of the ordinary) arises to unify substantial numbers of hackers suddenly and temporarily. Request: a signal from one computer to another or to a server asking for a specific piece of information or data. Script: a set of instructions that directs how a piece of software, an application or a program is to perform and be processed by the computer that is running it. Script Kiddies: an intermediate class between everyday computer/Internet users and hackers. Script kiddies lack the refined knowledge and expertise of the true hacker but can wield considerable power. Uniform Resource Locator (URL): usually refers to the address of a Web site or an FTP site. URLs were originally used to create a uniform syntax to identify and reference materials and locations within the Internet by function and purpose. Virus: a type of malware that propagates from computer to computer by attaching itself to other software. It is generally inadvertently triggered by the user (e.g., by downloading an infected file or opening an infected email attachment). White Hat (also Ethical or Sneaker): a hacker ethically opposed to the malicious use of the Internet, computers or technology. World Wide Web: the collection of interlinked, interactive documents published as Web pages and accessible via the Internet. In common parlance, the Web is sometimes referred to as "the Internet" though they are actually different. Worm: a type of malware that propagates itself inside a network, often autonomously, without necessarily attaching itself to another program (as a virus does). Worms are often much more harmful than viruses because they can spread on their own and, while they might not damage their targets, they can also cause complications for the broader network or Internet by consuming bandwidth and processing power. Zombie: a computer that is wholly or partially controlled by a malicious bot.

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