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Beacon Senior News

Know thy enemy— a glossary of online bad guys

Jul 31, 2017 11:48AM ● By Adam Cochran

In third grade, my friends and I found a dartboard by the shallow irrigation ditch where we spent all summer keeping cool.

After we grew tired of throwing the darts into the dartboard, the grass, the walls, etc., we realized that if you throw a dart high into the air, it makes a spark when it hits the pavement. This provided hours of fun—until a dart came back down and stuck neatly into my friend’s little brother’s head, that is. He lived, and we learned a lesson about having siblings nearby when we did stuff like that.

Tools, toys and technology all have something in common: They can all be dangerous if misused. Education can prevent you from becoming a victim of the misuse of technology.

One of the biggest problems to overcome is that negative tech terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Here, we’ll define some common terms that are important to know.


Friends on Facebook love sharing articles with headlines like, “15 reasons why you shouldn’t drink water. I did No. 5 this morning!” These stories are written to get you to click on them, because when you do, the site where the story is posted makes money from its advertisers. Clicking on these won’t hurt your computer—it’s just sensationalism for profit.


This is a person or group of people who gain remote access to a computer system. It may be done to control the system or to access information stored on the computer.


A hoax doesn’t hurt your computer at all, it’s just a lie perpetuated by internet users. It can be dangerous to fall for a hoax, but it’s usually just a waste of time and better to ignore. Nobody’s giving away 15 RVs on Facebook and the government isn’t going to tax email.


Any type of bad software falls under the malware category. Viruses, ransomware, extortionware, adware and bloatware are all varieties of malware.


This type of malware scrambles all the document and image files on your computer, making it inaccessible until you pay the criminals who created the program whatever money they demand. Hospitals and schools are the most common targets of ransomware.


A scam is a method used by bad guys to get you to send them money. Scams can be very simple hoaxes that con people out of their money, or complex tricks that fool you into thinking you’re giving money to a good cause.


There are very few virus-like programs that can take over your computer without your permission and spread to others. Most malware today tricks you into installing it yourself. Before you install an update or agree to download a program, examine it closely. It might be a new type of virus that antivirus programs.