19 common antivirus terms explained

Stockvault Firewall Antivirus Antispyware Signpost Showing Internet And Computer
Stockvault Firewall Antivirus Antispyware Signpost Showing Internet And Computer (Image credit: Stockvault)

The internet has so many different uses, whether it's for work or play. But it can also be dangerous, with cyber criminals constantly looking to launch attacks on unsuspecting victims.

To protect yourself from increasing online threats, downloading one of the best antivirus softwares has a range of benefits. However, If you've researched how this software works and the type of threats that it'll mitigate, you may have seen that here's a lot of confusing jargon out there. We explain the most common antivirus terms.

Top antivirus terms to know

Let's dive right in and take a look at all the top antivirus terms to help make sure you know what everything is.


Adware is a type of software that is used for showing advertisements on websites, web browsers, search engines, free applications and even people's devices. Often, adware consists of pop-ups and other intrusive forms of advertising. Generally, these advertisements are not wanted by users and can result in issues such as laggy performance.


The term antivirus is used when describing a type of software application that identifies and mitigates a range of online threats by scanning files and applications on your computer. This is something you add-on after the purchase, and there is a variety of paid and free options, each with a unique benefit.


With a blacklist tool, you're able to list different websites and IP addresses that you want to be blocked on a device or network. Typically, they're used as an internet safety measure by parents to ensure their children can't access adult content (e.g. pornography and gambling websites) online.

Distributed Denial of Service Attack

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is when someone targets a specific server with an abundance of incoming traffic. The idea is to push the resource limit to the max and end up with the website going offline. While this is happening, it's extremely hard to access websites and internet-based services until it's resolved.


Encryption is used to protect sensitive data, such as messages, passwords, credit card information and online transactions. It works by turning plaintext into indecipherable numbers. For this data to be then read, a decryption key is necessary.


Firewalls are a security mechanism that analyses all the traffic that enters and exits a network. By doing this, firewalls can prevent intruders from breaching network security and subsequently getting into your device. They're a staple part of cyber security and protect users from all kinds of cyber attacks.

IP address

An internet protocol address is given to every device that is connected to the internet. It essentially serves as an identifier for connected devices, whether it's a computer, tablet PC, smartphone, router or smart TV, and is also used to locate where an electronic product is being used.


Malware is essentially malicious software that has been designed by a threat actor for the sole purpose of breaking into or causing damage to a target's device. Often, the victim won't realise that they've been targeted by malware. Other cybersecurity threats such as viruses, worms, trojans and spyware are all forms of malware but have different purposes and capabilities.


Phishing attacks are when a cyber criminal sends a malicious email, message or call and asks users to provide personal information, including logins and credit card information. Crooks conducting these attacks often tell victims that they're getting in touch from a legitimate company, like a bank or retail chain.

Proxy Servers

Proxy servers perform the role of a mediator between internet users and websites. They make it possible for users to access websites and online services through a different IP address. This allows people to circumvent geo restrictions and hide their identity, although proxies don't encrypt your internet traffic like a VPN does.


Ransomware is a form of cyber crime whereby a hacker gains access to a device, steals or encrypts data, and threatens to delete or leak this data online unless a ransom fee is paid. Some threat actors may provide access to an encryption key if the victim agrees to pay a ransom.


A router is a piece of hardware for connecting your devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc) to the internet, allowing you to surf the web. If you sign up for a broadband package, you'll be provided with a router by your internet service provider (ISP).


Spyware, which is also a form of malware, enables cyber criminals to collect sensitive data such as all the activities that an individual or business conducts online, credit card information and account logins. Perpetrators can then use this information for stealing people's identities, launching further attacks or selling data to advertisers, without victims knowing or giving their permission.


Trojans, a subset of malware, masquerade as legitimate websites and applications that can trick users into providing personal information such as logins and credit card numbers. They also enable hackers to conduct other malicious activities, such as gaining remote access to infected computers, spying on users and sending text messages. People can become affected by a Trojan by clicking on links in phishing emails or downloading malicious software.


The opposite to a blacklist is a whitelist. While a blacklist allows users to block specific websites and applications, a whitelist enables them to approve URLs so that they can be accessed on a device or network.


Viruses are a form of malware that self-replicate with the aim of infecting an entire device. It can cause extensive damage to a victim's computer, both on an operating system and application-level. Devices can become infected by a virus when a user clicks on a malicious link in an email, opens a malicious document or downloads a malicious application. You can usually tell if you've fallen victim to a virus if your device suddenly becomes slow or performs random actions.


A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a piece of software that creates a secure, private network that enables users to browse the internet anonymously. By downloading one of the best VPN applications to your device, you can connect to servers across the world to hide your IP address, bypass geo restrictions and improve your online security.


Worms are another type of malicious software and, like viruses, are also capable of self-replicating. They usually spread across networks in order to infect different computers and create a backdoor for cyber criminals. A worm often leverages security flaws in computing devices. Victims of a computing worm may experience slower internet speeds.

Zero day

A zero day is a security flaw in a piece of software that has yet to be discovered and addressed by a manufacturer through a software update. Hackers often exploit these in order to breach vulnerable devices. When a hacker exploits a zero-day vulnerability, this is called a zero-day attack.

Nicholas Fearn