Internet Terminology 101: Cheat Sheet
The most popular browsers in 2017 are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge*. (*Internet Explorer has been superseded and is no longer recommended due to security concerns)
Electronic Mail (also commonly spelled with a hyphen: ‘e-mail’) is typed messages sent from one person/business to another via the Internet. It’s delivered almost instantly and then waits patiently for the recipient to open and read it. A digital equivalent of mail delivered by postal carrier
You’ll need a webmail service (e.g. Gmail) or installed software (e.g. Outlook) to read, write and send, but you can also set your smartphone up for this. Most emails are in the form of letters, newsletters or catalogs, often with a more casual tone. Email can include text, links to the internet and images, but not video/sound.
Before important data is sent over the internet, it’s scrambled to turn it into gibberish which means nothing to anybody who might intercept it. Unless there’s been a massive security breach, only the sender and intended recipient will have the decryption key to turn it back into readable data.
You don’t have to encrypt your own data as it happens automatically. Your email provider and important places like banks and online stores have digital security systems that to care of the encryption/decryption for you.
A firewall is a security measure similar to a one-way valve for your network. Outbound traffic is generally less restricted but when an unauthorized inbound user attempts to gain entry, the firewall blocks the path until it’s cleared internally. Suspicious activity can also be controlled on a case by case basis via firewall rules.
HTTP and HTTPS
These are abbreviations for the transport protocals (rules) of how data is transmitted to your computer. The actual mechanics are incredibly complicated, but the terms have one very important distinction:
HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) means images, text and links will appear in your browser over plain text (unencrypted)
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS) means the page (or elements os) has an added layer of security to further protect information from hackers/observers. Data sent through pages with this prefix is encrypted before transmission.
Every device that accesses the Internet is assigned a IP address to identify itself. It’s used to make sure when you request a page or document, it’s sent to you – and not someone in Alaska. Your IP will look something like ‘126.96.36.199’ and may be referred to as fixed or dynamic.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company that allows you to connect to the Internet. They’ll also offer extra services like email or web hosting.
A broad term to describe viruses and malicious software. Malware can manipulate you into paying money, take control of your computer, steal your private details, break your computer in some way, or just cause general havoc. Instead of listing each specific threat, you’ll commonly see them lumped together under ‘malware’.
The traffic system for your network, connecting computers and devices within the home and acting as a basic defensive gateway to the Internet. These hardware devices can be wired or wireless, and allow you to share one Internet connection amongst all the computers/devices in your home.
A broad term to describe all the websites and applications used to share and interact with others online. To fit this umbrella, the site needs to allow user profiles, live updates and the ability to add friends/followers.
The most common social media applications are Facebook and Twitter.
Spam and Filtering
Any unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, usually in bulk, are called spam. Usually, it’s electronic junk mail, but it’s also a technique hackers use to trick people into clicking links to their malware.
Email applications are reasonably good at identifying spam and should sift it automatically to a spam folder before you see it. Occasionally, the filters get it wrong and you may find a relevant email needs to be dragged back to your inbox.
Each website has a unique address on the web known as its URL (Uniform Resource Locator). URLs commonly end in .com but can also end in a country specific extension like .com.au or .fr, or more recently, in new and exciting extensions such as .xyz or .me
Have questions about other terms?
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