Hero Pane Image

Security Terms

Below is a list of common security terms and their definitions to help you better understand how to protect yourself and your accounts against fraud:


Software that automatically displays or downloads advertising material when a user is online. Adware is often confused with spyware and malware, which have potentially malicious effects.  Adware can be a conduit to malware or spyware.

Antivirus software

Software that detects, repairs, cleans or removes virus-infected files. Some also detect and remove spyware, malware, Trojan Horses and other malicious software from your computer. Usually included with most computer systems and must be regularly updated to be effective.

Dual Control

A commercial banking security function that requires high-risk transactions such as automated clearing house transactions or wire transfers to be submitted to the bank for processing by two separate users. Dual control makes it harder for criminals to use key stroke tracking programs to intercept your user name and password and gain access to your account.


A software or hardware device that limits access to a website, network or computer. Personal firewalls for home or business use are inexpensive and can limit unauthorized access to your home or work computer.


Computer program that logs each keystroke a user types and saves this data into a file or transfers it via the Internet to a predetermined remote host. It also can capture screenshots of user activity, passwords or record online chat conversations. Often downloaded inadvertently by users clicking on links in fraudulent emails, keyloggers pose the most dangerous threat to user privacy.

Malware (or malicious software)

Software that is intentionally introduced into a computer system to cause harm or loss to the computer system or its data, or be used as a platform to attack other computers. Malware can be unintentionally installed by clicking a button on a pop-up window or visiting a malicious website. Malware can change system parameters, install additional harmful software and may be difficult for you to remove from your system.


An update to computer software or a web browser that may fix bugs, add new features or close security holes. Most software vendors release browser or operating system security patches regularly, so periodic maintenance is required to ensure sound system security.


A variation of phishing in which malicious code is installed on a personal computer or server, misdirecting users to fraudulent websites without their knowledge or consent with the goal of capturing confidential information.

Phishing (or spoofing)

A type of scam with the intent of capturing personal information; usually a legitimate-looking email asking the user to click a link to a legitimate-looking web page or call an 800 number, where the user is asked to provide confidential information.

Shoulder surfing

The practice of peering at somebody's PIN or password to gain illegal access to their personal information.

Social Engineering

Tricking someone into revealing information that's useful to attackers, such as a password, via email, telephone or face-to-face. Social engineers are merely con artists who use their powers of persuasion to get victims to act against their own better judgment.


Unsolicited email, often commercial in nature, sent indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals or newsgroups. The Can-Spam Act of 2003 requires spam messages to be labeled and requires an opt-out process. Spam is usually blocked by anti-spam software, which must be regularly updated to be effective.


Software that is generally used to monitor use of the computer in some way without the user’s knowledge or consent. Spyware can potentially record keystrokes, browser history, passwords and other confidential and private information and report these back to a third party using the Internet. Spyware can also deliver spam or advertising without your notice and consent. Certain antivirus programs can detect and remove spyware.

Trojan Horse

Malicious programs hidden in game, video, music or other legitimate-looking files that are downloaded. Many antivirus programs will detect and remove Trojan Horse programs, but must be regularly updated to be effective.

Vishing or “Voice Phishing”

Uses email and telephone or an automated answering service to trick you into providing personal information.


Programs with the ability to replicate themselves and spread from computer to computer via email or the Internet, often shutting down entire networks. Similar to computer viruses.

Zero Day Virus

A previously unknown computer virus or other malware for which specific antivirus software signatures are not yet available.


Return to the Security Center homepage for additional resources.