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Common Security Terms Dictionary: W - Z

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 6/2/2011

If you’re new the computing world, all of the acronyms, nomenclature, and strange terms can become a little intimidating. It’s my hope that this dictionary series will help you absorb this information and shed some light on the world of “techno-babble."

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    W

    War Dialer

    An automated telecommunications device that dials numbers repeatedly in order to locate vulnerable systems. These dialers are often used to "catalogue" numbers that are deemed vulnerable and therefore a worthy target for an attack.

    War Driver

    With the increased use of 802.11g/h/n routers in businesses and homes, WAPs (wireless access points) are abundant in the public domain. War driving is the process of literally driving around a neighborhood or business district and using a wireless device (smartphone, UMPC, laptop, etc.) in order to illegally gain access to a system via an unsecured WAP.

    Web Server

    A server that uses the HTTP protocol to respond to internet browser requests for website content that resides on that server.

    Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

    A wireless security protocol used for protecting 802.11 networks. WEP uses a shared encryption key between the wireless router and the client wireless network card. Due to this sub-par authentication method, WPA was soon developed and builds upon the weaknesses of WEP.

    Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)

    Developed to build upon the weaknesses of WEP, WPA uses specialized encryption keys that change each time a device requests a new session with a wireless access point. WPA2 is the second generation WPA and uses stronger encryption methods as well as specialized hardware (in some cases). Both methods are approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on the development, implementation, and interoperability of 802.11 wireless network hardware and software (www.wi-fi.org).

    X (Nothing specific comes to mind so if you'd like to see something here, feel free to send me a message!)

    Y

    Y2K (The Year 2000 Problem)

    Although this issue is now nearly a decade old, some may not fully understand what it means if they didn't have the privilege of living through it. Many older computer systems were coded in the format of MM/DD/YY for date stamps. The initial two digits, sometimes called century digits, were truncated in order to save 2 bits of data space (this was actually a big number back in the days when a computer filled an entire room). The problem is that when the century rolled over from 1999 to 2000, these systems would read the data as 1900 rather than 2000. This was a potentially catastrophic event for financial services organizations in particular. Needless to say, a great deal of patching and coding was done in order to avoid any major events. [End history lesson.]

    Z

    Zero-Day Attack

    An attack that occurs between the time a hardware or software vulnerability is discovered and updated firmware or patches are released by the manufacturer to correct the issue.