The A to Z of internet security: Every key term explained

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

Internet security is a daunting space. And it’s not made any easier because of the myriad of jargon that’s thrown around. So while there are VPNs, antivirus software, and password managers to help with your security, we’re here to explain those terms and many more that relate to internet security.


Adware is a form of malware that, once installed on a device, automatically displays intrusive pop-ups or ad banners. Use antivirus or anti-malware software to protect against adware or cleanse it from infected devices.


Antivirus is a term that’s used in relation to software and apps that protect against malware: specifically, viruses, but also potentially other forms of malware and ransomware.

Compare the best antivirus software

Best for
Initial annual price
Number of devices
Threat protection
Learn more
Best antivirus software overall1, 3, 5, or 1099.9%
Best cheap antivirus software1, 3, 5, 10, or 2099.6%
Best antivirus for families5 or 3099.6%
Best antivirus for enhanced security5100%
Best antivirus for first-timers1 or 1099.6%
Best runner-up597.4%
Best for infected devices1 or 599.9%
Best for device diversity2, 4, or 6100%
Best for fewest false positives1 to 10 98.4%

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.


In internet security terms, breach is used to describe a successful cyberattack on a device or network. Big companies are required to declare data breaches, and if you’re caught up in one—either as an individual or as a user of a company that’s been breached—change your username and password details as soon as possible.


A cyberattack is an attempt by threat actors (e.g. hackers) to infiltrate a device or network with malicious intent.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS)

Distributed denial of service is a cyberattack that attempts to render websites and online services unusable by overloading them with malicious traffic requests. DDoS is more likely targeted at companies than individual users.

Domain Name System (DNS)

Domain Name System is effectively the phonebook of the internet, converting numerical IP addresses into easier-to-recall words (e.g. Consider updating your devices with Cloudflare DNS settings (primary: and secondary: ) to boost online privacy.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE)

End-to-end encryption provides security by stopping third-parties from being able to intercept unencrypted information. Instead, end-to-end encryption is only automatically unencrypted on specific user-controlled devices.


In internet security terms, an exploit refers to a cyberattack on a device via a particular vulnerability. Avoid vulnerabilities by keeping software, firmware, and operating systems up to date.


A firewall is a network security tool that monitors incoming and outgoing internet data. Firewalls can be configured to protect against network vulnerabilities.


Hackers can be good (‘white hat’, or ethical hackers) or bad (‘black hat’), but they all experts at compromising digital devices. Cybercriminal hackers exploit vulnerabilities for their own gain, while ethical hackers seek to fix vulnerabilities by exposing them.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a way for websites to identify themselves as secure. Keep an eye out for a padlock in the address bar or the presence of ‘https’ in a website address for secure sites.

Identity theft

Identity theft is a term used to describe when a cybercriminal uses personal data to masquerade as another individual. Antivirus, anti-malware, firewall, and VPN software are great tools for mitigating access of personal data to the outside world.

Internet Protocol (IP) address

An Internet Protocol address is used to identify the location of a device. Because IP addresses contain locational information, it’s worth using a VPN to keep your device’s location anonymous.


Malware is an umbrella term for any number of malicious software that’s designed to target user devices. Malware like spyware can capture personal user information, but viruses can ruin performance on a device, while ransomware may block access to personal information. Use antivirus or anti-malware software to handle malware.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication incorporates two or more verification options from knowledge, possession, or inherence. Knowledge might be a password or PIN, possession might be a QR code or texted code, and inherence refers to user biometrics for validation.

Password manager

A password manager is any app, software, or browser extension that’s designed to generate and/or store passwords behind a single master password. Password managers are best used to generate complex passwords that are difficult to crack.


Pharming is a sophisticated online scam that is a form of phishing. Unlike phishing, which may use legitimate-looking websites, pharming scams secretly redirect from potentially legitimate (but compromised) websites to fake ones.


Phishing is a type of scam that’s designed to trick users into sharing personal information. A phishing attempt may come via email, text, or via a phone call.


Ransomware is a nasty form of malware that locks access to personal files on a device once it’s activated, wherein a ransom is demanded to unlock the files. Block ransomware attacks with antivirus software or unlock a ransomware-infected device via the No More Ransom website.

Remote access

In its purest form, remote access is a convenience that lets people access one device (work or otherwise) from another device. For internet security, though, remote access can be used to steal money or personal information.


Spyware is a form of malware that’s designed to track user activity, including keystrokes, login details, and other personal data. Use reputable antivirus or anti-malware software to block or remove spyware.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication is an optional security setting for websites and online services that use a username and password to access. By activating two-factor authentication, your credentials are verified via username, password, and a separate unique authentication code.

Virtual private network (VPN)

A VPN is optional internet security software that’s primarily designed to secure and anonymise your internet connection. VPNs create a buffer between the device they’re being used on and the internet via encrypted connections.

Compare the best VPN services

Monthly price
Annual price
Servers Icon Tooltip  Dark
Countries Icon Tooltip  Dark
Locations Icon Tooltip  Dark
Devices Icon Tooltip  Dark
Trial period
57256083630-day money-back guarantee
3000+94160530-day money-back guarantee
3200+100143Unlimited30-day money-back guarantee
8079100125745-day money-back guarantee
3,024691011030-day money-back guarantee

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

*ProtonVPN Plus plan used for comparison. Cheaper plans are available, but offer limited servers, connections, speed, and more.


Viruses are a form of malware that are designed to spread through a device and cause damage to software and/or data. The impact of viruses can be negated or mitigated by using antivirus software.


Internet security is a blanket term for any steps (habits), software, or services that are designed to protect against online threats. This may include things like best-practice online safety, antivirus software, or the use of VPNs and password managers.
The main types of internet security that are relevant to everyday users amount to a mix of good online habits and software protection. For habits, using secure passwords, activating two-factor authentication, and visiting secure sites are best. For software, it’s recommended to use tools like VPNs, password managers, and activation two-factor authentication.
Internet security is important because so much of our personal information is either stored online or accessible via the internet these days.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

Recent Articles