The web can be confusing, and we’ve all come across some terms that don’t make much sense. Like viruses. Or IP addresses. Or spyware. We’ve made a list of some common technical words and explained them here as simply and accurately as we can.


This is the program on your computer that you use to visit websites. Popular browsers include Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari.


Since the Internet has so many websites and IP addresses, your browser does not automatically know where every single one is located. It has to look each one up. That’s where the DNS (Domain Name System) comes in. The DNS is essentially the “phone book” for the Web. Rather than translating “John Doe” into a phone number, the DNS instead translates a URL ( into an IP address, taking you to the site you’re looking for.

IP address

Every web address (say, “”) has its own numbered address called an IP address. An IP address looks something like this: An IP address is a series of numbers that specifies where a particular computer or mobile device is on the Internet. It’s a bit like mom’s phone number: just as the phone number tells an operator which house to route a call to so it reaches your mom, an IP address tells your computer how to get in touch with another computer on the Internet.


Malware is software designed to take control and damage your computer or mobile device.

This can include:

  • Adware

    Software that automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer.

  • Spyware

    Software that collects small pieces of information about users without their knowledge.

  • Trojan horse

    A destructive software that pretends to be a useful application. The software initially appears to do something useful, but instead steals information or harms your computer or mobile device.

  • Virus

    A harmful piece of computer software that can infect your computer and files on your computer.

  • Worm

    A harmful piece of software that can automatically spread itself to other computers.


Phishing is a type of online fraud where someone tries to trick the victim into sharing sensitive information like passwords or credit card information. Phishing is typically done through email, ads, or other communication like instant messaging. For example, someone may try to send a victim an email that appears to be from the victim’s bank, asking for personal information.

SSL encryption

Technology that sets up a secure communication path between computers. If a website supports SSL encryption, data sent to and from that website should be protected from eavesdroppers on the Internet.


The abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages.

Task manager or activity monitor

A program on your computer that provides information about software currently running on your computer. You can stop processes and programs in the task manager/activity monitor, which can be especially important if you can’t otherwise close your browser or a website. To access this, try doing a search on your computer for “activity monitor” or “task manager”.


A URL is the web address you type into a browser to reach a website. Every website has a URL. For example, the URL will take you to Google’’s website.


A security technology that protects your Wi-Fi network by encrypting the traffic on your network. It also makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to access your network.