An A-Z guide to the technical terms used in digital security

False Alarm / False Positive

The incidence of an antivirus program incorrectly identifying a legitimate file as 'infected', 'malicious' or 'suspicious'. This is also known as a False Positive.

The converse of this is a False Negative, in which an antivirus program incorrectly identifies an infected or malicious file as 'clean'.

False alarms occur if a program contains code sufficiently similar to a known malware signature to be deemed a security risk by a virus scanner.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

A protocol governing the transmission of files over networks that use the TCP/IP communication protocols (such as the Internet). File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used as a way to transfer data reliably and efficiently from one computer to another, remote computer.

Though there are numerous other protocols governing file transmissions, FTP has become the most commonly used, particularly for transferring data to and from web servers.


A hardware device or application that regulates access to a computer system or network.

Much like a gate, a firewall acts as a barrier between a 'trusted' security zone inside the system or network, and an 'untrusted' security zone beyond. As such, they are an important feature of network security setups.

A firewall uses a protocol to evaluate whether an communication coming into or exiting the trusted internal zone is authorized or unauthorized. If the firewall determines a communication is authorized, it is permitted into the system or network; if not, the communication is dropped.

The function of a firewall may also be approximated by a proxy server or device, which can also check the authorization of incoming and outgoing communications from a network.


A multimedia platform popularly used for animated and interactive web applications. Files for applications on this platform usually use the extension .swf, or SWF.

Flash applications are frequently used on websites for elements such a games, scrolling advertisements and so on. To view these files, a user usually requires a separate 'player' application known as a Flash Player to be installed, usually as a plugin to their web browser.

Becuase the Flash Player is a commonly found application on many user's machines, it has become a favorite target for hackers, who look for vulnerabilities in the software that can be exploited.

In recent years, this has lead to many security researchers urging users to uninstall or minimize use of the Flash Player. Major web browsers have also started implementing measures to minimize the use of Flash-based content (such as advertisements).


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