Terminology

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

Kernel

The 'central core' of most operating systems, the kernel is the component directly responsible for communications between the software and hardware components of a computer.

The kernel's main task is efficiently managing the computer's physical resources (CPU, RAM, etc.) so that a user can execute an application (a document editor, a game, etc.).

Rootkits pose the greatest danger to kernels, as certain types of rootkits specifically target and manipulate the kernel in order to hide their presence or actions. These are known as kernel-level rootkits and typically function by exploiting vulnerabilities found in the kernel.

Keylogger

A program or hardware component that surreptitiously monitors and stores all the strokes typed into a device's keyboard. Some keylogger programs will also forward the stored information to an external server for easier retrieval by the attacker.

Keyloggers are typically used by malicious attackers to steal vital information such as personal details, credit card details, online account login credentials and so on. The stolen information can then be used to perpetrate such crimes as identity theft, online fraud, monetary theft and so on.

Keylogger programs are typically installed on a device by other malware, though they may also be manually installed by an attacker with physical access to the device. Hardware components must be manually installed.

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A term commonly used in digital security to refer to 'malicious software'

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