It goes without even saying that there is a plethora of terms used in everyday life, representing the world of the Internet and web security as a whole. We use them regularly, even though we may not actually know where they have come from or what they mean exactly.
Since knowledge is the key, we have decided to display some of the most commonly used terms on the Internet in this era. Along with that, we offer an explanation of what they have come to mean and a small background of their true history. You will see that most of the terms used nowadays have got quite a history to boast about and this is truly exciting to consider. Language is a living organism, as many people claim – this is the most eloquent proof of such an acknowledgement!
- Cookie: In the world of the web, a cookie is a small file that is placed on your computer as you visit several websites. This is used, so as to keep track of your browsing patterns and thus best target you as an audience. Its origin is not crystal clear, as there are multiple explanations as to why this term has been selected over anything else.First of all, data programmers initially referred to tiny data packets transferred online as “magic cookies” and there might be a direct connection with that. In addition, cookies have been linked to the Chinese fortune cookies. Last but not least, there is a theory suggesting that the cookies have been related to the small cookie crumbs that Hansel and Gretel left behind them.
- Mouse: We click on the mouse and we better handle our computer, navigating easily from one site to the next and clicking on buttons appearing on the screen. When you try to find out why this name was chosen, you get to the point of identifying the striking resemblance between the cute animal and the mouse that we use in technology. The inventor of the mouse, Douglas Englebart, admitted that there was no actual intention of naming the mouse as such; it was referred to as a mouse due to its shape and it stuck!
- Phishing: Phishing is the act of an online scam, which aims to compromise your online security and mislead you towards obtaining sensitive data or embedding malware on your computer. There are two different words blended for the creation of phishing; fishing and phreaking. The former is used thanks to the aim of the hostile fisherman to obtain information without your consent and the latter is linked to phone manipulation and scams of the past.
- Meme: Richard Dawkins was the person who invented the word “meme”, so as to explain something that is spread among people and their culture. The origin of the word is associated with the French “meme” (meaning identical, the same) and the Greek “mimeisthai” (meaning to imitate something). In the culture of the Internet, memes hold a prominent place and involve tons of fun.
- Spam: All the unwanted and most of the time discarded emails that flood your account are called spam. There are people who claim that spam refers to the less than appetizing Spam meat that is found in cans. However, the Monty Pythons have indulged us in a sublime sketch where Spam is continuously brought up as a meal suggestion and some blame the artists for the name of spam mail.
- Hacker: The one who tries to access unauthorized data that can harm us is referred to as a hacker. Although it is now more elegant to name these experts “crackers”, hackers have been named that way for professionals who knew how to handle every tech related problem. MIT was the first to address them like that back in the 1950s or 60s.
- Emoji: All the smiley faces and other expressions that we can use while chatting or texting are called emoji. Do not mix that up with emoticon, which clearly derives from the words “emotion” and “icon”. In this case, e stands for the Japanese word of an image and moji means the character in the same language. Pretty cool, right?
- Bluetooth: Now, here is something that will leave you speechless! Bluetooth nowadays is of course the medium that allows multiple devices to interconnect and share files of all sorts. Its name has been nothing but ordinary. The logo of Bluetooth consists of the initials of King Herald Gormsson, who ruled Norway and Denmark and whose nickname was Bluetooth. The reason for that is unclear; some say that he had a dark tooth, while others state that he was called dark chieftain in England. A third option has to do with his blue clothing, which indicated his royalty, whereas there is a fourth reason that indicated his preference of blueberries. Have your pick!
- Trojan Horse Virus: In web security, a Trojan horse is malware intending to mislead you and penetrate your system for harming your computer. Its origin dates back to the Trojan War, when the Greeks mislead the Trojans and entered their fortress thanks to the Trojan Horse that they had built as a gift to their enemies.
- Blog: There is no difficulty in guessing what a blog means, right? It is a diary in an electronic form and this is what has led to its name; “web log” is nothing more than an online diary that has spread on the Internet and has been treasured by most Internet users.
- Robot: Nowadays, a robot is something that can function automatically and is linked to cutting-edge technology. Back in the days, the robot was first introduced via the Czech writer called Karel Čapek. In one of his plays, he referred to simplified people (androids) as robots and the word definitely comes from his mother tongue and “robota” (meaning hard labor).
- Troll: Another favorite tech word for the web! Troll is everyone who posts online without actually meaning to make a statement, just for the sake of laughs and annoyance. Many people have thought that the troll comes directly from the Scandinavian mythology and refers to the trolls (monsters that lived in caves and harmed people). This is why trolls appear as huge appalling creatures on the Internet, with the famous line: “do not feed the troll!” Still, trolling is linked to the specific type of fishing that offers a lot of lines moving underwater for luring fish.
- Computer Worm: This is malware that can replicate itself and penetrate your computer, potentially causing grave damage. If you are looking for the word’s origin, you should read through “The Shockwave Rider” by John Brunner. This is where this concept was highlight, in relation to the tapeworm that causes health problems to our digestive system.
- Firewall: We are all encouraged to enable firewalls that allow us to enhance our overall online protection. In the past, firewalls were used in order to confine fires. So, you can see the analogy that has led to such a name of a fundamental defensive tool that is used by Internet users everywhere in the world.
- Steganography: Last but not least, we have thought it best to highlight the etymology and true meaning of steganography. This is the practice of hiding a file of any sort within another file and it has been regarded as a more powerful option when compared to cryptography. Deriving from Greek Language and “steganos” (meaning covered in full) and “graphein” (meaning writing), this word was first used in 1499 by Johannes Trithemius for his book on magic.
We hope that you have enjoyed this slightly different type of article, highlighting the origins and the backgrounds that lie behind the use of common (or even more sophisticated) terms in the world of the Internet and cyber security!
Top/Featured Image: By Geralt via Pixabay