What are you Talking About?

An IT dictionary for physical security pros

RAM n : random access memory. This is the term used to describe a computer’s memory. RAM is often confused with the storage of data on a hard drive. RAM is accessed by the operating system in order to store data it needs when applications are open and running. It is never accessed directly by a user and is not designed to store user-created files. Information in RAM is lost when the computer is shut down.

root•kit n : pieces of code or software that are covertly installed on a system to allow malware to function undetected. Rootkits can be installed on any operating system. Fortunately, tools exist to help detect rootkits. One tool is Sysinternals Rootkit Revealer, which can be downloaded from

SQL n : structured query language. This is the language used by many systems to retrieve information from a database. Access control systems may store all of their information in an SQL database.

tera•byte n : A terabyte is 1024GB. This a great deal of information, and it is significant because it is believed that consumer computers will be shipping with terabyte hard drives in the not-too-distant future. Does this seem a little far fetched? It shouldn’t, since half-terabyte hard drives are currently available for less than $400. Abbreviated TB.

VPN n : virtual private network. A private, secure network that uses the public telecommunications infrastructure. A VPN allows for secure, remote connections to a network or system, without a direct connection between the devices. Many organizations allow telecommuters to connect to the corporate network by means of a VPN. A VPN is established using specific protocols that encrypt the data being transmitted.

John Mallery is a managing consultant for BKD, LLP, one of the 10 largest accounting firms in the United States. He works in the Forensics and Dispute Consulting unit and specializes in computer forensics. He is also a co-author of Hardening Network Security, which was recently published by McGraw-Hill. He can be reached at jmallery@bkd.com.