What Does Piggybacking Mean?

In the context of computer science and digital communications, "piggybacking" refers to a situation where an unauthorized party gains access to some system in connection with an authorized party. This can happen in several ways, including piggybacking on public wireless networks, and piggybacking into a password-protected system.


Techopedia Explains Piggybacking

One primary type of piggybacking deals with a user session. If an authorized user enters a password and initiates the use session, and then steps away from the workstation, an unauthorized party can get access. This is a form of piggybacking. In the physical world, it is similar to the process of one person using a transit card to get through a turnstile and another person slipping in behind them to use the same ticket.

Another form of piggybacking has to do with wireless networks. Unsecured wireless networks can be piggybacked, where an unauthorized party uses the connection to join the global internet. This form of piggybacking can be corrected with encryption and passkey authentication.

In general, piggybacking involves the unauthorized use of resources, whether that is wireless access, a user session, or even processing power. In a process called cryptojacking, unauthorized parties use device power to mine for cryptocoins. This is a form of piggybacking that is getting a lot of attention in the tech industry and in technology journalism.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…