speak, also known as hackspeak or simply leet, is the substitution
of a word's letters with numbers and/or special characters. "Leet"
is derived from the word "elite," which refers to the hackers who
originally turned leet speak into a sort of cult language in the 1980s.
In traditional leet speak, characters and combinations of characters are often chosen to resemble the letters they replace so the resulting word is visually similar. Many people remember learning that when 0.7734 is entered into a calculator and looked at upside down, the numbers appear to spell the word hello. Leet speak is a somewhat similar concept; for example the word hacker in leet speak might look like this: |-|@k3r.
Although leet is human-readable (albeit with some difficulty), it is difficult for a computer to decode. For this reason, a spammer might use leet speak to bypass text parsers and encrypt unsolicted email. Spam filter programs have become good at detecting leet speak in subject lines and rejecting e-mail messages that contain it, but they often have less success detecting it in e-mail text.
Today, many people use leet to create strong passwords that are easy for the originator to remember, but difficult for intruders to steal with a dictionary attack. Text that combines letters and numerals may also be called alphanumerish.
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