There are a lot of myths out there concerning computer security. Let’s count down the top 5 computer security myths.
Number 5: You can only get viruses and other malware from the “shady” areas of the web.
Viruses and other malware may be prevalent in the “shady” areas of the web like adult websites, but they are by no means exclusive to those areas of the web. If you visit these “shadier” types of sites, you are more likely to infect your computer. But lots of legitimate, non-obscure websites can infect your computer because they get hacked or their ad providers get hacked. In addition, you can accidentally go to a phishing website. For example, if you went to keyenews.com instead of keyetv.com, you could get your computer infected.
Number 4: I don’t have any important information on my computer. No one would want to hack my computer.
If you ever login to any kind of financial institution, hackers will be after that login info. But even if you don’t, they may be using you as a doorway into the company you work for. In the past it was only the large corporations that were under attack, but increasingly, smaller organizations are under attack because they don’t have the sophisticated security that the large corporations do. Another reason a hacker might want to infect your computer is to use it as a zombie. A zombie is a computer that can be used by a hacker to perform malicious tasks like denial of service attacks or send spam. A hacker may have a network of zombies (called a botnet) which they can use to perform massive amounts of malicious activities.
Number 3: I’m safe from infections on my phone or tablet.
There are infections for smart phones and tablets. In the past, it wasn’t a big deal. But due to the popularity of smart phones and tablets, infections for these devices are increasing exponentially. Spam text messages are on the rise too. Many people get their email on their phone where you can click on a link and infect your phone or tablet. Phishing scams work just as well on phones and tablets as they do on traditional computers.
Number 2: I have a Mac. They don’t get infected.
WRONG! Macs DO get infected. However, they are less likely to get infected. That’s not because Macs are more impervious to infections. Macs are less likely to get infected because there are far fewer Macs in the world than Windows Systems. Windows systems make up around 90% of the computers of the world while Macs make up only 6%. Hackers target Windows because there are more of them. But even though Macs are less likely to be attacked, they are still attacked. For example, more than 600,000 Macs were infected by the flashback Trojan in 2012.
And the number 1 computer security myth: I run antivirus software so I my computer can’t become infected.
This is the worst myth of them all because it gives users a false sense of security so they think they can click on whatever they want and nothing can hurt them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please understand that in order for antivirus software to protect you from a specific virus, first a lot of computers have to become infected with that virus. Then someone submits the virus to the security companies. Then the security companies add that virus’s signature to their definition files. Then your antivirus software has to download that definition file and update itself. Then you are protected against that particular virus. How much time goes by between the time that a virus is released into the wild and when your antivirus software actually protects against it could be anywhere from a day to weeks or even months depending on how quickly the infection spreads and how easy it is to detect. Hackers are always making slight changes to infections and releasing them. These slightly different infections are called variants. They are basically the same infection, but are just different enough so that your antivirus software won’t recognize it. So to your antivirus software, it might as well be a brand new infection. When there is a variant, the process starts all over again. Over 30,000 new infections and variants of infections are released every day. Security companies are struggling to keep up.
The bottom line here is that every device that accesses the internet is vulnerable to attack whether it is a laptop, computer, smart phone, or tablet, no matter if it’s a Windows device, Android, Linux, or Apple. All of these devices should have security software. And even if you have security software, you still must be careful. Here is our list of best practices to help you avoid infecting your computer.
- Have one of our recommended security products installed. Make sure it’s not expired. Make sure it’s up-to-date. Renew it BEFORE it expires, not after. Keep an eye on it to make sure it’s working.
- Set your system to automatically download and install Windows updates. These are mostly security updates that are critical to help protect your computer. Yes, occasionally a Windows Update might mess up your system. But that’s actually fairly rare. It’s more likely that your computer will become infected if you don’t install Windows Updates versus the chance of a Windows Update messing up your computer.
- Keep security sensitive programs like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java, etc. up-to-date.
- Never click on a link in an email unless you are absolutely 100% sure the email is from a legitimate source. Remember that there are a lot of fake email’s and websites that look legitimate. They look like the real thing, but they aren’t. For example, if your bank sends you an email with a link in it. Don’t click on that link even if you are pretty sure it’s from your bank. Just open your browser, go to your bank’s website and login and take care of it that way.
- If you are on a website, and that website tells you your computer is infected, don’t believe it. If a website wants you to download something, don’t do it. If a website tells you that your version of flash or java is out of date, don’t let that website update it for you. Go to Adobe.com or java.com to update them. Then go back to the website and try again. If you are looking for a cool or useful program to achieve some sort of task, don’t download it from a website you aren’t familiar with. Go to a place like download.com, filehippo.com, tucows.com, sourceforge.com, majorgeeks.com, or softpedia.com. If you are looking for something, you can always shoot us an email and ask us for a recommendation.
- If you get a pop-up windows on a website, be careful closing them. Sometimes they have a fake close button.
- When installing software, read each screen of options carefully and deselect any extra software that it wants to install.
- If you get a pop-up window on your computer. STOP! Read what it says before you click on anything. Don’t just click OK to get rid of it without reading it so you can get on with what you were doing.
- Install Web Of Trust (WOT) and Adblock Plus in your browser to boost security. In Firefox you can install these from the add-on’s area in Firefox. In Chrome, you can download them from the Chrome Store. For Internet Explorer, you can get them by going to www.mywot.com and www.adblockplus.org.
- Avoid using file sharing programs like Limewire, Bearshare, torrent, Morpheus, Kazaa, Frostwire, WinMX, eMule, and many, many more. If you insist on using these types of programs, be careful to only download music and videos. Do not download programs. If you download a video or music file and it says you have to install a particular player or codec in order to play it, DON’T DO IT! Delete the download and find another file to download.
- If you get a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be with Microsoft Support, Windows Support, your Internet Service Provider, or whatever, DO NOT GIVE THEM ACCESS TO YOUR COMPUTER! Don’t give them ANY information about your computer, passwords, ID’s, or anything like that.
If you follow these guidelines, you will significantly reduce the chances that your computers will become infected. Is there any way to 100% guarantee that your computer will not become infected. Yes, but you wouldn’t be able to do much on your computer if you did. And it would be really slow. Basically, not usable. Security is a balancing act. On one hand you want to protect it, but on the other hand, the computer still has to be usable.