Mythbusters: debunking common cyber security misconceptions

To celebrate National Internet Safety Month, let’s look at some common misconceptions surround cyber safety and Internet security. It’s important to remain in the know and stay aware of threats in the cyber world.


Myth 1: Cyber security is a one-time security thing.

This is flat out wrong, and a dangerous idea. Technology and threats change almost constantly, adapting to the latest advances and trends, which usually leads to more opportunities for things to go wrong. If you only think about cyber security once, you will fail. Period.

Myth 2: I’ll know when my computer is infected because it’ll act strange.

Actually, high-quality malware is designed to infect your computer without you ever knowing. Often large companies do not know for months that attackers have penetrated them and compromised their networks. Scanning computers on a constant (or at least daily) basis is the recommended norm for personal devices and home networks. At work, never remove or alter any security settings, and if you do see something strange or your computer is functioning oddly, stop what you are doing and call for help immediately.

Myth 3: I would never be targeted by the bad guys; I don’t have any money!

Well, you are right; they do not target you specifically. But they do target mass quantities of people at a time, and you might be one of them. You may not “have any money,” but think like a criminal. Although many online criminals can only expect to get $1 – $10 from any one person, when that amount is multiplied by millions, the real money comes in.

Your name alone also has a value, as does your email address. They’re probably only worth a few pennies, but once again, you have to multiply. And credit card numbers are worth $50 and up! You may be a small fry, but from the criminal’s standpoint, you are just as valuable to him as his many other victims.

Myth 4: Once I install my anti-virus/anti-spyware software, I never have to think about it again.

Software is complex and will absolutely require updates from time to time; that is just the way it is. However, just because an update has been issued for a piece of software and the software company recommends you update it, the choice to do so is completely up to you. When installing software, don’t check “Auto Update” so that when an update becomes available you can do a little research before downloading it. If your software has been working fine, maybe you don’t need the update right away. In that case, wait a few days or weeks and see what other people have experienced, as some updates can make things worse, not better.

Myth 5: I don’t have anything worth stealing or protecting on my computer.

The truth is that the majority of users don’t really know what is stored on their machines. Is your name on it? Does it have the names and email addresses of your contacts? Does it have your online login credentials? Does it store the details you enter when you install software? How much of the Windows registry contains personal details? Do your family photos have GPS location tags? Is your surfing history stored somewhere?

Technology is designed for convenience (not security) in order to make our online lives easy, so yes, there is probably plenty worth protecting even if you don’t know it’s there. The same applies to your mobile devices. Mobile malware is up 957% in the last 12 months, according to search engine company Baidu. If anything, your mobile device is more vulnerable than your laptop or desktop because it definitely carries a great deal of personal information that you might not see or be aware of.

About the guest author: The Security Awareness Company is changing user behavior one click at a time by providing eye-catching and effective materials that educate and bring awareness to security and online safety issues.