Online threats will always exist as long as they work. But just as persistent are online security myths. Here are eight classics that may be making you less safe.
Myth 1: The risk of being attacked is small
The Internet is huge. Why would anyone target my computer or phone? Of course things do not work this way in the real world. Hackers rarely sit down and pick their victims individually after careful deliberation. Attacks take place on a large scale with the aid of automated tools. Computer attacks today are systematic and performed by well-organized groups with an ample supply of competent resources.
Myth 2: Apps are more secure than a browser
Apps create a false sense of security. Why this is the case is a question best left to psychologists, but most likely the reason lies in the absence of the traditionally vulnerable browser. The sense of security within the confines of an app is deceptive. Apps are connected to the same old Internet, just in a different package.
And for those who believe that your phone is a safe haven from prying eyes; you are wrong. There are plenty of instances where we give an app a permission to access anything from our photo galleries to our Facebook account. Granting access to the location data on our phones also allows apps to know exactly where we are. In fact, there are many more possibilities for someone to track you using your mobile device rather than your desktop computer.
Myth 3: Firewall + antivirus = total protection
Granted, antivirus software and a firewall make it difficult for an intruder to get their hands on your information, but you also need to take protective measures. Keeping your software up to date and patched against vulnerabilities is one of those things, but even more important for security are the choices you make as a user.
Myth 4: I don’t have any sensitive data
You may not think so, but it is highly likely that you do. Passphrases, addresses, telephone numbers, credit card details, and other information is often stored in the cache of your computer. It is also easy to profile you by reading your email and examining your browsing history. This is not an uncommon approach to identity thefts among cyber criminals.
Myth 5: The secure Mac
Believe it or not, the first computer virus was found on a Mac. The year was 1982 and the program was Elk Cloner. But since then, Apple computers have been riding on the reputation of being bulletproof against intrusions and malware. This is a myth that stems from Apple’s biggest rival on the OS front, Microsoft Windows, which has frequently been extremely vulnerable. So while it’s true that Macs have been secure by comparison, they are far from invincible. It is only now with the growing popularity of the macOS platform that problems have begun to surface. The first warning signs appeared in 2004, when around thirty vulnerabilities were discovered. Today, macOS is a desirable target for intruders as many users still live under the impression that their Macs are secure and they do not bother with security software.
Myth 6: My Wi-Fi is unhackable if I hide it
It is true that most routers give you the option of making your network ‘invisible’. This leaves people believing that since no-one can see their network, no-one on the outside can hack their connection. If someone wants to hack your Wi-Fi, it is quite likely that they have the technical competence to know that most networks are hidden and the know-how to make them visible even though you have hidden the network name.
Myth 7: Cloud services are not secure
We hear a lot about attacks on cloud services and how unsecure they are. Interestingly enough, very few attacks are due to poorly protected services. Most data breaches originate from users falling victim to phishing attacks. Once again, the behavior of the user is the root of the problem. However, it is important to check that the cloud services that you use have encrypted traffic and sensible end-user agreements. There’s no such thing as a free service; in the case of cloud services, you are paying for it by having your personal information mined for targeted advertising or even sold to other marketers.
Myth 8: Protection software makes my computer slow
This used to be true. Antivirus software could slow down the computer by as much as 50%, making it a painful burden on everyday use. Modern software is much lighter on resource consumption, while computers and phones have also become more powerful than we could have envisioned fifteen years ago. The performance of security software is continuously monitored and optimized. Today, you most likely will not notice that you have security software installed.
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