How did you decide where to live? You probably wanted a good neighborhood close to your work or local shops, maybe in a top school district. I’ll bet you gave it a lot of thought and did your research. But, even if you are lucky enough to live in a safe area with low crime rates, you probably still lock your house when you go out and check the door before you open it to a stranger. We take certain precautions to ensure our safety.
It’s the same for our lives online. There are Internet “street smarts” you have to learn in order to stay safe and protected from the growing threat of cybercrime. What many of us believe about cybercrime is often hearsay, and can be out-of-date or simply untrue, and believing those cyber security myths can lead to big security problems. The latest version of Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report is out today, bringing new insights on the latest online threats and debunking some persistent myths about cyber security.
Below I’ve included some of the myths that I found particularly interesting, but I encourage you to check out the full list of cyber security myths here.
Myth #1: Malware is something I should only worry about for my desktop and laptop computers.
Reality: I know people who have Internet security software on their home computer, but not on their mobile device. They seem to think their mobile device is immune from threats. The truth is that any Internet-connected device, like a smartphone or tablet, can be infected by online threats. Additionally, cybercrime is on the rise for mobile devices (mobile malware families increased by 58 percent last year). A great solution to consider is Norton 360 Multi- Device.
Myth #2: Social networks are where my friends hang out. No malware there!
Reality: A high school friend of mine recently posted on our social network that she had signed up for a discount at a luxury hotel resort in San Diego. I asked her about it since it seemed odd for such a high end establishment to have a coupon offer like that. It turned out she’d clicked “Like” on what she thought was the hotel’s page but it was a fake one. It then spread an offer to all her friends without her knowledge and that offer included a link to an unknown site.
Last year there were more and more threats targeted on social media websites. Cybercriminals love our trust in social networks and have crafted special scams to fool us into sharing our logins on fake pages and clicking malicious links. Mobile social networks will become an additional target for cyber criminals in the coming year, especially those aimed at teenagers and young adults, who may not be aware of such attacks and may be more generous with their personal details.
Myth #3: Apple computers and products are safe from viruses, so I don’t have to worry.
Reality: In the early computer days, cybercriminals didn’t target Apple products, but with increased popularity of the platform, there are more potential victims, so cybercriminals have migrated there. Apple-specific malware is on the rise (e.g., the Flashback Trojan) and many current online threats are not platform specific. You’ve got to secure every connected device – PC and Mac, Android and iOS.
Myth #4: My computer is safe; I’m using some free antivirus I got online.
Reality: My friend Noah called me in a panic. His computer was not booting up properly and he was pretty sure he had a bad malware infection. Then he admitted he was only using a well-known brand of free antivirus to protect his computer, thinking it would help it run faster than a full security suite.
Free antivirus is a great way to provide a basic level of PC protection, but it’s simply not enough for the bad stuff like ransomware (where cybercriminals lock you out of your computer unless you pay their “ransom”). The Internet Security Threat Report shows ransomware threats have increased substantially in the last year. In actuality, people who get their computers tied up with malware that their free AV didn’t block, too often have to spend more in repair bills than security software would have cost in the first place.
Myth #5: I can tell if my computer has an infection. It will behave strangely and stop working.
Reality: Today’s threats, like botnets, are designed to evade your detection so they can keep working away in the background, stealing your private information like credit card details and account logins and send it off to a crook. Don’t count on visual evidence to clue you in. Make sure your security software is installed, up-to-date and run full system scans on a regular basis.
You should also follow the other best computing practices and secure all your devices with a good password to keep outsiders out. Back up your computers and mobile data on a regular basis. Store digital images and videos that are important to you in multiple locations, including online. Never consider yourself immune from Internet danger; assume crooks want your information and are always trying to get it. A small dose of paranoia is a good thing if it means you beef up your cyber security game to stay ahead of the latest threats.
For an overview of the key trends and findings from this year’s Internet Security Threat Report, please see Symantec’s Security Response guru Kevin Haley’s blog here.