By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Your tactics may have protected you from online threats of the early 2000s, but criminals evolve at a stunning speed. To stay safe, you need to update your defenses as often as the criminals update their attack mechanisms. Check out these outdated security myths and see if you have been operating under dangerously false assumptions.
Myth #1 – You’re Safe from Most Malware if You Avoid USB Sticks
Many consumers still place priority on the threat of infected USB sticks. This was once a common way to spread malware, thanks to the popular autorun feature on most computers. However, today’s devices rarely use autorun anymore for this exact reason. This smart line of defense has had two effects. The first is that savvy computer criminals no longer use infected USB sticks as a primary means of spreading malware. The second is that USB sticks that do contain malware are no longer as dangerous.
You still should not open suspicious files that you find on a USB stick, but you should not let down your guard assuming that these are the biggest threat, either. In fact, most malware is spread through websites. Chances are, you encounter many more websites every day than you do USB sticks, so keep this in mind and keep your guard up. One solution is to use the Hotspot Shield anti-malware feature. It detects and blocks more than 3.5 million malicious, phishing and spam sites from infecting your device.
Myth #2 – The Only Dangerous Websites are Shady Ones
It is a common belief that you are safe from malware as long as you stick to well-known sites. However, you need to understand that hackers can worm their way into nearly any site. Google, Amazon, and Go Daddy are now the biggest malware servers on the web. All three are reputable sites that you probably would not think to protect yourself against.
Before you panic and commit to living off the grid, you should pause and put this information into perspective. The online marketplace carries many of the same risks as in-store shopping. You are never completely safe from theft in any form, whether you are facing cyber criminals or common pickpockets. When you understand the risks, you can take steps to shop safely and protect yourself. Install a reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware program on your computer so you can continue your online activities safely.
Myth #3 – Attachments are the Most Dangerous Things an Email can Carry
Most Internet users know to avoid email attachments if they are sent from an unfamiliar source. You may also know to be wary of attachments from your contacts that look suspicious, because it is possible for a friend or colleague’s email to get hacked and send out these messages. However, while downloads are still dangerous, they are no longer the greatest threat associated with email messages.
Today, cybercriminals have upped the ante by moving to malicious websites. An email link is just as dangerous now as a download. No matter how appealing the offer, you should never click on an email link if you are not familiar with the sender.
Myth #4 – Mobile Devices Are Not at Risk
Many consumers believe that their mobile devices are inherently safe from the threats that plague computers. The perception is that Internet threats have not permeated the mobile market yet, even though these devices face the same risks as computers. Any device that is connected to the Internet can fall victim to malware. In fact, mobile devices face some unique threats that the average computer does not.
While your home computer probably uses the same secure Internet connection each day, your mobile device might connect to multiple hot spots for free Wi-Fi throughout your regular activities. Using public Wi-Fi increases your security risk because you are exposed to a potentially unsecured connection that cyber criminals are likely to target. Install Internet security software on your smartphone, tablet, and any other device that you use to access the Internet and use aVPN.
Myth #5 – As Long as You Never Open a Strange File, You’re Safe
Opening strange files is certainly one way for your computer to get infected, but this is not the only way you can contract a computer virus. Tech criminals evolve with the trends, and most realize that you are not going to open a suspicious looking file.
This is why many types of malware now trick your computer into opening them automatically. Do not underestimate the potential threat of remotely executed files. Never download anything from a source that you are not confident about. You may not have to open the file yourself to suffer the consequences!
Myth #6 – You Must Download Something for Your Computer to Get Infected
In a G Data Software survey, 48 percent of respondents believed that a computer could not get infected simply by visiting a website. Downloads are painted as the big bad villains that you must avoid, while websites enjoy a nice reputation for offering safe, pleasurable havens to visit online. The truth is that an unprotected computer can easily get infected simply by stopping by and visiting a seemingly harmless website.
Threats known as drive-by downloads will install themselves on your computer without asking for any permissions at all. This means you do not have to download a thing for your computer to get infected. Firewalls will not protect against drive-by downloads because they are concealed among normal web traffic and slip right by. That is why anti-virus software is so important.
Myth #7 – You Will Know If Your Computer is Infected
Too many Internet users believe that their computers will show signs of an infection once they have been compromised. Images of strange behavior, slow computers, or catastrophic shut downs dance in user’s heads, making them think that they will surely know if they have become a victim.
The unfortunate truth is that many types of malware will expertly avoid your detection. The goal of these viruses is not to crash your computer. In fact, they want to keep your computer running so you will continue to use it. These programs collect your personal and private data as you enter it online and launch their attack with that information.
Stay on top of the latest online security threats to make sure you are always protected from the most recent developments in cybercrime.