Not everyone can be a computer expert. Even with the world of Wikipedia, we can’t all become specialists on every topic. This means that lots of people don’t understand online security. It’s not their fault. That’s just the way it is.
But it becomes an issue when people have misconceptions about online security, as these can make people less safe online and cause problems. Here are some common ones dunked…
1. Antivirus protection isn’t essential
People often think this way about online security. It’s easy to think of virus protection as a security non-essential, like getting new locks or installing security glass.
But here’s the thing: making sure your electronic devices are safe and secure is essential. Unlike the physical world, without any valid antivirus software you don’t have any locks or security. You’re exposed. Vulnerable.
Without up-to-date virus protection it’s inevitable that you’ll run into problems.
2. It’s easy to tell when a website is safe or not
You can’t. Lots of sites hide their dangerous malicious software – commonly known as ‘malware’ – on their site. It’s thought that one website in every 1,000 contains a virus. Some of them are easy to spot, like low-quality gambling or pharmaceutical sites, but others will look like normal web pages you browse every day.
When you visit one of these pages and pick up a cyber virus it’s called a ‘drive-by download’. These are nasty and deceptive bits of malware that can infect your PC without you even knowing about it.
3. You can’t download a virus just from clicking on an advert
Sadly, all you need to do to pick up a cyber virus is click on one bad ad. Adverts with malware hidden inside have been called ‘Malverts’, and most are found in the darker areas of the internet.
Most ads online will be safe enough, but be careful about clicking on ads related to drugs or betting, or any kinds of ads on sites you don’t trust.
4. Antivirus protection is too expensive
Buying decent antivirus protection isn’t as expensive as you’d think, and in many cases it’s usually just a one-off cost each year.
If you don’t download or renew your protection, the cost of repairing your system or replacing your lost data can be far more than costly than the initial payment you make.
In a lot of cases, antivirus providers like AVG offer free versions of their software you can try out. Click here for more information.
5. Your computer alerts you when you need to run virus scans
Some computers have a degree of in-built security program, but for many web users if you haven’t downloaded some virus protection and see an alert warning that you’re getting hacked it’s probably a scam.
Some cyber criminals design malware to pop up as a virus alert to make people think they need to purchase some software to get rid of it. But the problem is that the alert is fake. This is called ‘Scareware’.
Sometimes hackers will try and make you pay for software to fix the (fake) alert. This is known as ‘Rogueware’, or ‘Ramsomware’.
6. Virus protection doesn’t apply if you only use email
It does. Web surfing isn’t the only way people can try and trick you online. Some cyber thieves are skillful and cunning.
Some go as far as creating a mock-up of a real site that you’d trust, then emailing or tweeting you with a link and asking you to enter your personal information. This is called ‘Phishing’.
In the same way that you wouldn’t trust someone randomly phoning from your bank and asking for your personal data, don’t assume emails from your bank as genuine if they want you to click through the email and give them your info.
Instead, if you get texts, tweets or emails from your bank open a new window and type in the web address manually.
7. You can trust messages from people you know
Unfortunately, hacking and identity theft are becoming more common. Every so often one of your friends will get their email address or Facebook account hacked and spammers will use it to send you links.
These links usually lead to a virus, so avoid suspect messages (emails with strange subject lines or containing only a link).
If your friends or family get hacked, get in touch and let them know – but not by replying to a spammy message.
8. It’s fine to use the same password for all your accounts
One of the reasons that so many people are getting hacked and their identity stolen these days is that their passwords are too easy to guess.
If you use the same password for every site you use, then it’s simple for people to take over your life within hours by guessing bank, email and social accounts you might have. They can steal your money, your data and basically wreck your life.
There’s no magic password that’s unhackable. But you can make it hard for anyone to guess yours by making your passwords as long a possible, mixing letters, symbols and numbers, and using a combination of upper and lower case characters. It’s also a good idea to avoid real words, or at least words that wouldn’t be naturally used together.
9. It’ll never happen to me
How often do we think along these lines in life? From health to money to crime, we often disconnect ourselves from real dangers.
Why do we do it? Sometimes we don’t want to deal with how scary life can be. Sometimes we’re busy and can’t spare the time and energy to protect ourselves.
But online safety is important, and is worth investing the time (and money) it costs. Hopefully after reading these tips you should already be on your way to a safer and more secure future online!