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With all the conflicting information available online, it’s understandable that you sometimes don’t know who to trust. Security and privacy are no strangers to misconceptions; we’ve covered some of the most dangerous cyber myths 4 Cyber Security Myths That Must Die 4 Cyber Security Myths That Must Die Read More .

If you’ve taken these myths as truth, it’s time to get the facts straight! Extinguishing the lies is a big step in making sure everyone is safer online.

Misconception: Windows Updates Make Antivirus Software Unnecessary

Our guide on everything you need to know about Windows Update Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More highlighted the fact that updates are crucial to your PC’s security. It seems to follow, then, that if you’re diligent about installing patches you can forget using an antivirus. This, however, is a deadly mistake.

01-Windows-Update

Reality: Windows Updates Come After The Fact

While keeping Windows up-to-date is a necessary part of security, it can’t replace an antivirus, which works nonstop to protect you.

Consider this analogy: a real-time antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Comprehensive malware protection doesn't need to cost a fortune. Many reputable free antivirus programs are equally effective as paid ones, and avast! Free Antivirus stands with the best Windows antivirus programs. Read More is like guards watching every window and door in your house to make sure no unwanted guests get in. An antivirus scan Make Sure You're Clean With These Free One-Time Scan Antivirus Tools [Windows] Make Sure You're Clean With These Free One-Time Scan Antivirus Tools [Windows] It sucks to be constantly bombarded by computer-related threats, whether they’re spyware, malware, viruses, keyloggers, or whatever else. A popular way to combat this problem is to install an antivirus solution that sits in the... Read More is those guards searching every corner of your house to try to find a problem. It makes a lot more sense to keep the problems out so you don’t have to look for them later. Relying on Microsoft to patch problems out of Windows is even worse, because the fixes come on their time.

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02-Guard-Standing

A real-life example of this happened recently, when Microsoft hurriedly issued a security patch to fix a serious issue Windows Users Beware: You've Got A Serious Security Issue Windows Users Beware: You've Got A Serious Security Issue Read More . Had Microsoft not found out about the problem, the issue could have been prolonged for days or weeks. If Windows Updates are your only security, you’re putting yourself at increased risk. Aside from big problems like the one above, Windows Updates don’t protect you from malicious software that you might install on your own, such as browser hijackers 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes Have you ever opened your browser of choice and been greeted with a bizarre-looking start page or an unsightly toolbar glued to the top of the page? Restore your browser to tip-top shape. Read More .

In short, Windows Updates patch known vulnerabilities, but aren’t meant to protect from everyday threats. Thankfully, you can make Windows Update less annoying Fix Windows Update & Make It Less Annoying Without Compromising Security Fix Windows Update & Make It Less Annoying Without Compromising Security Windows Update can be a nuisance. Here is how you can protect yourself from its annoyances without compromising security. Read More without taking away from its security benefits, so be sure you aren’t neglecting it, either.

Misconception: Malware Infections Are Obvious

It’s easy to think that anytime you have rogue applications on your computer it will become evident. Sometimes, such as in the case of browser pop-ups Let's Put A Stop To Pop-Up Browser Ads Once And For All! Let's Put A Stop To Pop-Up Browser Ads Once And For All! Pop-ups can catch you off guard, and if you're not careful they can create problems. Learn how to avoid them and how to handle them if they do come up. Read More , you will be able to detect foul play, but this isn’t always what happens.

Reality: A Lot Of Malware Is Silent

For every loud and proud piece of malware, there’s a dozen rogue applications that are spying on you without making a sound. Many of these create zombie computers Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Have you ever wondered where all of the Internet spam comes from? You probably receive hundreds of spam-filtered junk emails every day. Does that mean there are hundreds and thousands of people out there, sitting... Read More , which are responsible for much of the spam and website attacks that happen constantly. Additionally, if you fall for a phishing scam What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More and a password falls into a thief’s grasp, they could be accessing your accounts — quietly, of course, so that you don’t suspect anything.

For instance, a hacker set up email forwarding on Scarlett Johansson’s account so that he could read all of her messages without her knowledge. Knowing how to avoid being hacked like a celebrity 4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity 4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity Leaked celebrity nudes in 2014 made headlines around the world. Make sure it doesn't happen to you with these tips. Read More goes a long way in defeating these stealthy infections.

The take-home message: don’t assume that just because everything looks normal that it is. Change your passwords regularly 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More to be sure that someone isn’t getting in behind your back.

Misconception: I Don’t Do Anything Important On My Computer, So I Don’t Need To Be Careful

This is probably the most common reason people give for not keeping their computer safe. Sadly, it’s a poor excuse and those who give it are wrong.

Reality: Everything You’ve Invested In Is Worth Something

People who claim things like “I don’t have anything valuable on my computer,” or “There’s nothing worth stealing on there!” when referring to malware might not have military secrets or even financial info on their machine How To Keep Your Paypal Account Safe From Hackers How To Keep Your Paypal Account Safe From Hackers Read More , but they haven’t stopped to think about less obvious implications.

03-Mouse-And-Key

Claiming that your equipment, time, and energy are not valuable is just silly. At the bare minimum, a virus or other malware What Is The Difference Between A Worm, A Trojan & A Virus? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Difference Between A Worm, A Trojan & A Virus? [MakeUseOf Explains] Some people call any type of malicious software a "computer virus," but that isn't accurate. Viruses, worms, and trojans are different types of malicious software with different behaviors. In particular, they spread themselves in very... Read More infecting your PC — even if your financial info isn’t at risk — is going to take time to deal with. Your time is valuable Time Is Money: 4 Ways To Cure Financial Procrastination & Save Today Time Is Money: 4 Ways To Cure Financial Procrastination & Save Today Wake up! The longer you wait around to get your present and future money in order, the more money you're going to lose. Yes, that's right. Financial management is time-critical. Read More , and if you’re recruiting a tech-savvy friend to fix your PC Why You Should Never Ask Friends or Family to Fix Your Computer [Opinion] Why You Should Never Ask Friends or Family to Fix Your Computer [Opinion] There seems to be this huge misunderstanding that anyone who knows something about computers is a geek and can fix them, regardless of what is broken. In reality, when it comes to complex issues, most... Read More after your neglect, their time is affected too. Wiping your computer and starting fresh thanks to malware means more time and effort to get your programs re-installed and running just the way you like.

Even so, your time is not the only consideration here. Remember that most malware isn’t looking to steal files on your system. Rather, it’s tracking your every keystroke 4 Ways To Protect Yourself Against Keyloggers 4 Ways To Protect Yourself Against Keyloggers Keyloggers are one of the most well known and feared security threats on computers today. There are many ways to protect against keyloggers, however, and ensure that you don't become a victim of identify theft... Read More , stealing passwords, or even hacking into your webcam How Easy Is It For Someone To Hack Your Webcam? How Easy Is It For Someone To Hack Your Webcam? Read More to spy on you. A barely used machine is still a practical target for malicious use, so claiming that your computer isn’t worth anything simply doesn’t hold up.

Misconception: I Don’t Run Windows, So I’m Immune To Malware

Another common reason as old as Windows itself, those who give this excuse see Windows as a virus-laden cesspool and believe that their Mac or Linux computer (or perhaps their Android or iOS phone/tablet) are totally invulnerable. While it’s true that these platforms have less of an issue with malware, they aren’t 100% immune.

Reality: All Platforms Are Vulnerable

While Windows viruses won’t affect Mac computers, Macs can still run into problems I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell Is your Mac acting kind of... weird? Whether you're seeing adverts you can't explain, or your system is unreasonably slow, you might think the problem is malware. But you're probably wrong. Read More , such as the Flashback Trojan Flashback Mac Trojan Is Back, With A Vengeance [News] Flashback Mac Trojan Is Back, With A Vengeance [News] Read More that affected machines running OS X in 2012. Android ransomware is a real threat FBI Ransomware Hits Android: How To Avoid Getting It, And Remove It FBI Ransomware Hits Android: How To Avoid Getting It, And Remove It Learn how to keep your Android device safe from FBI Ransomware with these tips. Read More , and there are even scam apps in the Play Store Scam Apps in the Play Store You Need to Avoid Scam Apps in the Play Store You Need to Avoid For every amazing app you can find on Android, there's a cheap knockoff waiting to waste your time and steal your money. Read More waiting to take your money. iOS devices are inherently secure — unless you’ve jailbroken Smartphone Security: Can iPhones Get Malware? Smartphone Security: Can iPhones Get Malware? Malware affecting "thousands" of iPhones can steal App Store credentials, but the majority of iOS users are perfectly safe – so what's the deal with iOS and rogue software? Read More .

04-Creep-Guy

Do you need to install an antivirus on your iPhone? No, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. You can fall for phishing tricks 4 General Methods You Can Use To Detect Phishing Attacks 4 General Methods You Can Use To Detect Phishing Attacks A "phish" is a term for a scam website that tries to look like a site that you know might well and visit often. The act of all these sites trying to steal your account... Read More , perhaps via email or social media 5 Ways To Spot Social Media Scams & Rogue Apps 5 Ways To Spot Social Media Scams & Rogue Apps Facebook is a huge platform for all sorts of scams. Cleaning up after falling for one is a pain; let's take a look at some ways to identify and avoid them. Read More , no matter what platform you use. Accidentally handing your password over to a fake site is going to yield the same result no matter if it’s done on Windows, Mac, or Android.

Myths: Busted!

It’s unfortunate that security myths spread so widely online, but by taking the time to understand the truth, you can arm yourself better against the ever-present threats on the Internet.

We’ve debunked more big security myths 5 Security Software Myths That Can Prove Dangerous 5 Security Software Myths That Can Prove Dangerous Malware is still a thing! Tens of millions of PCs remain infected worldwide. The damage ranges from unstable computers to identity theft. What makes people not take malware seriously? Let's uncover the myths. Read More in the past if you’re interested in further reading. Still using Microsoft Security Essentials? You need to replace it with a proper antivirus solution Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Read More as soon as you can.

Which security misconception do you wish would go away? If you’ve got an unbelievable security story, share it with us below!

Image Credits: Holding tablespoon via Shutterstock, Guard via morgueFile, Mouse and Key via morgueFile, Peeking Man via Shutterstock

  1. Roblain
    January 28, 2015 at 2:27 am

    I use Linux, have for over 7 years. Many will say Linux is immune to viruses but if you're careless, it's no more virus resistant than Microsoft.
    Never browse, edit, email or interact with files or the web while operating as logged into the root account. The root account is only for when you are making some inner system changes deliberately. If a Linux user routinely operates in the root account, sooner or later they will get infected. Never download and install programs without performing several AV scans; scan the downloaded package before installing, scan the entire system after installing. So far I've never found one Linux virus ... but I only use one third-party package, all others are from the protected Linux.com servers. This procedure would be a great practice for Microsoft users to help prevent viruses, but what about malware? Here's a question - will any anti-malware program scan individual files? I'm out of touch obviously, so I don't know. There are several anti-virus programs available for Linux but I've never found an anti-malware program for Linux.
    I started with Ubuntu after getting fed up with Microsoft support's inability to fix one problem I had with one particular update to my XP system during the summer of '07. I knew the hardware was OK but Microsoft support insisted there was a hardware problem, not a problem with that one update. I checked it and had it rechecked, everything was good. I finally installed Ubuntu and used it on that computer for another five years until it finally croaked from old age and I didn't want to upgrade the ancient hardware. I used Ubuntu for a couple of weeks and my wife watched over my shoulder, asking questions. She wanted to try that Linux stuff too just to see what it was like because it looked so easy. I dual booted her brand new Vista with Ubuntu and after three months she discovered that she hadn't used used Vista for weeks and really didn't want to. I removed Microsoft from her desktop. Since then, we've been a Linux household. We switched to Mint of the Mate flavor in '12. Several of our friends and relatives have now switched to Mint since XP was retired.
    Early this past summer, she went looking for some game add-ons for her browser and stumbled onto some browser malware. It does happen to Linux! An easy fix though, I simply purged the browser from her system and re-installed it. Even from inside of a browser, malware can't do diddly to any other part of a Linux system. She only installs from the browser specific sources now!
    I use Clam-AV and when sharing files with Microsoft using associates I usually scan them before sending or uploading to a sharing service. Once in a blue moon I get a hit from a Microsoft virus so it's worth it, and if I can determine who last had access to the file I can give them the wonderful news that they've been infected. Clam-AV signature files include sources for Microsoft and Linux viruses, at least for Linux users. Other AVs for Linux are AVG, Avast and BitDefender plus a few more. Live email scanning isn't easily done on the Linux desktop, only through servers, so any email I forward goes with a warning that it hasn't been AV scanned.

  2. rc primak
    January 5, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    I think this article failed to give supporting evidence of recent revelations about Linux insecurity. Vulnerabilities in BASH, SSL and others don't just affect Server Linux. Desktop Linus can also be vulnerable tothese sorts of issues. Complacency and Linux have been synonymous for years, and this needs to end.

    Linux Antivirus is an oxymoron. there is no such thing as a Linux-specific antivirus product as yet. Nearly all AV products on Linux are filtering out Windows malware. While we don't want to be bad Net citizens by passing along Windows malware, it is in the end the responsible of Microsoft and of Windows users to secure their PCs against Windows malware.

    If there ever is a need to make a Linux-specific full-featured antivirus product, I'm sure someone will offer such a program. They've done it for Android (belatedly) and even iOS.

    • dragonmouth
      January 23, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      "there is no such thing as a Linux-specific antivirus product as yet."
      Sorry to disagree but ClamAV was first developed for Unix, then it was ported Unix-based O/Ss such as BSD, Linux, AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, etc. Windows is only the latest O/S for which ClamAV was ported.

      "If there ever is a need to make a Linux-specific full-featured antivirus product, I’m sure someone will offer such a program.
      ClamAV is a Linux-specific full-featured antivirus and it is avaialable for almost every Linux distro. It may not be as sorely needed as Windows AV products but it is available.

  3. Kevin M
    January 3, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Something else that I deal with all the time is customers bringing me infected computers telling me how secure they are. When I dig into them I find they are running multiple AV applications. They dont get it when I tell them that running more than one AV app is acctually putting them at greater risk, not to mention in many cases it will cause their computer to run slower or not at all. I always recommend Malwarebytes as a second line of defence and systems where I have installed this along side of an AV app I have had better luck. Personally the only AV app worth a dam is NOD32 and knock on wood but the systems I install it on I have yet to have any come back needing to be cleaned.

    I have never had a customer that thinks Windows updates are all they need but with how iggnorant customers that I do have are I would not be suprized.

    • Ben S
      January 8, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      That's another good myth I could have added - that having multiple AV programs keeps you safer. I haven't seen many people do this recently, but I know it's a common idea.

  4. Ed
    January 3, 2015 at 1:32 am

    If you use Linux or a Mac, you can still be a carrier of Windows viruses and pass around infected files that don't affect your system. If someone sends you an infected image or video file that is fine in your system, you can still send that same file to a Windows user and infect them. So everyone should use anti-virus software even if just to scan a file before sending it to someone else.

    • dragonmouth
      January 3, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      "If someone sends you an infected image or video file that is fine in your system, you can still send that same file to a Windows user and infect them."
      If you do that then YOU are part of the problem! Not because you lack an anti-virus but because you mindlessly propagate the crap that people send you. You don't need an anti-virus, you need to be re-educated in proper computer procedures.

    • ed
      January 3, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Don't be ridiculous Dragonmouth. All I'm saying is that even Linux users need anti-virus software only because infected files CAN be transferred by anyone. Don't assume that everything I receive from others is crap. Don't assume that files are mindlessly propagated by anyone that is not "the great and always correct Dragonmouth".
      Being educated in proper computer procedures does, in fact, mean having anti-virus software and ensuring that files transferred to others are clean.

      Stop being so confrontational in your posts! I've read many of your posts and you assume no one knows as much as you and offer nothing but complaints, criticisms and rudeness.

      I wasted too much time on you - go away TROLL!!!

    • Ben S
      January 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      I think it depends. If you want to keep an AV around on Linux or OS X to avoid sending infected files to your Windows-using friends, there's nothing wrong with that. However, it's not as if those who don't use an AV are sending tens of infected files every week in some sort of epidemic.

      It comes down to being smart and safe, is all.

    • dragonmouth
      January 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      @ed:
      "Don’t assume that everything I receive from others is crap. "
      How do you then detemine which files you receive from others are crap and which aren't? Only by assuming that all files you receive are "crap" and checking them with an AV can you avoid propagating viruses.

      FYI - tests run by leading anti-malware providers have shown that Linux-specific AVs, such as ClamAV, are not that successful at recognizing Windows viruses just as Windows-specific AVs are not too successful at recognizing Linux viruses. Therefore, checking Windows files with a Linux AV does not guarantee that you are not propagating "crap" that you receive from your friends.

  5. Anonymous
    January 2, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Thanks for this heads-up article!

    • Ben S
      January 2, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      You're welcome! I hope it helps you stay safer in 2015!

  6. Matthew
    January 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    While you cannot be complacent about other measures in a layered security approach, it is true that many (but not all) threats are often still circulating due to lack of update, with Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and Oracle Java being among the worst.
    The reverse, of course, is that a good antivirus is no excuse to skimp on updates or be incautious about email attachments etc.

    • Ben S
      January 2, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      You're absolutely right. Java is hideous and I wish nobody had to use it, to be quite honest. As others have said, it's more important to be a vigilant user than to have a good antivirus.

    • dragonmouth
      January 2, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      "Java is hideous and I wish nobody had to use it, to be quite honest."
      Same thing can be said of Windows. However, both have become so pervasive that we have no choice but to use them.

      "it’s more important to be a vigilant user than to have a good antivirus. "
      And it is even more important to be vigilant AND to have a good antivrus. :-)

  7. ReadandShare
    January 1, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Excellent article -- and just in time for those of us making new year resolutions.

    Re. Sandboxie... when using the Chrome browser -- is it true that browser automatically 'sandboxes' itself -- as if we were using sandboxie?

  8. Michael
    January 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Sorry,Johan,not John,lol!

  9. Michael
    January 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Further to John's comments,I think it's wise to always use a sandboxing program such as the free Sandboxie,which I have been using for years.That way,you are protected from Day One threats,which,as John has said,even the AV people discover only after the malware has been in the wild for some time.

    • Ben S
      January 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Sandboxie is an excellent layer of defense, as well. If you keep everything isolated, infections can't spread. I'll have to see if we've covered that in an article yet!

  10. james
    January 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Hi, True! That why a full security-SUITE by emisoft or Bitdefender, Perhaps also Karvaski, how ever its spelt,. [ Judged de best 2, by well-known &reputable security-tester] As apposed to an ordinary straight anti-virus !? Which would be better than nothing @all! Must be REAL-TIME security , as apposed to MANUAL operation by computer-gadget operator. Great article overview , with references to further education if one so wishes , for computer novices, like myself. Regards, James

  11. Johan
    January 1, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Antivirus programs are also after the fact. They only look for known threats that the company that builds the Antivirus application has found. So even if you have one installed you need to be careful with what pages you visit and what you download or open from emails.

    • Ben S
      January 1, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      You're absolutely correct, and being vigilant about threats is perhaps even more important than an antivirus.

      It is usually true, though, that antivirus definitions are updated more quickly than Windows Updates. You can't rely on updates or an antivirus for 100% protection.

    • Doc
      January 2, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Also a myth. Many antivirus programs have a "heuristic analysis" component, that, while not as powerful as an antivirus definition library, can trap "suspicious" programs and scripts that suddenly appear on your computer. This has the possibility of creating a "false positive," but that's better than doing nothing.
      Also, almost every antivirus program will update its definitions at least once a day, but Windows typically gets updated only on the second Tuesday of each month ("Patch Tuesday") - which would you rather trust?

      I blame idiots who think "I don't surf nasty sites" or "I don't do any online shopping, so I don't need antivirus" with being the bots that send out spam or participate in DDOS attacks; you don't need to surf the Web or do ***anything**** but leave your computer on and connected to the Internet unprotected to get infected - I've actually seen it happen!

    • Lojix Net
      January 3, 2015 at 10:08 am

      I somewhat disagree that "Antivirus works after the fact". Yes, Antivirus software is 'reactive' by nature rather than 'proactive', however 'behavior blocking' analysis possessed by some of the leading vendors can do a pretty well at stopping unknown malicious code from executing within your system. The cost is that you will also have to teach the tool to accept legitimate code from running when it incorrectly identifies something on the system... So it does ultimately rely on user intervention and the users ability to intervene correctly... Just is the case which applies in most situations on a computer and the internet.

    • Lojix Net
      January 3, 2015 at 10:25 am

      The first misconception: Windows Updates Make Antivirus Software Unnecessary, is questionable. I would hope most users are a little more aware than to be misconceived by this, I think it's more an issue apathy and carelessness as many computer users have a view of "I have never had a computer virus, so it doesn't matter" or "I don't go to porn sites, so my computer won't get infected" etc... Not so much a misconception of having a secure system due to base security measures implemented into Windows from Microsoft.

      The rest are great misconceptions to highlight. Especially,
      - Malware Infections Are Obvious - (Don't fool yourself people, it's designed to hide from you)
      - I Don’t Run Windows, So I’m Immune To Malware - (all debates aside, Its never been factual)

      Good Article.

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