Everyone thinks they understand cyber security but most are misinformed in one way or another. Entire books could be written on all of the security myths that continue circulating even after they’ve been debunked. You might be spreading misinformation and not even know it.
Cyber security is always shifting and never constant, so some of these myths may have roots in past truths. It’s also possible that these myths may one day become truths in the future. But for now, they are myths that must be dispelled. Let’s get our facts straight.
Myth: Windows Is Inherently Insecure
“Don’t use Windows unless you like viruses.” It’s a sentiment that we’ve all heard time and time again – sometimes coming even from the mouths of Windows regulars – and it’s one of the oldest jokes in the book. Sure, there was a time long ago when Windows was an inherently flawed system, but that hasn’t been true for years now.
Ever since Windows 7 hit the scene, the virus problem has been significantly curtailed. Can Windows users still be infected? Yes. Are there Windows users who have gone years without being infected? Yes! Windows isn’t impenetrable by a longshot, but it’s certainly much more secure today than it ever was before.
The problem is that most Windows users don’t care enough to update their systems with pertinent security patches. Microsoft is good about plugging security holes as they’re found, but if users don’t apply those updates, they leave themselves vulnerable. At that point, Windows itself is no longer at fault.
Moreover, Windows is the world’s most popular operating system. Combine that with the fact that Windows does not require its users to be tech-savvy and you’ve got a recipe for high number of security incidences. That’s just simple math.
Myth: Mac and Linux Are Invulnerable
“I’m safe because I have a Mac / because I use Linux.” It’s one of the main arguments used by those who want to convince others to switch over from Windows. To be fair, Mac and Linux computers may be less likely to be infected, but it’s an enormous stretch to say that they’re invulnerable. They aren’t.
You may have heard of the Shellshock bug, a vulnerability that exists in UNIX-like systems that operate using the Bash shell. It has tremendous implications for computer security all around the world and the irony is that it doesn’t even affect Windows.
According to analysis, the Shellshock bug has existed undiscovered since 1992. That’s twenty-two years, which is a long time considering the open-source availability of Bash’s source code.
While this may or may not be a freak occurrence, it does present us with an unsettling question: how many other vulnerabilities exist that have yet to be discovered? Again, Mac and Linux may be less prone to infection than Windows, but only a fool would think that these operating systems are inherently safe.
Myth: You Don’t Need Security Software
“I’m careful so I don’t need antivirus software,” said every arrogant computer user who thought themselves too smart to fall for silly malware tricks. If your idea of catching malware only includes email attachments, shady websites, and popup advertisements, you are in for a rude awakening.
The ones who create malware and viruses are not stupid. Unethical? Yes. Pathetic? Sure. But stupid? No. They’re always looking for new ways to facilitate the spread of malicious software, which means that their methods are always evolving.
But more importantly, we are human. Humans make mistakes. We can’t keep our guards up 24/7 and sometimes we’re lazy, forgetful, or reckless. All it takes is one lapse in judgment for your computer to be infected and that’s the real value of antivirus software: it protects you through your mistakes.
Think of it like a seatbelt. Maybe you’ve been driving for 10 years without a single accident. Does that mean you don’t need to buckle up? No! Even the best driver in the world has the potential to crash. Any driver with a brain will wear their seatbelt at all times because the seatbelt exists for those rare but crucial moments.
Myth: All You Need Is Security Software
“I’m safe because I use antivirus software,” said every naïve user who placed too much hope and faith in technology. Cyberspace would be a wonderful place if good software is all it took to keep safe. Unfortunately, software can only protect us so much.
Remember how malware and virus creators are always engineering new ways to spread their evil? This puts the ball in their court. Antivirus companies are always one step behind (they have to study a virus before they can protect against it) which means that the notion of antivirus is fundamentally reactionary.
You need more than that. It’s better to avoid situations that are likely to result in malware infections than it is to rely on your antivirus and hope that it catches everything. (It won’t.)
Going back to the driving analogy, it’s just as important to be a skilled driver as it is to wear your seatbelt. Seatbelts aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe in case of an accident; they only improve your odds of minimizing injury. Sane drivers don’t consider themselves to be invincible just because they have a strap across their chest.
At the end of the day, you ought to practice smart security habits and make them second nature. Having antivirus software alone is not enough.
What other cyber security myths are out there? Help us debunk as many as you can! Show us what you know and let’s enlighten the world together.