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Security Myths Exposed!

1. Malware is written by kids for kicks.

No! Malware is a billion dollar industry. Criminals are looking for information they can quickly turn into profit. Mostly this means converting end-user computers to send out spam, show pay per click advertising, divulge credit card or banking information. Sometimes the targets are large corporations, but mostly they are end-users since they have more easily penetrated security. These occur most often in Active X controls used by those reckless people who continue to use Internet Exposer for their browser, as well as vulnerabilities in PDF or flash and other media related applications. This and fooling end-users  into divulging private information form the bulk of the current threats.

For example, a recent social engineering scam is to put what appears to be a ticket on people's car windshields and provide a website they can go to in order to appeal. Once there, the con is on. There may be a "picture" of your infraction which is really a keyboard logger or a form to fill out so they gain valuable identity information.

2. You can tell you have a virus because they damage your computer


No, they try and keep your computer running normally so they can collect identity information. Whether your computer is running well is not a predictor of whether you have a virus. There are lots of normal software and driver conflicts as well as simple hardware problems that cause slow downs and crashes. There are also lots of viruses that collect information or use your computer for their purposes without showing significant performance degradation.

By the time you notice a performance problem due to viruses, it is normally multiple viruses fighting for control and conflicting with each other and your antivirus software. They normally want your computer to act normally, so they can collect as much information, send out as much spam, or put up as many advertisements as possible.

3. Anti-virus programs can protect you.

The best anti-virus programs only catch half the new viruses. Virus makers vary and change the old viruses to avoid detection and test against the most popular anti-virus programs. Layered security is needed. You can review my previous article on layered security. Antivirus programs can prevent some viruses from infecting you and can catch and remove more after the fact, so they are part of the solution, just not the whole solution.

4. You can only get hurt by going to bad sites.

Some people believe that if you avoid porn, music stealing etc. then you'll be fine. This is also false. The bad guys often compromise honest sites and use them for their purposes. Avoiding dangerous sites is a very good policy however, and significantly reduces your chance of infection. However, bad things happen to people who go to good places.

Date: March 2009

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