Cyber Security Tip ST06-002
Debunking Some Common Myths
There are some common myths that may influence your online security
practices. Knowing the truth will allow you to make better decisions about
how to protect yourself.
How are these myths established?
There is no one cause for these myths. They may have been formed because of
a lack of information, an assumption, knowledge of a specific case that was
then generalized, or some other source. As with any myth, they are passed
from one individual to another, usually because they seem legitimate enough
to be true.
Why is it important to know the truth?
While believing these myths may not present a direct threat, they may cause
you to be more lax about your security habits. If you are not diligent about
protecting yourself, you may be more likely to become a victim of an attack.
What are some common myths, and what is the truth behind them?
* Myth: Anti-virus software and firewalls are 100% effective.
Truth: Anti-virus software and firewalls are important elements to
protecting your information (see Understanding Anti-Virus Software and
Understanding Firewalls for more information). However, neither of these
elements are guaranteed to protect you from an attack. Combining these
technologies with good security habits is the best way to reduce your
* Myth: Once software is installed on your computer, you do not have to
worry about it anymore.
Truth: Vendors may release patches or updated versions of software to
address problems or fix vulnerabilities (see Understanding Patches for
more information). You should install the patches as soon as possible;
some software even offers the option to obtain updates automatically.
Making sure that you have the latest virus definitions for your
anti-virus software is especially important.
* Myth: There is nothing important on your machine, so you do not need to
Truth: Your opinion about what is important may differ from an
attacker's opinion. If you have personal or financial data on your
computer, attackers may be able to collect it and use it for their own
financial gain. Even if you do not store that kind of information on
your computer, an attacker who can gain control of your computer may be
able to use it in attacks against other people (see Understanding
Attacks and Understanding Hidden Threats: Rootkits and
Botnets for more
* Myth: Attackers only target people with money.
Truth: Anyone can become a victim of identity
theft. Attackers look for
the biggest reward for the least amount of effort, so they typically
target databases that store information about many people. If your
information happens to be in the database, it could be collected and
used for malicious purposes. It is important to pay attention to your
credit information so that you can minimize any potential damage (see
Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft for more information).
* Myth: When computers slow down, it means that they are old and should be
Truth: It is possible that running newer or larger software programs on
an older computer could lead to slow performance, but you may just need
to replace or upgrade a particular component (memory, operating system,
CD or DVD drive, etc.). Another possibility is that there are other
processes or programs running in the background. If your computer has
suddenly become slower, you may be experiencing a
attack or have spyware on your machine (see Understanding
Denial-of-Service Attacks and Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware for more
Author: Mindi McDowell
Produced 2006 by US-CERT, a government organization.
© 2008 Palm Lakes Village, Inc. All rights