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
       protect it.
       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
       Denial-of-Service Attacks and Understanding Hidden Threats: Rootkits and
       Botnets for more information).
     * 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 denial-of-service
   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.

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