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Robert is an identity theft expert and McAfee consultant who is committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from crime in the physical and virtual worlds. Stay informed and check back regularly for new blogs from Robert on keeping your identity safe!

Online Security Myths Debunked

You have security software on your computer so when it comes to surfing the Internet you’re covered, right? Well, not exactly. Software alone isn’t enough to ensure that you and your information will stay safe online. That’s why it’s critical for you to be educated about threats and how to avoid them.
In fact, you will probably be surprised to learn that many of the ideas people have about Internet safety are just myths. To separate truth from fiction, and ensure that you know how to stay safe online, check out our list of Top Internet Safety Myths:
  • Myth #1: I have security software, so I’m safe to click anywhere online
    The reality: Security software protects your computer from threats and helps you with safe Internet surfing, but it can’t physically stop you from clicking on dangerous links that may download spyware 
    or adware, or take you to phishing sites that try to trick you into revealing personal and financial information. To avoid these dangers, it helps to know about common threats and their telltale signs.

  • Myth #2: Antivirus is all you need for protection
    The reality: Antivirus software alone cannot protect you from the wide range of threats that exist on the Internet today, such as spam, drive-by-downloads and malicious websites designed to steal your money and information. That’s why it is important that you have comprehensive, updated and active security software, which offers protection beyond antivirus and includes a two-way firewall, anti-spyware, phishing and spam protection, along with safe search functionality.

    Beyond security software, you have to use common sense if you want to truly avoid Internet threats since cybercriminals use popular topics and recent news events to trick you into clicking on links and downloading malware. Software alone can’t keep you from making risky decisions on the Web.

  • Myth #3: I can tell a site is dangerous just by looking at it
    The reality: Cybercriminals have become extremely sophisticated in their ability to replicate authentic websites. In fact, there are programs available on the Internet that allow cybercriminals with no programming knowledge to quickly replicate a site, down to the very small details. While some dangerous websites still look sloppy—with fuzzy resolutions or incorrect grammar—others are very convincing. On the other hand, a legitimate website that has been poorly designed can look dubious, even if it’s not. Your best bet is to stop the guesswork and use a safe search plug-in, such as McAfee® SiteAdvisor® software, which warns you of potentially dangerous sites right in your search results.

  • Myth #4: My friend sent me this, so it’s safe to download
    The reality: Just because a message appears to be from a friend of yours, that’s not necessarily the case. Your friend’s email or social networking account may have been hijacked. The hacker could be sending out spam emails and dangerous downloads that appear to be coming directly from your friend. If you get suspicious messages asking you to download a file or click on a link, even if it’s from a friend, use common sense and don’t click. Also, notify your friend if you think their account may have been compromised.

  • Myth #5: I installed security software and now my computer is running slow
    The reality: Most high-quality security software has only a small impact on newer computers, so if your computer is running slowly your security software is probably not the cause. Computers generally slow down over time as you add more applications and files, affecting your computer’s performance. To help speed up an older machine, you may want to schedule virus scans for when you are not using your computer.

    And if your computer is still running slowly and irregularly, you may have downloaded a virus and you need to run a security scan to investigate the problem. Also, using some of the tools that come with your McAfee security software can help free up space on your computer such as McAfee QuickClean and McAfee Shredder. McAfee QuickClean is an easy way to optimize your PC’s performance by deleting unnecessary files that can slow down your hard drive. McAfee Shredder offers an easy way to protect your privacy and permanently delete items on your PC you no longer need, freeing up disk space. You can also try defragmenting your hard drive, ensuring that your hard drive has some free space, and eliminating any unnecessary programs that load at startup will help.  

  • Myth #6: Free security software is just as good as software you buy
    The reality: Although it’s always tempting to get something for free, keep in mind that free security software provides less protection, functionality and support than paid software. This is because most free software providers are trying to entice you with a free product, but are trying to get you to buy a paid version with more functionality that you need for comprehensive protection. Furthermore, cybercriminals are now hiding viruses and malware in supposed “free security software,” hoping to trick users into downloading them.

    When it comes to Internet and computer security, it doesn’t pay to skimp. In fact, you may end up paying more in the long run when your computer becomes infected or you lose valuable personal information. Always go with a reputable security software provider that offers comprehensive protection at a fair price.
These are some of the most common Internet security myths, but many abound. To help ensure you stay protected, keep yourself updated on all the latest threats and stay educated on how to protect yourself against them.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)

Interested in learning more about what you can do to protect your sensitive data? Great news! Robert Siciliano will be hosting an online security webinar for Scottrade® clients on October 11th. Click here to register for the Computer Security: Data and Identity Management Live Webinar!

Posted by Robert Siciliano on Sep 28, 2012 9:35 AM CDT