Over the past few decades, computer security has become an important concern among users. Security vendors have faced tremendous challenges dealing with complex security threats with IT experts placing more effort on educating people. Nevertheless, there are many computer security myths that exist today and surprisingly, many people still believe them. In this blog post, we’ll reveal a few of the most common malware myths and the misconceptions that can put you at risk.

I Will Know If I Am Infected

Some varieties of malware do provide some obvious signs when your computer is infected, for example your search results appear odd or your computer tries to extort money from you, but for the most part malware is dead silent and operates completely without your knowledge.

Modern cybercriminals who author malware rely on stealth. Their goal is to create malware that is undetectable. Malware authors want their program to work quietly on your system so that they can get the most from your computer – by collecting sensitive information, controlling it remotely to send spam emails, or even using your computer to attack websites.

Malware Is Just For Windows®

Another common myth is that Windows is the only vulnerable operating system. While Windows is certainly a heavily attacked computing platform, others like Mac® OS X® and Android™ are vulnerable to malware attacks as well. In fact, back in the 1980s, Apple’s DOS 3.3 was attacked by the “Elk Cloner” virus. Since then, every Mac OS has faced some sort of malware attack.

Additionally, Google’s mobile computing platform, Android, has experienced malware attacks since its inception. According to a recent report released by Juniper, the total amount of mobile malware across all mobile platforms grew 614% from March 2012 to March 2013 compared to 155% growth in 2011. The report also indicated that Android accounts for 92% of all known mobile malware.

The motive of cybercriminals is to target as many users as possible. Windows has been facing huge malware attacks partially due to the fact that it is one of the most popular computing platforms out there. Similarly, as the Android platform has gained more popularity among users, malware authors do not want to miss out on the opportunity and are focusing aggressively on writing Android-specific malware.

Email Attachments from Known Persons Are Safe

If you think that it is always safe to open email attachments sent from people you know, you should think twice because you are potentially putting yourself at risk. While it is a good habit to never open email attachments sent from strangers, blindly opening attachments from people you know is also not a great idea. Cybercriminals often write malware which can stealthily reside on a computer without the sender of the email knowing. So, if one of your friend’s computer is infected you may receive malicious emails that appear as if they were genuinely sent from him/her.

Back in the spring of 1999, a virus called Melissa used the address book of an infected computer to send copies of itself. Melissa overloaded the email servers and caused millions of dollars in damage worldwide.

Visiting Only Reputable Sites Is Completely Safe

You might have heard advice from security experts not to visit risky websites as a security measure. While this suggestion is generally true, it is important to understand that even reputable, legitimate websites can be compromised; it has happened several times in the past. Google, in its recent worldwide transparency report, shared that the number of compromised legitimate websites is on the rise. Cybercriminals have been exploiting weaknesses of legitimate websites to use them as malware carriers. Once a site is visited, it can distribute malicious code to a visitor’s machine. Recently, advertisement delivery systems have been hijacked to deliver malware. You must be careful when visiting all websites.

Malware Is Not A Problem, I Have Nothing Important On My Computer

Modern day malware rarely searches for information on your hard drive. Even if your computer has nothing important stored on it, things such as your address book can be used to send out spam and malicious emails. Using your computer to access banking websites or social networking sites allows the malware to record all of your keystrokes and steal your usernames and passwords. When the malware authors have that information, they can use it to cause severe damage ranging from financial loss to identity theft.

Malware Is Created By Antivirus Companies

Conspiracy theorists love to say that the whole antivirus industry is self-perpetuating, however there is simply no evidence of this in any form. Antivirus companies have their hands full in the battle against criminals who use computers and networks to try to harm others. What has confused people in the past is something called Rogue Antivirus software. While it is not as serious of a problem as it used to be, some malware authors created illegitimate antivirus software that would tell you that your computer was infected with hundreds of infections and then would extort money from you to remove them. If you ever see software that tells you that your computer is infected, do a web search of the company to make sure it’s legitimate.

While there are many other myths and misconceptions out there, the six listed above are among the most common. Feel free to share other myths with us on our Facebook® Page or Mastodon.