3. As long as I don’t click on suspicious links, visit dodgy websites and have antivirus installed, I’m going to be just fine
Sorry, but that is not the case. In contrast to the myth above where we made a point of saying that most scams happen when the victim falls for it, that is not always the case. Sometimes you can do very little wrong at all, but still get infected with something.
That is because there is such a thing as software vulnerabilities. Or exploits. These are problems (bugs) with a piece of software you are using that has allowed a criminal access, and in some cases, the victim doesn’t even have to be doing anything wrong to become a victim to a scam. Because using the software in the first place is all the criminal needs, and antivirus isn’t effective 100% of the time to prevent these vulnerabilities from infecting you.
This is why it is important to keep all the software you use up-to-date. If you don’t, criminals can exploit problems in the software that would have otherwise been fixed by an update (known as a patch.)
But again, even keeping your software up-to-date is not a guarantee, because criminals may have spotted a vulnerability in a piece of software before anyone else, including the people who developed the software! If that happens, that is what we called a zero-day attack.
This is why it is important to keep a backup of all your files in a safe location not on your computer hard drive and run regular scans for malware with your antivirus.
4. I doubt there is anything on my computer or my social media account that would interest anyone
Even if you don’t use your computer for online shopping or banking, your computer and social media account is still a treasure trove of personal information that any identity thief would love to get their hands on.
The more personal information a criminal can obtain about you, the higher the chances that they can initiate a targeted scam at you, and the more convincing it will look. Remember that your personal information is just that – personal. So keep it safe and don’t assume you won’t be of interest to a criminal, because if you have anything of value – you will be!
5. My computer is really slow, I must have malware?
Well, it’s possible, but not necessarily likely as it would depend on your circumstances. There are a number of reasons why a computer can run slowly, of which a malware infection is only one possibility.
In fact, as computers becoming increasingly faster and able to deal with so much more … well, computing, slow performance has become less and less associated with a malware infection.
If your computer is slow, there are a number of much less nefarious reasons that you could eliminate first. Old computers will accumulate lots of mess as the years go by, including temporary files and programs that you don’t use any more, some of which may run in the background as soon as your computer is turned on. Your hard drive could also be very cluttered and disorganised meaning it takes longer for your computer to retrieve information from it.
First, uninstall programs you don’t use anymore. This can include old programs, toolbars you don’t use or unwanted programs (known as PUPs) that may have installed on your computer at the same time as installing other software.
Then delete your temporary Internet file followed by a defrag of your computer hard drive which will organise your files more efficiently, though bear in mind this may take a while.
See if that improves the performance of your computer. And of course you should be running full antivirus scans anyway to detect any possible malware infections.