Online Security Explained

Debunking common computer security myths


All businesses can be susceptible to threats like hackers and computer viruses. Making matters worse is the great deal of misinformation floating around regarding cyber security. The Internet attracts urban legends and computer security isn’t immune from this trend. Many alleged security “facts” are, at best, inaccurate. Some of these myths are recent developments, while others have been around for years.

Clearing up some common misconceptions about computer security, Staples and Norton have teamed up help separate fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Companies that sell antivirus and security solutions create viruses

The idea that the online security companies develop and release computer viruses to maintain sales is false. While it’s true that one variety of malware (malicious software) called “ransomware” infects computers and then sells its victims a “solution” to the problem, these rogue programs are not affiliated with legitimate antivirus programs, like Norton. In fact, legitimate antivirus programs are the first line of defense against devious hackers.

Myth 2: A small business’s main security threat is the Internet

A security policy that only considers Internet-based threats is woefully incomplete. Yes, hackers can breach your network security. Yes, malware can infect your network through unsafe websites. However, the biggest risks to your security are often those who work for you.

Many security breaches originate with employees. A small number of employees are simply dishonest. More often, however, security breaches are caused by simple human error. An employee loses a laptop, for instance, or incorrectly disposes of printed or digital information.

“Now more than ever, small business owners should be taking all precautions to ensure their businesses are secure,” says Conor Kearney, vice president of technology merchandise for Staples. “While antivirus programs are a great first line of defense against cyber threats, it is important to make sure you educate your employees on what constitutes good cyber security and have safeguards in place to prevent a minor incident, like a stolen computer, from turning into a full out data breach.”

Myth 3: Apple’s operating system is safer than Microsoft’s Windows

For years, Apple users held up the relative lack of malware on Mac computers as evidence that the Apple operating system had fewer security flaws than Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. Actually, Mac users were safer because they represented a relatively small percentage of all computer users. Malware writers prefer to target the largest possible audience. As so, because many people use Windows, the hackers focused their attention on Windows and, for the most part, ignored Apple.

But now, people use Apple devices in sufficient numbers to attract malware. For example, in 2012, the Flashback Trojan affected 600,000 Macs. And a year later, Apple computer users were hit by a virus that targeted iPhone developers via the Java programming language. Recently the Shellshock/Bash vulnerability was identified as putting Mac users at risk.

Myth 4: Hackers only target “big business”

Some small businesses take false comfort in their size. The assumption is that hackers and data thieves only target big companies, major financial institutions and government agencies. However, small businesses can also be targets for data breaches and hacks.

Small businesses need to have a defense plan in place. Often, small-business owners recognize the importance of cyber security, but are unable to manage the complexity of this issue themselves. Consequently, the cyber security of small businesses tends to be neglected. “Protecting customer and business data from cybercriminals is a matter of life and death for most small businesses. Because small-business owners are insanely busy, they need a multi-layer security solution that’s easy to install and manage,” says Brian Burch, VP product marketing, Norton Business Unit, Symantec, a leading provider of award-winning products and services that deliver online protection. Easy, quick setup antivirus solutions are most preferred by small businesses. For example, Norton Small Business is a single solution to securing computers and mobile devices within a small business’ network.

A false sense of security

Today’s computer security myths all have one thing in common - they can lull you into a false sense of security. Keep your office free from viruses by always employing a critical eye and lots of common sense. Similar to your annual doctor visit, be sure to give your small business a cyber-security check, reassessing its network security and ensuring you have the proper tools in place to protect it from a cyber-attack.