Thursday, July 30, 2009

Computer Mythbusters, Part II

Computer Mythbusters II

This is part two of my exciting, death defying article on computer myths and realities. Last week we destroyed myths concerning antivirus software and firewalls. This week, we will decimate a few common misunderstanding that I hear in my shop almost every day.

Myth: Microsoft recently admitted to some major security flaw that allows hackers into my computer! Reality: Yeah, yeah I saw that article, too. Y’all can stop bringing it in to my office and calling me about it. For those that missed it, another newspaper published an article that alarmed a few local folks over the fact that Microsoft was releasing a patch that would fix an “urgent” security hole that allowed hackers into your computer. The reality is that nearly every single “patch” that Microsoft releases addresses a security hole that “allow a hacker into your computer.” This specific kind of security patch is as common as dirt. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Myth: I don’t need to update my computer with the patches from Microsoft. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Reality: See above. Update your computer. Often. This myth seems to stem from the fact that, occasionally, an update from Microsoft occasionally causes a problem with a computer. The fact is that the updates solve far, far more problems than they ever create.

Myth: Windows Vista is more secure than Windows XP. Reality: We see just as many infected Windows Vista computers as we do Windows XP. Perhaps the upcoming Windows 7 will offer some improvements but I am skeptical. Vista does make an attempt to address the biggest security concern, user behavior, by implementing something called User Account Control but it was implemented poorly.

Myth: When I close down my browser, I am “off” the internet so can’t get viruses. Reality: If you are on a high speed internet connection, you are connected to the internet whenever your computer is on – no matter if you are surfing or not. Since most virus infections come from our own gullibility and bad decision making, even unplugging your computer from the ‘Net won’t increase your security. Until we all learn to be more skeptical, we will remain our own worst enemy.

Myth: The internet is just too dangerous so it’s best just to avoid it. Reality: Yes, you can get nailed. But that shouldn't stop you from venturing online any more than the potential for getting the flu should prevent you from ever leaving your house. If you know the risks and prepare for them adequately you can weigh the odds heavily in your favor and confidently enjoy what the Web has to offer. You can't ever eliminate all risk no more than you can guarantee complete safety in the real world. But don’t wall yourself off from all that the Internet has to offer.

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