One of the biggest problems in computer security is that people don't believe that anything bad can happen to them... until it does.
People believe that they do not need to worry about computer security. "After all," they reason, "who would want to target my computer when there are so many bigger targets out there." or "I don't have anything on my computer, so why would anyone be interested in getting access to it?"
You can never be sure about what is or isn't on your computer. But even if there truly isn't any information on your computer, your computer can be of use to others.
A compromised computer can
- give access to all the data on your computer,
- provide access to your other online account information
- log all your keystrokes
- allow your computer to be used part of larger attacks, such as sending spam, propagating worm outbreaks or to harvest credit card numbers
- allow your computer to be a host and share illegal files and software such as kiddie porn.
It's just common sense. You wouldn't leave your house unlocked. The same is true with information security and a few simple steps can make you a lot less vulnerable.
Unpatched operating systems & applications. Using out-of-date, unpatched, software products can potentially open the door to exploits that can be used to install malware on your system. It is important that you keep your operating system and all your applications up-to-date by and by installing the latest versions of programs. More about staying updated...
Web surfing. Often, while surfing the Internet, dialog boxes pop up asking you to select yes or no before continuing. It is easier to hit "Yes" to all of those boxes without looking at them; however, these popups can often contain requests to install malware on your system. If you are unsure about what a popup is asking you to do, close it. Remember: it may be easy to blindly click "Yes" while surfing the web, but the resulting malware infections will cause you major problems down the road. Keep in mind that if you don't keep your software up-to-date, sometimes merely visiting a malicious website could infect your computer. More about surfing safely...
Installing downloaded software (or sometimes even purchased software). As the old adage says, nothing in life is free; this is especially true on the Internet. Many pieces of software are not "free" but are instead "ad supported" or "provide tailored ads." This means that when you install your new program you may be installing malware along with it. Programs like Kazaa and Weatherbug are notorious for installing malware along with the main program. Although some times they tell you they are going to install 'third party' software, it is often very difficult to determine if a program is going to install malware. It is always a good idea to do a little research (perform a Google search for "Kazaa Malware," for instance) before you install a program. More about Malware...
Spam. Many types of malware use email as their method of distribution. It is always a bad idea to open attachments from people you do not know and even from those you do know - newer types of malware will "spoof" the "From:" address of an email so it can appear to be from someone you know. If you get an email with an attachment that you were not expecting, it is always a good practice to contact the person before you open the attachment. More about E-mail Safety & Spam...