As part of a presentation I had the pleasure of giving to a group of professionals recently, I’ve decided to post the highlights here.
1) Apple Mac is more secure than windows.
Untrue. Every year, the hacking community comes together for an event called the Pwn2Own Hacking Challenge. For the last three years preceding 2010, Apple’s OSX was the quickest to be breached – within minutes. In 2009, one of the competitors hacked a MacBook Air in under 5 seconds. And on the other end of the security scale, this year, many of the same hackers fully expected Windows Vista to last at least 24 hours before being compromised.
2) Apple Mac is immune to viruses
This is simply untrue. The security measures are different, and OSX enjoys "security by obscurity". The majority of business and consumer computer market share is Microsoft Windows, and so hackers and malware-writers seek to have the greatest impact as possible by creating viruses, trojans etc tailored to infect Windows machines. Apple is happy to ride this misconception until the unhappy reality hits. However, there are currently available antivirus solutions available for OSX (further proving the myth to be false).
3) It is better to leave your computer running all the time
This myth seems to have stemmed from the idea that – like an airplane – most failures happen on takeoff/starting and landing/shutdown. However, when you boot up your computer, there are a number of self-diagnostics that a computer performs which can alert you to potential issues (hence the misconception) so in fact it’s not a bad idea to turn it off regularly. And aside from ventilation issues (which aren’t common in modern computers), there’s no issue at all shutting your computer down nightly.
4) It is normal for a computer to take 10 minutes to start
No. It is possible on newer computers to have a computer booted up and running in as little as 30 seconds. If it takes more than 2 minutes for an older computer to start, there is likely something wrong.
5) Adding memory (RAM) is the best way to speed up your computer
This is a half truth with many exceptions and variables. RAM does not speed up your computer per se. The three core components to a computer are the Hard Drive (data), CPU (processor) and the RAM (memory). If you were to imagine your computer as a big sandbox, the sand would be the data, and a bucket would be the processor – the memory would be the shovel. If you have a tiny shovel (limited memory), you keep having to go back and forth shoveling sand into the bucket, which is terribly inefficient. Increasing the size of the shovel (or memory) will allow you to fill the bucket in one move.
So really, adding RAM doesn’t speed up your computer, it just helps prevent it from slowing you down with inefficiencies. However, once your computer has enough memory to run efficiently, adding more memory will not speed it up further.
6) Your computer will get faster when using high-speed internet
No, it won’t. In fact, if your computer is old enough, it can actually hinder your high-speed internet experience. But in no way can having high-speed internet make your computer faster.
7) Internet "cookies" are evil
Rarely. "Cookies" were demonized for a time in the 90′s when internet security was new and a lot of misinformation was spreading fast (ironically through the internet). This was due to the fact that the "cookie" contained information that tracked what pages or sites you had visited and sometimes personal information available publicly. But a "cookie" is a legitimate piece of technology. Whenever you tell facebook to "remember me" or "keep me logged in", each of those corresponds to a cookie. In other cases, a "cookie" is kept to cycle advertisements to prevent you from seeing the same one over and over. Neither application is malicious. Cookies can be used maliciously, but no more than any other piece of computer technology.
8) A screensaver protects your monitor from burn-in
Yes, but they are not usually necessary anymore. This was definitely true of old CRT and early-generation plasma screens, due to the phosphor coating on the inside of the screen. Even modern LCDs can suffer from "phosphor burn" but it would take several days showing a still image. Most modern computers and monitors have standby modes that are enabled automatically.
9) The only way to remove a virus from your computer is to wipe it clean and start over
False. With knowledge, persistence, and patience, I firmly believe any virus can be removed without "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". However it can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor. Unless you have the expertise (and inclination) to do it yourself, it is entirely possible and perhaps cost-effective, but otherwise it is price-prohibitive.
10) Your antivirus says you have a virus: that’s bad
Maybe. Catching a computer virus is never what I would qualify as a good thing. I often am contacted by people in a panic that they have a virus, because their antivirus told them so. In 99% of cases, this means the antivirus has already caught and dealt with the threat. In business cases, it’s good practice to have someone confirm that the threat has been eliminated if only for peace of mind.
11) Popup: You have a virus! Download this program to remove it
Don’t do it! I’ve seen this more frequently in the last couple of years. What it wants you to download will install, look, and on the surface behave as if it is an antivirus program protecting your computer, but in the background it will be doing things like infecting you further, hijacking your internet browser and potentially stealing sensitive personal or financial information. No legitimate antivirus provider will ever advertise like this, so don’t fall for it. They can look very convincing.
12) Your computer turns off randomly and you’re losing files: you must have a virus
Not necessarily. Viruses can do a lot of odd things to a computer, but there are a vast number of other potential issues that can cause a computer to misbehave that don’t involve viruses.
13) All viruses are destructive
It is exceedingly rare for Viruses to be destructive. Often you now see viruses that redirect you to internet pages that you don’t want or they plague you with popups. The scary ones are the ones that don’t visibly do anything. They’re the ones that can capture personal and financial information. They also are virtually undetectable by those outside the IT profession.
14) All your friends just got an infected message from you – your computer must be infected
Again, not necessarily. It is true that some programs will hijack your email program (such as Outlook or Outlook Express) and send mass-emails to all your contacts. But it is just as likely if you use a hosted free email service such as Gmail or Hotmail that your account has bee hacked, and you may simply have to change your password/secret question. Another possibility is what’s known as "spoofing". Because e-mail doesn’t have any built-in security, anyone can send an email out claiming to be someone else. The message may not have stemmed from any account breach at all. A networking or computer expert can help determine which case yours happens to be. Again, in the case of businesses, it’s always a good idea to have it checked.