In a perfect computer world, we would not have to run an anti-virus or anti-spyware software because we would all know where exactly computer parasites and viruses came from and naturally stay away from those sources. Unfortunately, we do not live in that fairy tale world but instead every day millions of computer users make common mistakes that put them at unnecessary dangers and risks of infecting their system with some type of malware. You may be asking the question, what are the most popular mistakes that computer users make on a day-to-day basis that end up infecting their system with malware?
There are probably more ways than you think to infect your computer with malware. We recently explained how being a naive computer user could cost you extra money. Although that may be true, you could be making simple mistakes every day that put you at greater risk of infecting your system with malware and could lead to other serious issues. Nowadays, we live in a socially driven world not only through television but through online social networks. Let's face it, the internet is a major contributor to how we conduct our lives and large social networks such as Facebook and Twitter virtually make or break your every day life. These technological resources help us in tremendous ways but can also be the root of the problem if we are not careful.
Below are our picks for the most common computer mistakes made that can infect your computer with harmful malware.
Common Computer Mistake #1
Failing to keep your software updated. This is a major oversight among millions of computer users around the world. They fail to update their software with the latest versions which can include critical security patches. These security patches ensure that any previously discovered vulnerabilities are resolved. Vulnerabilities discovered in software applications are open doors for hackers to spread malware. Basically, hackers discover flaws within the programming of certain programs and exploit them so they can install malware onto a computer. The Windows operating system, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Java are all heavily targeted software applications by hackers in finding vulnerabilities or flaws. Hackers and cybercrooks are able to find vulnerabilities within these programs and spread their malware. An easy way for a computer to prevent this from happening is by simply updating the application to the latest version or applying a newly released security patch. These updates are usually sent out after the discovery of a flaw. You cannot fully rely on your anti-virus or anti-spyware application to keep you protected if you have outdated software on your PC.
Common Computer Mistake #2
Using Warez sites or BitTorrents to download software or files. We do not condone download, installing or using pirated software. It is never advisable to visit Warez (pirated software sites) web pages or use BitTorrents (peer-to-peer pirated software sharing applications) to obtain software or any other type of file. These sources are usually filled with malicious software. Even though you may think you are downloading a legitimate program from a warez site, the file may be embedded with a computer virus that spreads upon execution. It is best to stick with official download sites and services such as download.com, iTunes, YouTube.com, and Hulu.com. This even applies to streaming media and online video content.
Common Computer Mistake #3
Leaving Facebook (or other social networks) privacy settings open or not configured. Now that Facebook has well over 500 million users, it may be a good idea to double check your privacy settings. You never know who may be looking at your online profile or attempting to steal personal information from you that could lead to identity theft. Only friends, ones that you actually know personally, should have access to your profile. This applies to other social networks such as MySpace and Twitter. Never give out personal information because you can never erase the trail once it is posted over the internet. Lately, social networks such as Facebook have been attacked by malicious applications so it may also be a good idea to limit use of Facebook apps and do not click on suspicious links.
Common Computer Mistake #4
Surfing or searching for free Porn (pornographic content online). 'Free' is not always the best in many cases as it is when it comes to adult entertainment online. A large percentage of free porn sites are laced with malware and could easily infect your computer. Hackers are even known for creating bogus porn sites for the purpose of stealing personal information or spreading malware. It is also not uncommon to run into a phishing porn site. Usually the infection process takes place without your knowledge, either by clicking on a porn video/image link. Sometimes a rogue anti-spyware program is installed potentially causing damage to your system registry. If you must partake in online adult entertainment, it is best to use paid-sites.
Common Computer Mistake #5
Searching for or clicking on celebrity gossip or popular news stories. It is very hard to decipher what is 'real' on the internet nowadays due to all of the conflicting information that can be found. When you search for certain popular news stories, you may end up on a site that has nothing to do with what you were seeking in the first place. This is where you must use your common sense and good judgment. Many computer users end up infecting their system from a malicious site related to popular news or gossip stories. The creators of malware know what gets people's attention and it is usually celebrity gossip, breaking news stories and even tragedies. For the majority of computer users, it is admittedly hard to avoid searching for these topics. If you must search for such content over the internet, it is best to use Google News, Bing News or another reputable aggregator; these search engines only provide approved sites. Although using legitimate news aggregator sites does not guarantee 100% that your results will be free from malware, your chances of getting a malicious link are significantly lower.
What mistakes have you made that resulted in your PC becoming infected with malware? Did you get infected with a virus or spyware? Share your experience below so it may help other computer users.