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Top User Habits that put Computers at Risk

Computers have proven to be an essential part of our everyday lives. Your computer is your gateway to a world of data and a portal to your personal information. Unbeknownst to most, we are culprits when it comes to our own computer’s safety. Bad habits we have formed over the years enable criminals to hack into our personal and financial information.

Our computers are vulnerable. Because of this, it is very important to be aware of the bad habits that cause computer security threats. We need to be aware of viruses and malware-enabled fraudsters who are able to create mischief and steal from our computers at home and at work. Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard our computers and all the information stored inside them.

Here are the most prevalent bad habits that are putting your computer at risk:

Browsing the Internet with JavaScript enabled by default

Browsing the Internet with JavaScript enabled by default can be quite dangerous, as it allows control of all settings inside the browser. For example, JavaScript may cause some websites to disable your back button as soon as you arrive at the site, which ends up trapping you in the site. Not only is it frustrating to have to close your browser to get out of the site, but also it is dangerous as the site can change many functions of your browser.

JavaScript applications can actually turn off security settings in your browser, allowing for all types of malicious software to access your computer remotely. It is highly recommended to keep JavaScript off for safety, and manually turn it on for sites you trust.

Using Adobe Reader/Acrobat with default settings

Adobe Reader usually comes pre-installed on most of our computers at home or at work. But even if we don’t actively use this program, it can put your computer at risk. Adobe Reader has certain vulnerabilities that can cause harm to your machine. Because of the way Adobe integrates into Windows Explorer - to provide metadata information about PDF files - there is a chance that your system could become infected without ever opening a single file. To ensure you aren’t making this mistake, you must stay up-to-date with all of the latest versions of Adobe products, and adjust the settings accordingly.

Assuming your antivirus provides 100% protection

As a computer owner, having an antivirus program installed on your computer is important in keeping your files and information safe. However, you must be sure not to just trust everything that the antivirus program tells you. Antivirus software can be extremely useful, but it can impair a computer's performance. If you are an inexperienced user, you may have trouble understanding the prompts and decisions that antivirus software presents. Thoroughly read the options to ensure that your computer is properly protected.

Not applying security patches for ALL programs

There are hundreds of security threats just waiting to exploit your computer system. Window patches are not the only concern here. Third party apps such as Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Sun Java and Apple QuickTime are host to many security vulnerabilities that are just waiting to exploit your system. Secunia Software inspector is highly recommended to help you find out which of your programs need patching.

Not reading through your end user license agreement (EULA) before clicking “I Accept”

Although you may not want to read through all of the fine print in the end user license agreement, it is important that you do so to avoid any unwanted surprises. Within the EULA you will find policies regarding your personal and private information. For example, receiving a sudden influx of spam mail could indicate that your private information has been shared. This means that your private information has definitely been shared.

The EULA also discloses the type of software packaged with your download and any associated fees and costs. If your program does not have a EULA or if you do not fully understand it, you may need to look into more information before proceeding with the program.

Not taking proper precautions when using wireless Internet

You should think twice about using a free unsecured wireless network. Wireless networks are typically available in coffee shops, bookstores, airports, and other public locations. Your ability to access the Internet for free puts your information in a vulnerable position open to cyber fraud. Unsecure wireless networks can be easily penetrated and passwords or credit card numbers can be compromised as well.

Not only do cyber criminals look for credit card numbers, bank account information, and anything else they can find, they are seeking access your computer’s resources as well. This includes your hard disk space, your fast processor, and your Internet connection. They use these resources to attack other computers through the Internet. No matter how a home computer is connected to the Internet, intruder attacks are often successful.

It’s crucial to browse safely and avoid these bad habits that put your computer’s safety at risk. Many computer users are unaware of how changing certain habits can minimize online threats. Professionals with a degree in cybersecurity offer advanced knowledge and hands-on experience in intelligence, critical infrastructures, and investigative principles to combat cybercrime.