Misconceptions and truths
Certainly you will already have heard a good few well-intentioned tips and half-truths within your circle of acquaintances. At this point we would like to clear up one or two popular misconceptions.
Nobody spreads these misconceptions maliciously. Often superficial knowledge, presumptions or word-of-mouth recommendations are the original causes. The "Chinese whispers" principle also plays its part in falsifying the facts.
No harm can come from knowing the real background and thus being able to minimise the risk of becoming a victim of a cyber attack oneself.
Many potential victims believe, "I don't really have anything worth taking.". This is mostly a very subjective opinion, which might not necessarily coincide with the viewpoint of the attacker. Any item of personal information, no matter how small, can be of value to an attacker and result in lasting damage to the victim. Even if absolutely no personal data is saved on your system, the computer itself is, in the final analysis, worthwhile prey itself. Once a system is under the control of the attacker, he can misuse it for his own illegal goals, make it part of a botnet comprising thousands of computers or use it as camouflage for further illegal activities. Sometimes you will become an accomplice, without even being aware of it. Also you do not have be particularly well off financially, to become a victim. Criminals happily "harvest" lots of little amounts, so that they do not immediately attract attention.
Unfortunately a large percentage of all PC users misjudge the importance of software and operating system patches. Many are not even aware of the existence of these updates. This naive attitude makes it particularly easy for attackers to seize on the security loopholes in unpatched systems, which have, in part, been known about for years, in unpatched systems. Alongside regular operating system updates (a certain large software provider from Redmond, USA, refers in this respect to monthly "patchdays"), the search for updates for the software installed on the system should become a regular habit. Providers such as Secunia offer tools that automatically search the entire spectrum of popular application software at regular intervals to find security updates. Of course, the regular update of virus protection software should under no circumstance be overlooked.
A further popular misconception is that PCs, get slower and slower because of their age. To a certain extent, this assumption is not incorrect, given the ever increasing hunger for resources of current software. Nevertheless, should you suddenly notice that your system has become noticeably slower without you having consciously made any changes to it, you could possibly have been the victim of an attack, or your system is executing tasks in the background which you neither know about or desire. Should your system start behaving in an unusual manner suddenly out of the blue and display inexplicable effects of all types, do not hesitate to call in an expert.