Malware Avoidance Lesson Number One – Think BEFORE You Click!

I recently repeated a small experiment with a group of “average computer user” friends, (about 16, or so), and I was disappointed to see that the conditioned response issue to “just click” while surfing the web, was still there. This, despite my long battle to get them to modify their online behavior.

I assumed that endlessly reinforcing “clicking haphazardly, without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information”, would have had some impact. Apparently not.

But, I haven’t given up. It appears it will take even more repetition before progress can be made. In the meantime, I expect that curiously browsing the web blissfully unaware of the considerable malware dangers, will continue to be the modus operandi for my friends.

My friends are not alone in their “clicking haphazardly” bad habit. Many of us have learned to satisfy our curiosity simply by a mouse click here, and a mouse click there. Arguable, we have developed a conditioned response (without involving conscious thought), to – “just click”.

It’s now well established, that our conditioned human responses pose the biggest risk to our online safety and security. Our curiosity, coupled with our conditioned responses can often override our common sense, so it’s not unusual for people to open an email attachment, for example, despite knowing that the attachment could be a virus, or another form of malware.

Conditioned Response

Security experts argue that a significant number of malware infections could be avoided if users stopped “just clicking haphazardly” or opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous. To this point however, this type of dangerous behavior continues despite the warnings.

Most visitors to this site are above average users (I’m assuming that you are too), so, I have a challenge for you.

Take every appropriate opportunity to inform your friends, your relatives, and associates, that “just clicking haphazardly” without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Help them realize that “just clicking”, can expose them to:

  • Trojan horse programs
  • Back door and remote administration programs
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Being an intermediary for another attack
  • Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Email spoofing
  • Email-borne viruses
  • Packet sniffing

You can do them an additional favor, by pointing them to  Comodo’s YouTube channel, Really Simple Security, where they can learn the basics of Internet security in a  constructive, yet lighthearted way.

They’ll be glad that you took an interest in their online safety. And, best of all, by doing this, you will have helped raise the level of security for all of us.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Safe Surfing

16 responses to “Malware Avoidance Lesson Number One – Think BEFORE You Click!

  1. Mister Reiner


    Unfortunately, many people equate “security” with physical security. Generally speaking, computer insecurity doesn’t endanger anyone’s life, so I’m sure in some people’s mind, they don’t sense any “danger.”

    Part of the problem Bill, is that there are so many safeguards these days to identify theft, unauthorized credit card charges, getting hacked (i.e. hacking insurance) and other outcomes, that I think in some people’s minds, getting hacked is no worse than spilled milk – just clean it up and move on.

    • Hey Mister,

      Good analogy. And, I agree, most people don’t equate cyber crime with danger. I guess they don’t see the relationship between having their wallet stolen on the street, and having their Bank account emptied electronically. It seems strange to me, but ……..


  2. Ranjan

    Just few words- ”Old habits die Hard”

    • Hey Ranjan,

      Yes, I agree ”Old habits die Hard”. The problem is however, it’s not just people with old habits who get caught. New users who are just in the process of developing habits – develop the wrong ones. Safe surfing habits need to be established right at the beginning, so that the proper “old habits” become the right habits. Which is why, those of us who know, need to instruct those who don’t know.


  3. Liam O' Moulain


    Since I don’t have all the answers, I try to get as many of my friends as possible to visit your site.

    Surprisingly, most of them do. You’re now a topic of conversation in my crowd. 🙂

    Thanks for all you do.


  4. John

    Hi Bill,

    As usual very good advice.

    Does that mean I have to try and communicate with the wife cause I think that’s a lost cause already. 🙂


  5. Kat D.

    Unfortunately, it’s not just “their” welfare, it’s for ours as well. If one of our contacts becomes infected, don’t our odds of becoming infected go way up?

    Oh, and I have listened Bill, maybe a little too well. I was too leery of clicking on your links, to do so. I couldn’t imagine which would be worse getting infected or you on the other side saying, “Et tu, Brute?”

    • Hi Kat,

      “Et tu, Brute?” LOL! What a great idea. I can just see it now. A user clicks on a link, and up comes a popup – “Didn’t I tell you to be careful.” 🙂 I’m especially careful with links, so go ahead and click.

      You’re quite right of course, this is a symbiotic relationship. As you rightfully point out – if a contact becomes infected, all downstream contacts have an enhanced chance of an infection.

      This is an important point, and I thank you for raising it.


  6. Bill,
    Thanks again for carrying our Internet safety banner so well. Your post has me wondering why good security advice goes unheeded. And it seems to me that perhaps the masses haven’t made the link between our warnings and the personal consequences to them (and their friends). Therefore I’m going to attempt to illuminate the real resultant damage of malware whenever I can.

    I too thank you for all you do. Keep up the good fight.

    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, your right – the linkage effect is a virtual non-starter, I find, when I discuss this issue at a personal level. So, I generally ask the question – do you buy lottery tickets? Not surprisingly, the answer is generally – yes. The obvious next question is – why?

      The answers generally run along these lines – I could win; somebody has to win;……. It doesn’t take much effort to point out that the odds of a malware infection caused by poor habits are ENORMOUSLY higher than winning the lottery and, that there’s a virtual certainty that poor habits will lead to a malware infection.

      The last question I ask before I walk away shaking my head is – if you believe you have a chance of winning the lottery despite the odds, why do you have a problem believing that you’re in danger on the Internet because of your behavior, despite the available stats that prove this?

      I’ll leave the rest unsaid, but I can assure you, I’m not noted for my diplomacy in these situations.

      Why don’t you take this idea (Lottery odds vs malware infection odds – I’m sure the numbers are available), and run it into an article. If you do, I’ll gladly link back.



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  8. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    This article reminds me of a conversation I had with a mate of mine in the pub the other day. He has been using computers a long time, but still has the “well, I have Nortons Security Suite running, so if I get infected, that will catch it”. He has a very casual attitude to security, which I find astonishing as he is well aware of the dangers.

    I didn’t even bother trying to convince him, his mind is made up.


    • Hey Mal.


      I have some of my best security conversations in the pub. In almost every case, the conversations are similar to what you describe. I should add, I totally refuse to get involved in rescuing their machines. If they don’t listen, they get to pay the piper. Unfortunately, most of them have had to pay the piper more than once.



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