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What do you think of when you imagine a person who is the victim of a virus attack?


If you’re like most people, you usually imagine a person who is incredibly gullible and stupid. They’re not very knowledgeable about hackers or viruses, and tend to fool around at work. These are the people you don’t respect at work, and feel that the company made a mistake in hiring them.


Now you’re working on your tasks, checking your email, and making sure that everything is under control. You receive an email about a workshop held in a few weeks. The topic is something you have been interested in for a long time. You decide to register.


Immediately after registering, there’s a pamphlet available to download that tells you more about what you can expect from the workshop. You want to see who will be speaking, so you download the pamphlet.


After the download, you’re reading the pamphlet, but suddenly your computer runs slowly, and a lot of pop-up ads are starting to appear. They’re not exactly appropriate, and you try to take care of them.


Soon, you’re hearing from a co-worker who says he got an email from you with an important document, which has placed pop-ups on his computer and slowed everything down.


This is spreading to other co-workers, and eventually the word in the office is the same.


“What on earth did you do? How stupid can you be to download something that was obviously suspicious?”


But hang on, you might think. I’m not stupid. I’m an intelligent person. This was clearly an accident that I could not have seen coming!


However, you are now dealing with the same stigma and associations that you believed were only exclusive to idiots that clicked on every link and willingly let viruses in the system.


Now, the above story isn’t true. I don’t know of any virus that disguises itself as a workshop invitation (as of current writing). But the feelings of guilt and shame are. This may not seem like a very big story, but you’d be surprised how these feelings can affect your business.


Why Are These Feelings So Harmful?

To put it simply, almost no one enjoys feeling like a complete and utter idiot.


That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and do something a little crazy every now and then. But when you feel like you’ve done something stupid that has put other people at risk, it’s a terrible feeling.


When you’re being yelled at, ridiculed and insulted, you’re not very motivated to work hard. You’re in the mood to go home and just destress after a bad day.


That’s usually enough to get over a large number of bad days. But when you’re constantly labelled as the “person who was stupid enough to click on a virus”, it can really affect you after a while. You won’t feel the sense of camaraderie that you used to feel. You will feel victimized and bullied.


To be fair, it is an incident that many people will talk about for at least a few days. You would do the same if this happened to someone else, so don’t be so quick to lash against people when the criticism hits your desk.


Where it begins to be a problem is when people don’t let this incident go.


And that’s a real shame, because while the victim is part of this, it’s not always as easy to avoid as you are led to believe.


But I Thought You’d Have To Be Stupid To Be A Victim?

There are a few ways people can get into your computer. The two most common are viruses and hackers.


You have most likely heard of the term “malware”, which is used to describe hostile computer software in general. Viruses are one type of malware.


Malware can manifest in different forms, and the creators of malware are well aware that people are getting used to the tricks of the past.


Think of the Nigerian prince scam. That seems so silly nowadays, because more people are now aware that Nigeria hasn’t had princes for a very long time, and it’s been widely established as a scam. You would be a stupid person to fall for this scam in this day and age.


A fact that is not lost on the malware creators.


Knowing that Nigerian princes aren’t popular, the traps are changing to get people to trip up and let their guard down.


Just look at this TED Talk by James Veitch. He’s talking with a scammer, and it does not look like a Nigerian prince scam at all. In fact, it’s a gold bullion shipment, backed by a company with a board. Sounds official.

Even though it’s a scam, there are several ways they can lure you into thinking it’s real and legitimate, shown through another scam that James talks about.


Subsequently, malware is adapting. Cybercriminals (which include hackers and malware creators) are now adapting their strategies to make it more alluring to people, and to bypass their warning signs to get people to unintentionally download viruses.


Shouldn’t We Still Catch These Traps?

By using a bit of common sense, you can still avoid a large number of obvious malware and spam emails.


You can also avoid the advertisements that seem to lead to legitimate websites but are also just deceptive scams.


However, tricks are evolving, and with more ways to be connected to the Internet than ever, criminals are now able to use more tools to attack our networks and data.


As Lifehacker writes, Australia is a popular spot for cybercriminals, and the methods used to attack people have gotten sophisticated. Even legitimate websites can be hacked and used as a launching pad for future attacks.


Gone are the days where stupidity and a lack of common sense were the only reasons people were being hit by viruses and hackers. Now, we’re entering an age where you might not be able to prevent such an attack from happening to yourself.


So What Do We Do?

Take it easy on the victims of an attack.


Gone is the era of stupidity where people really were gullible.


Even the most intelligent people could fall victim to an attack because the tools have become so advanced that you are not able to prevent attacks from happening.


It could happen to anyone, just like a car accident or tripping over the pavement. It’s not something we want to happen, but it might be completely out of our hands.


So give people a break. If it happens to your co-worker, fix the problem, talk about it for a bit and give them an understanding nod.


You’ll find that people are less likely to feel victimized, will work harder and you will create a friendlier work environment for everyone.


After all, I’m sure your colleagues are smart. They wouldn’t want to hurt you or anyone else with an unintentional accident.


Just leave it as it is, educate people on how to avoid it, and then keep moving forward.


You’ll find that when you are understanding and sympathetic to victims of an attack, everyone benefits. If you’re not, then everyone suffers as well.


I’ll leave it to you to decide which is better for your company.


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