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Tips for Safe Downloading Online
By: wubayou
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    It’s tempting to download software off of the internet, especially with all the new programs that are available. With downloading, however, comes the danger of malware infections. While common sense is always most important when downloading software, here are some other tips you can use to make sure your computer remains malware-free.

    Avoid Automatic Downloads

    There are times when you may stumble upon a site that tries to automatically download and install software on your computer, even though you didn’t ask it to.  This should be avoided at all costs, unless the site you are on is from a trusted source or vendor.  Infected sites often attempt these automatic or drive-by downloads to transfer malware to your computer.  Do not accept any such downloads.  If they do start, cancel the download or close out your browser.  If the download has finished and you weren’t able to cancel it, go to your downloads folder and scan it for viruses or simply delete it.  Do not execute the file to begin installation without checking to see that it is safe.

    Stick to Software from Trusted Sources

    This tip can relate to pretty much anything in the online world.  You don’t want to get into the habit of downloading software from sites that are unknown or lack reviews.  You probably know what constitutes a reputable source, as it is one that has a reputation for being trustworthy and dependable.  Examples would be Adobe, Google, Mozilla with its Firefox browser, and the king of them all, Microsoft.  You should be good to go with downloads from these sources and others like them, but what about ones that you have never heard of?  Luckily, a simple search on the internet can give you the necessary background information prior to downloading.

    Before you accept and initiate a software download, read its documentation to see what it actually does.  There are several sites on the Web that review software, so visiting them can be a big help and give you some added peace of mind.  One example would be CNET’s site, download.com, which reviews software across a wide variety of categories.  Not only will reading reviews tell you if software is legitimate or not, but they will also tell you if the software’s features are worth having.

    If Possible, Download Directly from the Software’s Official Site

    When you search for a specific piece of software, you will probably be able to find it on several sites.  Many of these sites will offer a legitimate download of the software, but some could be sites crafted by cybercriminals.  Such sites may look legitimate, but their supposed software files could actually be malicious.  

    The wise move would be to do an internet search for the name of the software, which should lead you to the official creator’s site.  From the original site you can also read up on the software’s features and more.  Yes, it may be quicker to just download the software from the third-party site you are on, but you could just end up infecting your computer with malware.  Take the extra step to go to the software’s official website to perform the safe download.

    Now, it is worth mentioning that you may run into an instance where you cannot download from the software’s official site for one reason or another.  If that is the case, stick to download sites that are trusted and known to be reliable.  The aforementioned download.com not only provides reviews on software, but it also offers software downloads.  The tech site PCWorld.com is another good one that you can trust.  By downloading from these types of sites, you will not have to worry about malicious files, as the sites have their own security safeguards in place to ensure that their downloads are safe.

    If your choices of the official software site and a well-known software site are not available, check the credentials of the download site you are about to use.  You can do this by employing services that check the safety and legitimacy of websites.  Siteadvisor.com is probably the most popular example.  In addition, some browsers have integrated site checking functionality into their set of features.  The top browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox all have this functionality, and you can turn it on within the browsers’ options or preferences.  Some browsers will check the validity of software downloads as well in addition to checking site safety. 

    Use Your Antivirus Software to Check Potential Downloads

    Having solid antivirus software that’s up-to-date is one of the most basic safeguards you should have on your computer to keep it protected.  You can use your antivirus software to scan files before installing them.  This is usually done by right-clicking on the file and selecting the scan option.  The antivirus software will check it to make sure its safe prior to installation.

    Check File Specs for Authenticity

    An extra check you can perform to see if your download file is legitimate is to compare its file name and file size to the one listed on the website.  You can view these specs in by right-clicking the file and selecting Properties.  Any differences could denote an infected file.

    The aforementioned tips are just some that you should practice when downloading software.  Avoid taking risks when downloading and use common sense to ensure that your computer stays clear of viruses.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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