Let’s face it, all of us have downloaded something at one point or the other. And most of us have taken a risk while downloading something. Whether the download was a peer-to-peer (P2P) file, a crack file, or Britney Spear’s latest single at one point or the other we haven’t taken the necessary precaution to prevent introducing a virus to our computer.
Safest Way to Download- Don’t
Some people, myself included, have also at one point or the other, inadvertently did the unthinkable- download adware, or worse yet, a virus. Depending on what kind of malware infected your machine it could be a thirty minute fix, involve completely formatting your computer, or even paying a ransom for your data! However, with common sense and a few simple precautions avoiding a malware infection is nearly completely avoidable.
The easiest ways to get a virus or malware is visiting insecure websites and downloading questionable files. Like underage or out of wedlock sex, most people will tell you to just abstain. High risk downloading includes files like torrents and P2P files, porn (who downloads porn anymore, anyways?), cracked programs like games and Photoshop, any kind of .exe file (aka executable file; .pif, .bat, and .scr are other examples), and random files you may want to download from a website with a questionable reputation.
Another pitfall you must be careful to avoid is downloading copyright material. Over the past several yeas the copyright industry has been cracking down hard on those who download specific material. Pressure is being put on internet service providers to reduce internet speeds of those who infringe copyrights, or even simply download torrents, and whole business revolve around extorting money from those who use the bittorent technology as well.
Naturally, abstaining will only get you so far- eventually you’ll have reason or desire enough to try it. When this time comes its best to know how to protect yourself.
When Abstinence Isn’t Enough
Like most things in life, common sense is your greatest defense against harm. If you are downloading a torrent, P2P, or other file associated with a forum or comments then read through those to see what people who have already downloaded the file are saying. Usually those who downloaded a virus instead of the advertised program or file want to warn others before they make the same mistake. Another tip, download from a reputable source if at all possible. This can be a popular website that many people use without issue, or an individual that has a good standing for providing legitimate downloads. Before you download the size is also a giveaway for what kind of file you are downloading. An over sized file could mean that you are downloading a lot more than what your bargaining for.
Having an efficient anti-virus program installed on your computer will probably be your single greatest tool against downloading a malicious file next to your common sense. Being able to scan what you downloaded before opening it for viruses is an obvious no-brainer. Norton, Mcafee, Spybot Search & Destroy, AVAST! and AVG are all solid choices.
For a quick scan of a single file before you download there are several online scanning tools. Currently virustotal is the best of these. It uses over 55 different antivirus products and 61 online scan engines to provide a thorough check. By simply copying the file or URL virustotal performs a reliable scan for free. Although prone to sometimes giving false-positives virustotal and others like it can prove to be very handy for a quick scan.
Avoiding the master extortionists and copyright trolls that intend to track down and sue everyone who downloads a movie or song is very simple as well. The easiest way to avoid this is to use a reputable VPN while downloading movies or your favorite shows via torrents or P2P. Using a service like LiquidVPN that has no restrictions on downloading bittorrents or P2P, provides a public IP address, and even has optimized servers to prioritize your download will help you avoid headaches. Not to mention the privacy perk that comes with using LiquidVPN, not only will the copyright industry not be able to figure out who you are, but internet service providers won’t be able to see what sights you’re accessing, or that you are downloading a bittorent or using a P2P based service.
Keeping your machine free of malware is essential to the longevity of your computer and your sanity. Be vigilant and diligent: anyone can change the name of a virus to something desirable to even use a double extension like gif.exe in order to infect your computer. Downloading files online does not have to be a click-and-hold-your-breath ordeal. You can easily proactively protect yourself when you are downloading.
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Keep Calm and download on