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01.25.2013

Far too often, we get called in to deal with computers that are infected with viruses and other malware. The worst cases aren’t where these shut down your computer completely. That can be horrific, but just imagine if your computer was sending out your personal bank details to hackers, sending out thousands of spam emails an hour, attempting to crack into a government site, or even being used to store pornography without your knowledge. 

The really worrying thing is that most of the time, the malware was installed by the computer owner themselves without realizing it. It’s so easy to download free programs from the Net these days, and it’s all too easy to install something that looks awesome but is, in fact, quite sinister. A simple tool that seems quite innocent could conceal something undesirable. Even if it was safe when you downloaded it, who knows what horrors could have been installed when it auto-updated without telling you?

So, before you download that tempting app, think carefully and protect yourself.

  1. Do you really need it? Playing around with software is fun, but it’s potentially risky. If you don’t really need it, then maybe you should just leave it alone.
  2. Are you 100% sure what you’re downloading? Don’t ever, ever just click on a link unless you know what you’re downloading. Find out the actual file name as well as the program name if you can. Be very, very wary of links in emails that try to get you to download something a bit vague. 
  3. Make sure your virus checker is up to date and working. Always make sure you’re scanning anything you download, and if it detects a problem, stop immediately! 
  4. Get recommendations from friends or trusted sources. If you need a tool, then it’s often best to ask around and find what other people are already using. Check well-known sites for their recommendations, and go with something that’s proven to work and be safe.
  5. Check Google. Before you download an ap, do a quick search and see if there are any negative reports. For example, “Cleversoft PC TuneUp Maestro” may seem to be a really useful tool, but within 5 seconds you can easily find out that it’s nothing of the sort. The link will also tell you how to get rid of it and has suggestions for altenatives. 
  6. Download from reputable sites. Even if you’re downloading a well-known app, always make sure you’re getting it from a proper source. For example, C|Net’s download.com is one of the best known sources, and probably far safer than a site called something like Jay’s Free Software or something that’s mostly in Chinese. (It goes without saying that most porn sites aren’t reputable. Download from those at your peril.) 
  7. Don’t download pirate apps. Pirate apps are one of the main sources of malware. As they say, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. That free copy of Photoshop might look tempting, but it probably comes with free spyware, courtesy of hackers in Russia or China. Get legitimate software – it’s safer.

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