NetSafe

Download dangers: what is safe to download online?

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NetBasics porn malware popups (screenshot)

Even with good security measures in place, you still need to keep your wits about you to ensure your computer stays safe.

You wouldn’t deliberately download malware onto your computer so criminals have developed some strategies designed to trick you into it. By understanding those tricks, you will be able to avoid falling victim to them.

Watch our NetBasics animated episodes to learn more about internet scams and dodgy downloads

Downloading FAQs:

What is safe to download from the web?
It is more important to know where the download comes from than what it is. Be sure that you trust the website before you download.

Does this mean there are some websites I can’t visit?
If your computer is secure, it should be safe to search most of the web. Some types of sites (e.g., adult content) are more likely to include malware, but even legitimate sites might be unknowingly compromised.

A friend of mine has pirated software. Is he at risk?
A good portion of pirated software comes with malware pre-installed. Even if it doesn’t, it is unlikely to properly update making your… sorry your ‘friend’s’ computer, vulnerable to malware.

Is Peer to Peer file sharing safe or not?
Peer to peer (P2P) comes with with its own set of risks, just like other web technologies. The nature of P2P file exchange means that even the best computer security can be bypassed. P2P is used by some criminal communities to circulate malware and exchange illegal content.

Later in 2011, new legislation will also make it an offence to download copyrighted files and your ISP may warn you about your internet access being disconnected.

Are email attachments unsafe?
Any type of file can be attached to an email including malicious software. If you weren’t expecting the attachment, you should treat it as high risk.

Remember that even a friend with an infected computer might unknowingly send you malware. If you’re not able to verify the source and legitimacy of the attachment – you should delete it.

It’s important to have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your computer that is capable of scanning files you download or open.

What should I do when I get an unexpected popup?
You should use the appropriate keyboard commands to force the window to close. It is a common trick to falsely label the buttons on popups.

Clicking on ‘agree’, ‘Ok’, ‘No’ or even the red ‘x” in the corner could actually launch spyware onto your computer. Prevention is the best cure. Most browsers have the facility to block popups and you should use it.

Is spam dangerous?
‘Spam’ is the term used to describe junk email (which often includes malicious software and unpleasant content), but there is no technical difference between it and other email you receive.

As long as you delete it without clicking on a link or opening an attachment it will be annoying, but mostly harmless. You can report spam emails to the Department of Internal Affairs from our Orb website.

1 Comment

  1. Chiz says:

    Thanks NetSafe, now I know NOT to close a pop up by clicking on x but rather use CTRL + W
    Cool.

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