If you are reading this, you have probably downloaded or intend to download free software. While there are many legitimate free software programs available, there are many risks associated with downloading them.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of these risks and how to mitigate them. By the end, you should be aware of the best practices for downloading free software.

Additional Offers

It’s common for free software to come bundled with offers for other programs. They typically display these offers in a pop-up window or banner ad. You might have seen tens of “download” buttons on a web page, but only one of them is the actual download button for the software you want.

The rest are usually ads. While there is nothing inherently malicious about these offers, they can be annoying and intrusive. This might also lead to you accidentally installing other programs that you don’t want.

Pay attention to what you are clicking on when you download free software. If possible, deselect any additional offers before you start or proceed with an installation.

Update Notifications

“Your software is out of date! If you don’t update now you’ll be at risk!” You have probably seen these types of notifications before. They are designed to scare you into updating your software as soon as possible.

While it’s important to keep your software up to date, you should be wary of any update notification that comes from a program you didn’t install yourself. Malicious software often uses these notifications to get you to install an update that will infect your computer with a virus, or give the attacker remote access to your computer.

Make sure you have a premium anti-virus program installed that can detect and block these types of attacks.

Fake Browsers and Toolbars

Another common type of free software is the fake browser or toolbar. These programs masquerade as a legitimate browser or toolbar but are actually spyware. They track your browsing activity and sell this information to advertisers.

They might also display intrusive ads, or redirect you to websites that you don’t want to visit. In some cases, they can even slow down your computer. If you suspect that you have a fake browser or toolbar installed, run a scan with your anti-virus program to remove it.

Whenever you want to download a browser, make sure you go to the official website of the browser. For example, if you want to download Google Chrome, make sure you go to google.com/chrome and not any other website. The same goes for toolbars. If you want to install a toolbar, make sure it’s from a reputable source.

Malicious extensions

Some free software programs come with extensions that you can install on your browser. These extensions might seem harmless, but they can actually be very dangerous. They might track your browsing activity or even change the way your browser works. Sometimes, they can even hijack your browser and redirect you to malicious websites.

If you suspect that an extension is malicious, remove it from your browser immediately. You should also run a scan with your anti-virus program to make sure that your computer is free of viruses. Remember, there are great extensions you can always find on trusted sources whenever you need them.

Viruses

There are various types of viruses that may come with free software downloads. They include:

  • Malware: This is software that is designed to damage or disable your computer. It might delete files, encrypt your data, or even render your computer unusable. Over 450,000 malware programs are released every day, and it’s no wonder many of them find their way into free software programs.
  • Trojan Horses: These are programs that appear to be harmless but actually allow attackers to gain access to your computer. They can be used to install other malware or steal sensitive information from your computer.
  • Worms: These are programs that spread themselves by copying themselves to other computers on a network. They can cause a lot of damage by deleting files or shutting down networks.
  • Adware: This is software that displays intrusive ads on your computer. It might also collect information about your browsing habits and sell this to advertisers.
  • Spyware: This is software that tracks your activity and sends this information to another party. It might record what websites you visit, or even what keystrokes you make.

To remove these viruses or avoid them altogether, make sure you have a good anti-virus program installed on your computer. Also, be careful about what you download and only download software from reputable sources.