The internet is an incredible development in technology that has revolutionized everything from personal communications to mass media, but it has a dark side as well.
Most of us have had some experience with viruses or malicious software, and we know how devastating these programs can be.
Computer failure and identity theft are just two of the many consequences that can result from irresponsible web surfing, so be sure to follow these tips for safe downloading online.
- Keep a Firewall Up
The web can be a dangerous place, and maintaining your privacy is often difficult. Prying eyes are just behind every corner, and some downloads have the potential to expose your personal information to hackers. A firewall is your first line of defense. Firewalls keep network traffic secure by regulating what information can pass through–this is the most basic of tools to keep your downloads safe, so be sure that your firewall is up at all times.
- Check File Extensions
Be sure to look closely at file extensions before downloading any files. Files with the “.exe” extension are executable files that run a program function when they are opened, so only download these from trusted sources. Some malicious programs masquerade as other file types in order to trick users into thinking that they are safe. You might see, for example “DOCUMENT.doc.exe” which looks like a word processing document at first glance, but is likely to be a malicious trojan or virus.
- Download Direct
If you are attempting to download a program, your safest bet is to download directly from the software provider. For media files such as music, video, e-books or other such things, download your files through only through trusted websites and services. Many users attempt to download files for free using file sharing programs, but you never know exactly what you’re getting on these platforms. It may cost a few dollars, but downloading directly from trusted sources keeps your information and your computer safe and secure.
- Use an Antivirus Program
Even for those who take every possible precaution, the danger of viruses is never completely eliminated. Hackers are constantly searching for new security loopholes and other ways to exploit the internet to their advantage, and they are more clever than you’d think. Take the extra measure of obtaining a high quality antivirus program. Update your protection software frequently so that it will be able to recognize the latest viruses and run regular scans to make sure your computer is clean.
- Manual, Not Automatic
Automatic downloads should be universally avoided. You should personally approve of any files or programs that are downloaded to your computer, including software and security updates. Some websites will attempt to download and install programs on your hard drive, and these are almost always malicious files. Look over every potential download and reject any that appear to be fishy. If a suspicious file transfer starts without your permission, try to cancel it before completion, or delete it as soon as possible from your downloads folder. Keeping your computer safe will always require some degree of vigilance, so don’t let your guard down.