Downloading files online is becoming increasingly common. However, it does not come without its risks. Malware, viruses, spyware and adware are just a few of the dangers that can affect your computer when you download anything from the internet. So how should you go about keeping your computer safer? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Use Antivirus Software & a Firewall
The best thing you can do to keep your computer safe from threats is to ensure you have updated antivirus software installed. There are many products to choose from, including some that are free, so choose a product with a good reputation and enjoy the protection it provides. You should also ensure that your computer’s firewall is active. This does not mean that you can then go around downloading anything that you want without thinking about the danger, but it gives you an extra level of security.
Don’t Visit Suspicious Websites
Many websites can cause damage to your computer just by visiting them. Of course, avoiding them is easier said than done, but you can get an extra warning by using a browser add-on. This will warn you about potentially dangerous sites when you are browsing the web so that you can avoid them with greater ease.
Scan Files with a Virus Checker
Another useful feature that some antivirus products come with is a virus checker. When you download something from the internet, scan it with a virus checker before you open it. This will then check if there is anything suspicious about the file before you open it.
Avoid Anything Illegal
It goes without saying, but if you suspect anything of being illegal, don’t download it. Not only is it illegal, but there is a greater chance that it could be used for malicious purposes to infect your computer with something nasty.
Download from the Developer Website
When it comes to downloading software, try to download it from the developer website rather than a third party, unless they are authorized to do so. The software from the developer website is unlikely to contain anything malicious, whereas if you download it from somewhere else, it could be hiding something nasty.
Be Wary of Executable Files
Executable files can be particularly risky. Programs use these files to run on a computer, and they are sometimes used to hide viruses. They include .exe, .pif, .bat, and other files, so just be careful with these.
Be Careful Who You Download From
Always try and find out as much as you can about who you are downloading a file from. For example, if you are using a bittorrent client like Vuze and you find a file that you want to download, check the details of the person who uploaded it first. Do they have a good reputation or should they be avoided? How many people have downloaded the file? A bit of research could be well worth the effort.
Don’t Open Email Attachments
Downloading email attachments from an unknown sender is asking for trouble. Only download attachments from people you know, and even then use a virus scanner to reduce the risk.
Stay Safe When Downloading Anything
The potential risks involved with downloading content online mean that you have to take your security seriously. Fortunately, by following the above tips, you can help to keep your computer more secure without having to worry unnecessarily about the threat posed by viruses. The best advice is to always be vigilant, protect your computer using antivirus software, and if you have any doubts about downloading something, leave it well alone.
Lucas Weston is passionate about web security. He frequently blogs about legal concerns and personal data protection for the average internet user while maximizing the web’s potential.