Downloading files from the internet is one of the most common online activities. It may seem harmless, but there are several hidden dangers of downloading that many people aren’t aware of. Read on to discover what they are and how to avoid them.
Beware of viruses, trojans and worms. Some of these programs are relatively harmless and easy to remove. Others are more menacing and may erase data or allow your computer to be remotely controlled.
File downloads sometimes contain hidden adware programs that monitor your online activities and bombard you with pop ups. These programs can also change your homepage or redirect searches to a site other than the one you intended to use.
Spyware programs may also be hidden in downloaded files. They report your activity back to the person who created the program. This allows the unknown individual access to virtually every aspect of your life, including financial information, and may lead to identity theft.
Downloading files can also lead to legal problems. Those who download copyrighted music, movies and games risk being slammed with fines if caught. Jail time is also a possibility, although such harsh punishment is usually limited to individuals who knowingly distribute the files for profit.
The first and most important step in protecting yourself when downloading is to invest in anti-virus software. Avoid relying on free programs because they don’t monitor for the newest dangers. Many types of anti-virus software also protect against adware and spyware, though you can invest in separate programs aimed just at these threats.
Use common sense when downloading files. Only download from sites you trust and never ignore a warning prompt from your anti-virus program. These pop up for a reason and if you continue with the download you’re likely to wind up with something nasty on your hard drive.
When it comes to avoiding illegal files, don’t download if you’re in doubt. There are sites available that allow access to movies and music legally for a small fee. This is a much better deal than the large fines you could owe after downloading supposedly "free" files from less trustworthy sites.
Downloading can be a safe and fun online activity, but it should be approached with caution. Arm yourself with good anti-virus software and avoid illegal downloads so that you don’t end up with a defunct computer or a costly lawsuit.