Malware is the bane of the Internet. Seriously, few things on the web are as dangerous as contracting malware, and few things are as time-consuming as the process of malware removal The Complete Malware Removal Guide The Complete Malware Removal Guide This malware removal guide outlines not only how to remove malware from your computer but also how to clean up the mess that viruses and malware leave behind.
But here’s the thing about malware: It’s not enough to install a top-notch security suite 5 Best Free Internet Security Suites for Windows 5 Best Free Internet Security Suites for Windows Which security suite do you trust the most? We look at five of the best free security suites for Windows, all of which offer anti-virus, anti-malware, and real-time protection features. Read More . You’ll have to change your bad security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More and start doing what the experts do 8 Tips for Online Safety Used by Security Experts 8 Tips for Online Safety Used by Security Experts Want to stay safe online? Then forget everything you think you know about passwords, antivirus and online security because it’s time to be retrained. Here’s what the experts actually do.
And if there’s one habit that you must kill as soon as possible, it’s the carefree downloading of software from any and all sites. Today, free software download sites are one of the most common sources of bloatware and even malware.
1. CNET Download
Go around and ask people what they think of CNET Download — the site formerly known as Download.com — and most of them will probably tell you to stay away. You should heed that advice if you know what’s good for you.
CNET Download has been around since 1996, making it 20 years old at the time of this writing. It used to be the most popular download destination on the web, but in those two decades, the site has really gone downhill.
In 2011, the site introduced a download manager program called CNET TechTracker that was allegedly full of toolbars and bloatware, which was so bad that it was eventually flagged by security suites. Then in 2015, malware was found to be bundled with their installer files.
Can you download files safely from CNET Download? Yes, you can, but it’s risky. Few people trust CNET Download anymore and using the site is akin to crossing a minefield. Your next step could be your last.
Tucows is another free download site in the vein of CNET Download. What’s funny is that Tucows is actually older than CNET Download — by about three years. Started in 1993, Tucows is one of the oldest download sites in the world.
In 2008, Tucows announced that they would be shifting focus away from software downloads to diversify their business. It would go on to launch the Ting mobile service network The Best US Cellular Data Plans for Your Smartphone The Best US Cellular Data Plans for Your Smartphone Though mobile phones have improved over the years, cellular plans have either stayed the same or gotten worse. Luckily, we’ve found the best deals for US smartphone users. Read More , among other business ventures.
Since shifting focus, Tucows has been involved in a few malware-related incidents. For example, in 2010, it served malvertisements to visitors. And in 2015, Emsisoft found that Tucows served the most potentially unwanted programs with its downloads.
Not to be confused with Softpedia, which is mostly reputable for what it is, Softonic is another ancient download site that has been around for a long time — since 1997 — and it’s actually foreign, based in Spain.
Starting in 2009, Softonic spearheaded several different distribution models, including the Softonic Toolbar and the Softonic Downloader. Even when users opted out, they were blasted with these kinds of unwanted programs, which is why Softonic has such a poor reputation now.
In 2015, the co-founder of CNET Download became the new CEO of Softonic. The Toolbar and Downloader were immediately dismantled and the site promised to dedicate itself to clean and safe software, but it’s still too early to tell.
Considering how poorly CNET Download has performed in terms of delivering clean and safe software, we recommend treating Softonic with similar caution and avoiding it until the site proves itself and walks the talk.
4. Public Torrent Trackers
Despite what a lot of people think, torrenting itself isn’t actually illegal. Indeed, there are plenty of legal torrents out there 11 Online Sources to Find Legal Torrents 11 Online Sources to Find Legal Torrents Recent events have seen well-known torrent directories like BTJunkie closing their doors or being threatened with closure, leaving many people wondering about the legalities of torrents and which directories are still open to find them… Read More and they’re all valid and legitimate. But let’s be real: if you torrent, you’re probably doing it illegally.
We don’t condone the practice, but if you are going to download torrents, heed this warning. Public torrent tracker sites Top 6 Torrent Alternatives To The Pirate Bay Top 6 Torrent Alternatives To The Pirate Bay Read More like ThePirateBay may contain malware.
For example, malvertising is a big concern What Is Malvertising and How Can You Protect Yourself? What Is Malvertising and How Can You Protect Yourself? Beware: malvertising is on the increase, representing a considerable online security risk. But what is it, why is it dangerous, where is it hiding, and how can you stay safe from malvertising? Read More where advertisements are used to distribute malware. Malware can also exist inside fake torrent downloads. If you download a movie and it says you need to install a special video codec, that “codec” is probably malware.
According to a 2015 study, users are 28 times more likely to contract malware from torrent sites than mainstream websites.
Long story short, torrents are risky. The risk goes down if you switch to using private torrent trackers The Best 3 Private Torrent Trackers That You Should Be Invited To The Best 3 Private Torrent Trackers That You Should Be Invited To Just like the good old Napster days though, public torrent sites and trackers are riddled with trojans and other garbage. The best way to enjoy your filesharing experience is getting an invite to one of… Read More but even those can be dangerous, if you aren’t careful.
5. File Hosting Services
Piracy exists in many forms. Torrenting is the most controversial and public form, of course, but file hosting sites make up a huge chunk of the piracy realm. Remember the now-defunct MegaUpload? Why MegaUpload, And Who’s Next? Why MegaUpload, And Who’s Next? In the middle of some very aggressive anti-SOPA/PIPA protests, the feds managed to prove that they don’t need to pass such a bill to pull the plug on a certain internet website. The casualty this… Read More Yeah, those sites.
Like torrent sites, file hosting sites are prone to malvertising attacks and downloads that contain malware, but they also have a third form of malware distribution: the fake download button.
We’ve all seen it before. You search for a pirated copy of a book or music album, for example, and arrive at a site like Turbobit or HugeFiles — only to see DOWNLOAD HERE all over the place. Here’s a good rule of thumb:
The bigger the download button, the faker it is.
We’ve written before on how to spot and avoid fake download buttons How To Spot, And Avoid, Ads Disguised As Download Buttons How To Spot, And Avoid, Ads Disguised As Download Buttons Read More but these tricksters are constantly evolving and getting more deceptive. The only foolproof way to protect yourself is to avoid file hosting sites altogether.
6. Warez Exchange Forums
This one is sort of a corollary to the point directly above, but you should avoid warez sites as much as you can. For those who don’t know, warez are a form of piracy that mainly involves cracked software.
Warez are usually exchanged within a community, though these communities can be publicly accessible through search engines. Most often, warez exchanges exist as forums but use various file hosting services for the actual sharing.
The threats are the same here: malvertising, fake warez, and infected warez downloads.
7. The Windows Store
There are so many reasons not to use the Windows Store. The lack of many important and popular apps Can Microsoft’s Desktop App Converter Save the Windows Store? Can Microsoft’s Desktop App Converter Save the Windows Store? Soon you will be able to download legacy software from the Windows Store. Desktop App Converter can turn Windows applications into a Universal Windows Platform application. The Windows Store could finally be useful! Read More is a huge downside, but there’s also a plethora of dead and abandoned apps How Dead Apps Are Drowning the Windows Store How Dead Apps Are Drowning the Windows Store Dead apps are everywhere in the Windows Store. Why are apps abandoned, how does it affect users, and how could Microsoft solve this dilemma? We analyze the sad state of the Windows Store. Read More that simply don’t work anymore.
But most of all, it seems as if the Windows Store isn’t as impervious to malware as once hoped.
The two biggest selling points of the Windows Store are: one, it’s highly regulated to filter out scamware and malware, and two, apps run in a sandbox to prevent them from gaining access to system files and processes.
Well, we’ve known for a while that the Windows Store is full of scamware and deceptive apps Don’t Be Fooled! 5 Tips To Avoid Fake Apps In The Windows Store Don’t Be Fooled! 5 Tips To Avoid Fake Apps In The Windows Store The Windows Store has been spoiled by useless junkware and scams. Microsoft recently purged many fake apps, but the store still features questionable apps. We show you how not to get scammed. Read More , but the sandbox aspect has been pretty good… up until now, at least.
Not long ago, ZDNet discovered a Windows Store app that used an in-app advertisement to download unwanted software. Microsoft is doing its best to solve this security hole, but for now, you may want to avoid downloading anything from the Windows Store.
Which Download Sites Do You Avoid?
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s an important starting point. Too many sites out there can deliver malicious trojans and worms The 7 Types of Computer Viruses to Watch Out For & What They Do The 7 Types of Computer Viruses to Watch Out For & What They Do While your computer won’t need a week in bed and antibiotics, computer viruses can delete and steal your data. Let’s take a look at 7 of the most common viruses out there right now. Read More to your computer and it’s your duty to be wary and vigilant. You can turn to the safest software download sites 9 Cleanest & Safest Websites to Download Free Software for Windows 9 Cleanest & Safest Websites to Download Free Software for Windows Downloading software can be dangerous. Visit the wrong site and you might accidentally download malware. We have compiled free software download sites you can trust. Read More , but they’re not perfect, either. Do remain cautious!
What should you do when you discover malware on your system? Follow our step-by-step guide to fighting a malware infection 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked.
Now you tell us: which nasty download sites do you avoid at all cost? What’s the worst bit of malware you’ve ever contracted? Share with us down in the comments!