Part 2 of 4: Handling Downloaded Files
1. Be selective about what you download.. There are programs available for nearly every task you can think of, but ask yourself if you really need the program that you are about to download. Do a little research about your task; you may find that you already have a program capable of what you want to do. Downloading extra programs for every task you want to complete increases the likelihood that you'll download something malicious.
2. Download from trusted locations only. If you are downloading a program or other piece of software, it is always advisable to try to download it from the developer's site as opposed to a download service. Many of these services install their own download managers, and can infect your browser with adware. Downloading illegal files will always be a lottery when it comes to getting viruses and worms. If you can, download from "trusted" sources in the community to reduce the risk of infection.
3. Look at the file extension. Mischievous files often have fake extensions designed to trick you, such as ".txt.vb" or ".jpg.exe". Windows will often hide common file extensions to make browsing through your files and programs more visually appealing. Double extensions exploit this by hiding the second, dangerous extension. If you normally don't see extensions on your computer and it all of a sudden appears on a file that you've downloaded, you may have downloaded a malicious file that is hiding as something else. To make your file extensions visible, open Windows Explorer, click the View tab/menu and select Options. Click the View tab in the Folder Options window, and uncheck the "Hide extensions for known file types" box.
4. Scan your downloaded files. If you have an antivirus program installed, you should make a habit of scanning files that you've downloaded from unknown locations. Most antivirus programs allow you to immediately scan specific files by right-clicking on the file and selecting your antivirus from the list of options. Always scan ZIP files as these often contain multiple files in one archive. Email programs will often scan your email files for viruses automatically, but you should still scan any downloaded files with your own antivirus program.
5. Don't open anything you don't trust completely. A virus or worm can do nothing unless you actually run the program that it is attached to. That means that simply downloading a file does not put you in any real danger. If you decide after downloading that you don't exactly trust the file, avoid opening it or delete it until you can confirm its integrity.
6. Read the license agreement. You know those legal documents that you always blindly accept when installing a program? Well, shady companies like to use the fact that most people skip them to sneak in clauses about installing spyware and other malicious software. Make sure to take the time to read these agreements, especially from companies that you've never heard of before.
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Center, Inc. 2005