Most viruses end up on a computer after unintentionally downloading malicious software from the Internet. A lot of people do not take Internet security seriously enough and instead don’t pay much attention to what they download, assuming that their antivirus software will take care of any possible problems. However, in order to prevent a potentially disastrous situation such as identity theft or financial loss, everyone should take some important extra steps to ensure their safety online, particularly when it comes to downloading files.
Always Keep Your Antivirus Up to Date
Your antivirus software should be configured by default to automatically download and install updates for both the virus definition database and the software itself. If you have chosen to manually update your antivirus software, ensure that you do whenever you are warned about new updates arriving. Putting it off will leave your computer open to a number of new and emerging threats. When downloading files, particularly from dubious sources such as torrent sites, be sure to scan files before attempting to open them. At the same time, you should not entirely take any antivirus software for granted.
Know How to Tell Potentially Harmful Sources
Potentially harmful sources are generally quite obvious or, at least, they should be. It should go without saying that attempting to download any pirated or otherwise illegal material from the Internet comes with many security risks in itself. If downloading files from questionable sources, ensure firstly that you are legally entitled to download them and read user comments to get a better idea as to whether or not a download is safe. Another thing to avoid is phishing scams in which a website poses as one belonging to a legitimate company or owner. Be sure that a website is genuine before providing any personal or financial details or downloading anything from it.
Understanding File Types
Certain file types are more likely to contain malicious code than others. In fact, many file types are completely safe. Familiarizing yourself with common file types will help you to make a clearer judgement before downloading something. Image files from the Internet almost always end in the JPG or GIF file extension, for example. File formats such as MP3, MOV, AVI and other audio and video formats should also be safe. The ones to be wary of include executable program files, usually ending in the EXE extension. Another extremely widespread format on the Web is the ZIP archiving format. These files are archives containing one or more files and folders which could, in turn, contain anything.
Don’t Forget about File Size
File size is another important thing to look out for. File size is measured in kilobytes or megabytes. While file size for any file type can vary greatly, you can generally get a reasonable idea of whether or not a file is what it claims to be from the file size. If, for example, you think you are downloading a program installer and it’s only a few kilobytes in size, then it is very likely to be junk at best or malicious software at worst.