You bought a computer and found that it only has the most basic software installed. After spending over a thousand bucks on a system with your prepaid credit cards, plunking down a few hundred more is not an option. As you search the Internet, you find sites offering free downloads of popular applications. Should you download?
Downloading applications from the Internet opens your computer up to possible risks that will cost you more money in the long run. Here’s a list of concerns:
- Viruses-Masquerading as legitimate files, viruses are often distributed with applications shared over the Internet. They have the potential to unlock a system, gain direct access to personal information, and completely destroy data.
- Spam-Many free download websites require the user to register using a valid email address. This opens the door to your address being sold, which could mean you’ll receive unwanted solicitations in your inbox.
- Spyware/Adware-Spyware tracks computer usage and reports data to a remote location. It captures and reports keystrokes, site usage, passwords, and other private information. Adware installs itself onto a computer and tracks browsing habits of users. It populates pop-up advertisements while the computer is in use, disrupting privacy, slowing down system functions, and contaminating the operating system.
- Vulnerability-Children who have computer access can be exposed to pornographic material or websites that exploit children. By doing a simple search for a popular game to download, a child can inadvertently stumble onto unsuitable audio and video clips of a sexual nature because some game and adult downloads have similar keywords that get picked up by search engines.
- Copyright Infringement-Copyrighted materials require the copyright owner’s permission before an application can be downloaded. Failure to do get the rights can result in serious legal troubles including prosecution for violating federal law and legal suits for copyright infringement
If you decide to download applications, do so at your own risk and make sure you have an anti-virus application installed and running on your system.