It’s next to impossible to use a computer and its applications without having to download, be it the software itself or its many updates. However, with nearly 300,000 computer viruses floating around in cyberspace, it doesn’t matter if a user is an ethical person just looking for the latest edition of Garage Band, or a hacker trying to score some pirated software, everyone can be equally susceptible. A computer user thus needs to be vigilant in their downloading and heavily suspicious no matter how benign a file may appear.
First and foremost, users should always conduct background research on anything they intend to download. One simple researching technique is to look up the file or application in a search engine like Google; reviews or warnings should be many.
Also, the average antivirus software is capable of running checks before any data is downloaded, and will provide warnings where appropriate.
When using clients that offer files like torrents for downloading, it’s best to follow the ratings from other users of each file. Some will additionally have comments sections, which can provide valuable feedback and suggestions about them as well.
Meanwhile, P2P programs are much trickier and put users at greater risk for attracting viruses. In the spirit of vigilance, when using P2P, it’s advised to look for abnormalities such as a music or movie file being inexplicably small, like being in a kilobyte size when they are typically downloaded in megabytes.
Especially execute precaution with files that have the .exe extension, since it is used for running code which may be hidden on an infected computer and you may not be able to stop. While many files with this extension are benign and necessary, an equal number are not.
Overall, users should, at the very least, use their best judgement. If a website seems out of place or an unfamiliar message prompt appears, try to avoid it by all means.