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In this part of our series, we’ll address the precautions you should take when downloading content on the Internet.

The Internet has a plethora of content which is fit for consumption. However, not all of it needs to be stored on your computer.

Keeping that in mind, realize that applications that you download and install simply add one more layer to the complexity of your system and that can do major damage to the performance of your computer. So, having three different flavors of antivirus and ten programs to rip DVDs is probably not necessary. Simplicity is often a good rule of thumb with what to download and setup.

After you’ve determined exactly what you want to download, whether it’s a program, music file, or other media, select a proper and legitimate source for your downloads. For instance, if you’re looking for software applications, there are many sites that are reputable and will even scan the software for threats prior to download. The company CNET controls the website http://www.download.com/ and when you grab software from there, you will notice this message:

While this is in no way a replacement for running antivirus software on your computer, nor does it guarantee that each piece of software on their site is safe, it does reduce the likelihood that you will become infected.

It may be tempting to snag the latest Adobe or Microsoft product off websites for free, but pirated software presents a real danger to your computer’s stability. According to the Business Software Alliance, there is an estimated $51,000,000,000.00 of pirated software in use globally. With regards the content of this software, they add:

“Despite the connotation, unlicensed PC software is not necessarily ‘free.’ It takes effort to obtain, and it usually requires more support than legitimate software since it does not come with a steady stream of updates and patches, and may, in fact, contain malware.

In a 2006 IDC study, (“The Dangers of Counterfeit Software,” IDC White Paper, October 2006), research revealed that one in four websites that offered pirated software or counterfeit activation keys attempted to install infectious computer code, like Trojan horses and key loggers, on test computers. Even more striking, 59% of the counterfeit software or key generators downloaded from peer-to-peer (P2P) sites contained malicious or unwanted code. This malicious code was designed to capture key strokes or send users to bogus websites where they would enter personal data that enables identity theft.

The study also found the cost of recovery from a security incident resulting from pirated software on a PC can cost more than $1,000, often exceeding the cost of legitimate software.” 

Yes, software provided on peer-to-peer applications and downloaded from warez and appz sites might provide instant gratification, but it is often tainted with code which may damage your computer and assist in stealing your identity.

For more information, please see these links:
BSA Seventh Annual Global Software Piracy Study: http://portal.bsa.org/globalpiracy2009/studies/09_Piracy_Study_Report_A4_final_111010.pdf.

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