That old truism “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” certainly applies to cyber security
Why do people throw common sense out of the window at the sight of the word “free”? It’s as if the word has bizarre brain washing powers that render the normally intelligent and wary individual incapable of rational thought.
This is never more apparent than when “free” leaps off the page whilst browsing the internet. You find some free software and decide to give it a try, a few clicks later and it’s downloaded and installed – where’s the harm?
Free software, known as “freeware”, has been a problem for almost as long as the internet has existed. At the very least, by downloading freeware you may download potentially unwanted programmes (PUPs), at worst you may download harmful code that could damage your PC, laptop or mobile device or lead to loss of personal data.
Not all freeware is harmful, well-known companies will offer free software as a trial subscription or as a basic solution after which they hope to persuade you to pay for upgrades or additional software. The trick is to be savvy enough not to be tempted into downloading harmful software simply because it is free.
So what are the risks? At the least harmful level PUPs will effect performance as they accumulate in your system, consuming resources and slowing responsiveness. More importantly some freeware may have viruses, Trojans, spyware or other malicious code embedded in them allowing malware to infect your device.
There are also offers for free software that claim to protect your computer or mobile device, only consider such offers from well-known vendors.
Everyone likes something for nothing but how do you protect yourself in the face of an avalanche of free offers?
- Do Your Homework
Research any free download that takes your fancy. Go to the company’s website, look at forums and reviews – if users have a bad experience you will soon find out.
- Only Download From Legitimate Vendors
Take time to do online searches for verified vendors with good reputations.
- Keep Security Up To Date
Make sure your anti-virus, operating system and web browser are updated and always install all the security patches.
- Be Wary of How the Freeware is Advertised
Social media provides the opportunity for widespread advertising of free games and other applications. Freeware and the links to sites to download it found on social media platforms should be treated with caution.
Remember, if it says it’s free you may get more than bargained for.