The Internet can be a dangerous place, especially for people who trust every link they see.
For those of you who want to stay safe while downloading files from the Internet, it’s vital to your security to know the difference between legitimate, valid download links and ones that just look like it.
We encourage you to stop for a minute before you hand over secure information and ask yourself, “Is that download button real?” To that end, in this article, we’re going to tell you what to look for when it comes to valid download links.
Decoding Unsafe Sites
The first thing we want you to know is that not every website you visit online is safe. Many websites are sneaky, designed to fool you and include malicious download buttons. Their sole purpose is to trick you into clicking on them so that you inadvertently download a virus or malicious code and perhaps even buy something you didn’t intend to buy.
On the flip side, you might run across legitimate websites that have been compromised and are now unsafe. They might contain illegitimate ads or download buttons that can lead you astray.
There are two kinds of sites you might run into:
- Malware Sites. These websites contain code on them that will install malicious software onto your computer. Hackers can then use this software to grab your private and sensitive information. These sites might be valid sites, but someone has added an advertisement or download button that leads to the malicious software.
- Phishing Sites. This type of website looks legit, while it tries to trick you into typing in your username or password or downloading something bad.
Spotting Illegitimate Download Buttons
Have you ever visited a webpage where you wanted to download something only to find there were several download links on the page? Usually, there is only one download link that pertains to your needs.
All of the buttons may look similar, but it’s up to you to choose the correct one. Here are a few tips to help you distinguish the real download button from the fake one:
- Hover over the link or download button and look at the address that pops up. Does this look like the link you expected? If not, don’t click it.
- Check to see if the download button tells you what you are downloading.
- Pay special attention to the text around all of the buttons. You can usually tell which link is valid if you look at the fine print around the buttons.
- When you come across ad-heavy websites, realize that not only can images contain bad links, but text links can often lead you astray. Again, look at all the surrounding text before deciding.
Google’s Safe Browsing feature in Chrome and for Android is now targeting fake download links in an effort to keep users safer.
They’ll warn you when you’re visiting a site with deceptive content. If buttons don’t lead where expected, or links prompt you to click on them, but they’re malicious, Safe Browsing will alert you.
Sites consistently using trickery will be red-flagged by Google. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to other browsers yet.
Downloading files is a daily occurrence for many of us as we surf the web. Now that you’ve learned a few tips and tricks for spotting real download buttons, you’ll experience a safer surfing experience.
Do your best to avoid the bad links, so you stay away from malware sites. Links to these sites are designed to steal your information, including identity theft, and attack your computer. Often, the software takes over your computer and is downloaded without your knowledge.
You’re now aware of common pitfalls. It’s time to diligent and avoid clicking download buttons until you’ve vetted them and feel comfortable clicking through.
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