Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is it safe?

Many people ask the million dollar question all the time: Is it safe to download software from the Internet? There are so many wonderful software to be downloaded. However, they are also a major source of security breaches. How can we have the best of both worlds, downloading useful software but being immune to malicious ones. Recently, I read an article on CNN on this topic. You may wish to read the full article for the expert advice.

The author said surfing the Internet is like going for a walk in the woods. It is similar to what I said before that it is like walking in a busy street. He said it would be wise to venture forth with a clear idea of what poison ivy looks like in comparison to, say, sunflowers. Software is just code. Some of it is written well, some of it is written poorly, and some of it is written well to do poor things (and vice versa). In other words, software is only as good as its author, that author's intentions, and the application of those intentions to a given purpose.

Generally speaking, software from reputable sources should be relatively benign. A site like CNET's download.com, with links from big-name sources and well-written, in-depth reviews with detailed system requirements and clear notice of whether a piece of software was scanned for malware or not, is likely to be safe. Search the Internet for what other people are saying about the software in question. Seeing where it is hosted can give you some clues. If you can find evidence of the software being hosted by or linked from sites you trust, then the odds are good that it is probably okay.

Guard against forced download. If your browser tells you that you need to install something in order to view a web page. Check carefully before doing so. Only respond to trusted services like Adobe Flash, and make sure you are directed to its official link. Be very careful on software that has been pirated or cracked. Most likely malicious code has been inserted.

Do not assume that non-Windows operating systems (like Linux or Apple) are safe from the threat of a potential security breach. Although most unscrupulous malware programmers target Windows, other operating systems are equally vulnerable.

Make sure you have always got security software running and keeping it updated.

If you are totally paranoid and want to avoid downloading altogether, there are now services on the Internet on cloud computing. Software can be run directly online from trusted sites of service providers. Google Docs is a good example. More application service providers are coming up.

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