Windows 10 Quick Tips – Safe Downloads


Safe Downloads

unsafe-softwareDue to the nature of what I do, having to download lots of files quickly becomes hazardous duty. As you all know by now, the internet is rife with crooks trying to steal your cash, property, and identity. Because of this nasty state of affairs we have all been told time and again to make regular backups and to use a proper antivirus program, along with a malware scanner, as well. You can’t be too careful these days and as is often truly stated, you are your own best defense against malicious code reaching your computer. Think before you click.

This isn’t limited only to software you intend to download, either. The very page you are reading was downloaded to your system and rendered by your browser. Some less-than-trustworthy sites will inject code into their HTML that can infect your computer. I’m telling you, nothing is beyond these crooks. (I would have chosen a different name for them, but this is supposed to be family-safe site.)

One thing to remember is that just because your layers of protection don’t find anything doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t there. Here at DCT, we offer articles on many types of software and include links to those files where possible. We always try to vet these files by scanning them with Virus Total, and with other tools, too, if the situation warrants it. To iterate, just because we don’t find something wrong doesn’t mean everything is all right. It simply means the files are checked to the best of our ability given the tools available at the time. Nothing in this game is 100% accurate 100% of the time.

In this week’s Quick Tips article we are going to show you a method by which you can help protect yourself from malicious software and “bad” websites. At least, it’s one more step in the right direction.

Note: This article is not specific to Windows 10. It applies to any operating system that is connected to the internet.

Your Browser Can Help

Your browser can help a lot. When you hover your mouse over any link, your browser will show you the actual destination of that link regardless of what it says on the page you are reading. A website can name a link anything it wants. Here is an example: Lovely Russian women want to become your wife


If you click on that link, you might be in for a surprise. However, if you hover your mouse over that link, your browser will prepare you for the disappointing truth:

misleading-link

Spoiler: You can click on the above image to enlarge it.

I use Waterfox and that information is shown in a tool tip displayed in the bottom-left corner of the browser. Your browser may be different. This example is meant to demonstrate that, once again, you are your own best defense against sneaky people. Think before you click! If I was a mean person, I could just as easily have sent you off to a truly nasty site. Unless, of course, you used your head and first read where that link was really going to send you.

Virus Total

Virus Total is a site that currently uses 68 antivirus engines (programs) that will search a link you provide for malware. Virus Total can search files, links, and IP addresses, domains and file hashes.

virus-total-clean-scan-results

In the above example, Virus Total scanned AIMP for me, which is a music player I happen to like. This shows that it is an exe (executable) file. It also shows the SHA hash, file name, size, and when it was last analyzed by Virus Total. One person has given it a “safe” rating. If you are questioning the strange file name, that SFX extension means that it is a self-extracting file, and that it was created with the 7Zip and LZMA compression tools.


There are several tabs on that page (not shown) where you can choose to see Details, Relations, Behavior, and Community. I will leave it to you to discover all the information that Virus Total provides– it is huge and maybe more than you care to know.

dct-clean-scan-results

The above image shows the clean scan results for the link to the DCT Home Page. That’s what we want to see!

How To Copy Links

It doesn’t do much good if you have to go to a site before you can check it. The major browsers all provide a means of copying links so you can paste them elsewhere.

  • Firefox — Right-click the link and choose Copy Link Location
  • Chrome — Right-click the link and choose Copy link address
  • Edge — Right-click the link and choose Copy link

Go to Virus Total, make sure the URL tab is chosen, and paste your link into the provided box. Click the magnifying glass icon to begin the search.

Conclusions

  • If your scan shows zero “hits”, then you feel pretty confident the file or link is safe to use.
  • If you see three or four “hits”, then you might want to do some further checking. Use your favorite search engine to look for reviews and any other information you can find out about how people are reacting.
  • Obviously, if you get a bunch of “hits”, then you’d probably be better off looking somewhere else.

Bonus Tip

Virus Total has an extension for the major browsers. By installing and using this extension, you won’t have to visit the Virus Total site to use their scanners:

There are quite a few links in this article. Have you been checking them before you clicked? It’s a good habit to get into.

As always, if you have any helpful suggestions or comments, please share them with us,

Richard

About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

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