Happy Download Day! (Yes, there’s a day for that.) Today is an excellent day to share downloading best practices to keep all your devices safe from malicious content. It’s tempting to download “free” shows, movies, and video games, but the consequences of doing so can be quite expensive. All it takes is for one malicious download to compromise your identity or leak your banking information to cybercriminals.
Luckily, there are a few ways to keep your devices and personally identifiable information (PII) safe. Here’s how!
Dangers of Downloading Dubious Content
How many streaming services do you subscribe to? Two? Ten? No matter how many premium entertainment subscriptions you have, the hottest new show always seems to be on the channel you can’t access. This is a common scenario that often drives people to download episodes from websites that claim crystal-clear, safe downloads. In actuality, these sites could harbor malware, spyware, or other types of malware that lurk in the shadows until an unsuspecting person downloads them to their desktop, tablet, or cellphone.
Malware, which stands for malicious software, often hides behind legitimate-looking links or downloadable content. It’s only until it’s on your device that you realize there’s a criminal hiding behind it. For example, earlier in 2022, a ransomware program (a type of malware) disguised itself as a Microsoft system update. The criminal behind the scheme then threatened leaking or permanently deleting sensitive files if the person didn’t pay the ransom.
Once malware infects one device, some malware programs can infect an entire home network and spread to other connected devices.1 From there, the cybercriminal can steal the online shopping, banking, or personal details of a whole household and either sell their findings on the dark web or keep it for themselves.
Your Safe Downloading Checklist
Before you download anything to any of your devices, go through this checklist to help you determine the safety of most content:
- Is the website secure? Does the URL of the website contain an “https” and a lock next to it? While the presence of both doesn’t automatically confirm or deny the legitimacy of a site, it’s a good first marker to check. A secure browsing extension, like McAfee web protection, can also alert you when you’re on a risky website. Don’t ignore the alarm!
- Is the website poorly designed? Are there typos and grammar mistakes everywhere? Is the logo blurry? It’s best to do some background research on any site or mobile app before you download content from it. The first few search results will likely be able to tell you whether it’s reputable or not. Cybercriminals often spend more time perfecting their malicious software than fussing over what the website actually looks like.
- Where does the download link redirect you to? If you’re on a desktop, right-click the download URL or button to see where it’ll redirect you. The file extension and file size should match what you expect it to be. Additionally, if early in the downloading process error messages pop up about corrupted files, stop the download immediately.
Overall, while downloading entertainment for free is appealing to people on a budget, it’s better to avoid doing so altogether. The risk isn’t worth it. Consider scheduling a watch party with a friend or family member who has the subscription service you’re seeking.
Protect Your Devices From Malicious Downloads
In case you slip up and accidentally download malware, spyware, or ransomware, McAfee+ Ultimate can defend your devices, remove the software, and monitor the dark web to make sure your PII wasn’t compromised. McAfee antivirus is compatible with macOS, iOS, and Android devices and Chromebooks, so you can regularly scan all your devices for programs that shouldn’t be there. If the worst does happen and a cybercriminal gets a grip on your personal information, McAfee can back you up with $1 million in identity theft coverage and restoration and continuous identity monitoring.
Browse confidently and enjoy your devices to the fullest! Just remember these safe downloading tips and partner with McAfee for peace of mind.
1Federal Trade Commission, “Malware from illegal video streaming apps: What to know”