When is it safe to download?

Investigations

The handheld computers, better known as smartphones, that we carry around with us all the time certainly are convenient, but one simple mistake, like downloading a bad app, can get you into financial trouble.

Are you sometimes scared that you might download a virus that’s going to destroy your computer? The entire staff at WATE 6 On Your Side recently took an online security awareness training course. We learned how to protect the information on our computers and how to know the difference between what’s good and what’s bad. 

Some simple tips can help you safely download information and avoid other hazards that could lead to costly mistakes.

If a message ever pops up on your computer that says something like “Computer Blocked,” it’s a ransomware attack. It’s the result of innocently downloading an attachment embedded in a phishing email link.

Eldon Sheckles, a security expert with Sword and Shield, says ransomware is going to cost you to unlock your computer so you can use it again.        

“‘Pay us a certain amount of money and we’ll give your information back to you.’ Basically, they’re holding your information hostage,” said Sheckles. “It’s always best to go to the manufacturer’s website for any software or file that you are trying to download.”

Sheckles explained some of the warning signs of a bad website.

“Some of the warning signs are multiple ads. As you can see here there are ads all over the page. Down the right side, all along the bottom. And there are two or three download buttons to click on to download one piece of software,” he said. “Some of the common errors – we get in a hurry. We have to have that software, that file, that picture right away.  A lot of time, if we just step back, look over and review a few things, it may save you time in the long run.”

Sheckles says to watch out for executable files.

“These are multiple .bat files, which are batch files. A lot of those come through attachments and email. Those are a big no-no. You want to delete those right away. Nine times out of 10 are not legit,” Sheckles said.

If you receive an email from an unknown sender, delete it immediately. If you’re worried whether or not you can trust a file, don’t chance it. Watch for executable files, such as .exe .bat or .pif. Delete those.

“It’s always best to be patient because, in the long run, you are protecting your data and yourself from fraud,” Sheckles said.

You should regularly go through your apps and get rid of any that you no longer use. This will stop the apps from having access to your data, and it will clear up storage – a win-win situation.

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