I would imagine that one of the most common uses of the Internet is to download files. 

The problem is, each time you download a file you could be putting your computer at risk – whether you open an email attachment from a friend or co-worker, download a cool screensaver, music or video files.

So what can you do to protect your computer and your company’s network?

Download With Caution – Common Sense Goes a Long Way

  1. Only Download From Reputable Sites – Be cautious when downloading from unknown sources and sites containing objectionable material or too-good-to-be-true offers.  Look at the URL bar on the top of the browser window and verify the address displayed coincides with the page you are on.
  2. Beware of Fraudulent Email Messages – Don’t click links or open attachments unless you are confident of the source.  If you encounter pop-up messages or warnings, click the X (close box) instead of OK or Cancel.
  3. Save Files Before Opening – Before you download a file from the Internet, save the file to your had drive.  Then, when you open it, your antivirus software may check the file and warn you if it detects a harmful virus.
  4. Check the File Type – Verify the file type is what is should be for the file you are trying to download.  for example, if you are downloading music or images it should not be an exe file.
  5. Read the Comments – Check for comments posted on the website before you begin your download.  Other users may have previously completed the download and encountered a virus.

Strengthen Your Computer’s Defenses

  1. Firewalls – This includes hardware or software that checks information coming from the Internet and turns it away or lets it pass.  Firewalls are built into Windows XP Service Pack 2 and all later versions of the Windows operating system.
  2. Scan – Every time you download something, run a scan on the file.  It only takes a few minutes and if viruses are detected, they will be quarantined and/or detected.  Also, some virus scanning software remains in active memory and will automatically scan any files being downloaded.
  3. Software Updates – Regular updates for Windows and virus scanning programs help protect your computer against new viruses and other security threats.  These programs are updated to deal with new threats long before news of them reaches the general public.
  4. SPAM Blocking and Anti-Phishing Program – Make sure you buy good spam blocking and anti-phishing programs.  They will save you from many malware (software that is intended to disable computers) infested websites and will block embedded programs from ever getting onto your computer.
  5. Increase the Security Protection Built Into Your Web Browser – These programs can stop many threats associated with downloading files before they ever reach your computer.  Nasty tricks may be hidden within web pages and the web browser’s security programs can block may of these.  Be sure you are using the latest version of your web browser.

Remember, viruses are a risk you take when downloading a program, file or anything else from the Internet.  It is important to take basic steps such as those listed above to help protect your computer.  Remember, no single method will protect you from unsafe downloads as new ways to deceived users are constantly being developed.

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