Cybersecuritydownloading free software

Many people use the internet to search for free software to complete tasks such as document editing, changing screen savers, downloading fonts, and scanning for viruses. Yet, freeware is not a bargain when your employees are dealing with system crashes, bandwidth slowing, data breaches, malware attacks, and so forth. These free software installs can cost companies thousands of dollars in decreased employee productivity, lost data, identity theft clean-up, and lawsuits. Plus, efforts to get rid of unwanted settings usually fail without the help of an IT expert.

What should you watch out for when downloading free software?:

  • Fake download buttons: Most freeware sites, such as CNET Downloads and SourceForge, use display advertising to generate profits. Some of these ads have download buttons that look like part of the site but will take you to another site instead. When you hover your mouse over these ads, they will include “” Some ads may also include an AdChoices small triangular shape in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Options for partner software installations: Many free software sites will need you to use their installer to activate their program. Some sites will force or trick you into installing other software by already check-marking the option. They rely on people clicking the next button on the installation dialog box to do this.

What can happen if you downloaded malicious freeware?:

  • Browser hijacking: The software will change the computer settings and install a random-looking search engine, such as Conduit Search, MyStart.IncrediBar Search, and
  • Suspicious pop-up advertisements: You or your employee will notice a dramatic increase in pop-up ads, particularly for dating and porn sites. These pop-ups interfere with viewing internet content and can steal your personal information.
  • Extra toolbars: A strange toolbar will suddenly appear on your browser and cover parts of the website’s page that you want to see. When you or your employees try to remove the rogue toolbar, it keeps coming back.
  • Redirects to undesirable websites: When searching on a browser and clicking on a link, you will redirect to an unwanted website each time.

How can you protect your workspace from malicious freeware?:

  • Use comprehensive endpoint protection: Symantec Endpoint Protection will not only remove viruses and malware, but it will also help your employees identify unsafe websites. Your IT department should run scans on your employee workstations regularly.
  • Use adblocking software: AdBlocker Plus will block banner, pop-up, and video ads from intruding on your internet browsing activities.
  • Create a restore point on your computer: Windows System Restore will allow you to roll back your computer to a time before problems occurred. While the function will remove the program and system files installed after this point, it will not affect your documents and photos.
  • Research software before downloading: If you found free software on a site, such as CNET Downloads, which meets your requirements, look up review sites and message boards to see if it does what it claims. If others are bashing the software as containing malware, avoid it.
  • Run data backups regularly: We recommend doing backups of your business workstations onsite and offsite. Veeam Backup & Replication can archive your information to an onsite device and offsite to a cloud storage provider, such as Windows or Amazon. That way, if malware does take over your computer, your critical business data will still be intact.
  • Only download from trusted sites: Ideally, you will want to download your free software straight from the vendor, such as Microsoft and Adobe. If the website looks like amateurs created it in their basement, steer clear. Do the same if you are in the US and the website is redirecting to a .ru or .pl site. Even more so for torrent and peer-to-peer sites, such as BitTorrent and FileHippo.
  • Look before clicking: Do not be in a big rush to get through the installation. When installing software, view which options have a checkmark before pushing the next button. Also, remove checkmarks for any extra partner toolbars and software.
  • Consider well-known cloud-based applications instead: Many productivity applications, such as Microsoft 365, Evernote, Dropbox, and Freshbooks, allows you to enter your information into your browser-based account. Our blogs, Cloud Applications for Businesses and Mobile Applications for Business Usage, can give you some ideas. Even a small monthly payment for a well-known program is a better value for your business than taking your chances with a free application.

SwiftTech Solutions, a managed it services provider, can analyze your business’s IT systems, help you choose productivity software, and set up a network security plan. If any programs infected your business workstations, SwiftTech can help your business remove malware and retrieve your business data. You can call 877-794-3811 or email for a free consultation.

Pirillo, C. Is it really safe to download software? (2009, April 22). Retrieved from:
Wasserman, E. Why Free Software Downloads Aren’t Always Safe. Retrieved from:
Defending The Net. I downloaded a free screensaver, now my computer is acting up! Why did this happen? Retrieved from:
IDC. The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software. (2013). Retrieved from:
Pytlovany, B. The Dangers of Downloading Free Software. (2012, October 21). Retrieved from:
NetSafe. Download dangers: what is safe to download online? Retrieved from:
Whitley, C. Risks to Watch For When Downloading & Installing Free Software. (2011, December 2). Retrieved from: