This isn’t the 90s. And you should stop shopping for all of your software on CD. Aside from the fact that you won’t be able to do that, in any case, come the near future, it makes a lot of sense to just download the software that you want to use rather than just buy them from a shop.
First, it’s more convenient and second, it is cheaper and easier to maintain. But we’re not here to discuss the advantages of digital form of media over the conventional form of media. That’s a topic for another day.
What we are here to discuss is, assuming you download most of your software rather than buy then from an outlet, how to download and install software without getting your machine wrecked by some tampered software.
We want you to download and install software in a safe and secure manner without losing your work or your machine’s integrity.
I short, you need to realise the fact that you will have to download all software directory from the official website of the makers of that specific software in the very near future because there will be no other way to use those software.
That means two things.
One. You’re going to have to visit official websites of software companies in order to get what you want.
Two. You’re going to have to visit the official website of the developers behind those software applications.
One way or the other, your downloading adventures across the infinite web will become inevitable.
And with great opportunity, comes great crime. More the number of websites, more the number of scammers who want to rob people of their money.
There is a good chance that you will come across hundreds if not thousands of suspicious looking websites who want to wreck your computer machine with either a virus or a malware or even ransomware.
These hackers and cybercriminals also use other means to harm you such as stealing your personal, private and sensitive information in order to buy something from your credit card or simply withdraw all the money from your savings account.
Most of the time though, you will get this gut feeling that the very software application you’re trying to download is not legit and is in fact, a software that has been tampered with by hackers and other cybercriminals.
However, as mentioned earlier as well, there are ways and methods which you can utilize right now in order to download and install these software applications with security and much ease.
All it takes is a bit of common sense and some knowledge of how the internet works when it comes to distribution of software applications.
In order to get the best and the safest results possible, you’ll have to be vigilant all the time you’re connected to the internet and are searching for a particular piece of software application package.
With that said, let’s just go right ahead and outline the many helpful tips that will enable you to maneuver around nasty websites and less-than-reliable downloading sites.
The First Step Should Always Be Checking The Website Address From Your Browser
It isn’t that difficult if you really think about it.
There are tons of guides out there on the internet which show you how to differentiate between sites that are secured and websites that aren’t.
So, to save us all some time, we won’t list out the ways you can spot a sketchy website and a legitimate website. But we will summarize those same steps in order to make sure that your identity is secured and your data is safe from hackers and other cybercriminals.
First of all (and this step needs to be performed before you download that once-in-a-lifetime software from any given website), you should always check the website address before doing anything else with a given website.
By that, we mean that you need to look for the HTTPS sign somewhere on your browser’s interface. Since we all use different types of browsers, there is no one single way to point out the location where this information will be displayed.
But generally speaking, the HTTPS should be present at the beginning of any website’s address in the browser’s address bar.
If you’re using some of the more modern browsers such as Google Chrome or Firefox or Opera or even Microsoft Edge, which don’t always show the hypertext transfer protocol text in a convenient spot, you can search for a lock symbol.
This symbol is usually present right beside the website’s address in the browser’s address bar.
Websites that are secured have either,
- An HTTPS was written before their full website address
- Or have a lock symbol present just beside their full web address
In 2017 though, most browsers if not all, show both when a website is truly secure.
These signs basically indicate that the website you are visiting right now has been secured through modern techniques such as SSL/TLS encryption and have also gone through the headache of purchasing a certificate, as a proof, to verify the fact that it is safe to visit and download from them.
If you see a lock sign or HTTPS written before an address then that basically means that for all practical purposes, the given website will be very difficult for hackers to hack and then potentially destroy.
Moreover, if you happen to come across such as website, there is a very good chance that the software that you download from its pages will likely be original and not contain any form of malware, ransomware, spyware or virus.
Additionally, such sites also have built-in features which ensure that their pages are not hijacked by hackers and cyber criminals.
In short, if you come across a site that does have HTTPS or the lock sign before its web address then there are very few safety concerns if any regarding the legitimacy of the website.
What About Websites That Don’t Have These HTTPS Lock Signs or Address Prefixes?
Well, in short, you need to stay away from them as much as possible unless you have been to these sites before and trust their sources and their content.
With that said, do take note that websites that operate without SSL/TLS encryption and do not take the pains to go through and acquire the necessary certificates in order to prove that their website is secure and cannot be hacked easily, basically are just saying that their content cannot be trust and they do not value your security.
Moreover, these type of sites are also indicating that they don’t really care if everything on their site is good to go. In other words, no guarantee for any of the stuff that they might have uploaded to their website’s servers.
And it isn’t all that difficult to obtain these security certificates. All it takes is a bit of time and plenty of effort. But in the end, it is all worth it because it makes the visitor happy and in turn, they visit the site more which means increased revenues for the owner of the website.
So owners of all websites: get to work and get those encryption certificates.
A pertinent example, a well known one rather, is that of CNET’s Download.com. One would probably rest in the fact that this site belongs to a huge and trusted company and of course, has a nice sounding domain name and has been around for a while.
Surely it must be as secure as a website can get right?
As it turns out, Download.com which has long been the go-to source for most internet users to download new software applications is not such a secure site.
If you don’t believe us then do the following.
Simply go to download.com and notice that there is no lock sign and there is no HTTPS text before its web address either.
No joke, but Download.com is not a secure site.
With that said, it does not mean that the people behind Download.com are hackers or other type of cyber criminals.
Many websites around the world, sometimes, only secure their most important pages and that may not be all of them. It is certainly possible that the CNET staff decided that they should not show security certificates on Download.com because it’s not really needed on such as a known website.
Well, not really. We checked one of their pages which offered users to download some antivirus software and checked for possible encryption signs.
No encryption signs.
You might go and say what?
Yes, even a page as important and as regularly-visited as an antivirus program download page on CNET does not have any SSL/TLS secured certification.
What does that mean for the end user?
Does it mean you should not visit Download.com ever again?
No. At least not yet.
But it does Download.com no good when visitors see not HTTPS or lock sign beside its web address.
It doesn’t give out a positive feel to the website either.
This in no way takes away from the fact that CNET has been a constant source of authentic news for the past 20 years or so.
It is considered to be one of the top most authority websites when it comes to tech news and guides.
In other words, it is somewhat confusing as to why CNET would not hire someone to do the encryption for them and get those certifications.
And it doesn’t get any better since concerns about data protections have grown in the past couple of years all over the web.
However, CNET and Download.com are not alone.
There is a huge number of authentic websites that host software applications which do not have SSL/TLS certificate for one reason or another.
We’ll list some of those at the end of this series of articles so stay tuned.
For all we know, CNET might have invested heavily on obtaining highly secured servers that host their software application files.
But we can’t be sure.
The fact is that they have not put in the work to purchase and acquire those security certificates and it’s not good for the general impression of the site.
The least they can do is get their pages verified so that visitors can feel more secured at the very least.
The other concerning fact about Download.com is that there is very little information on the kind of security measures they have employed in order to protect their website and its pages.
In our experience, a website has to reveal more information about the security measures for the visitors to read.
Now, we’re sure you’re starting to wonder if you should ever go back to Download.com.
Wait just a minute then.
While there is already a question mark on whether Download.com is secure or not, there are some other problems with the website too.
Let’s say, Download.com has employed some practices on its website which are not considered to be “good” across the cyber security industry.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
First, let’s take another example, that of Free Software Directory which is a lot less known source of software applications than Download.com
When you go to this site, have a look at the address bar of your browser.
Basically, it has a lock sign and it is green, which means the site is secured.
Okay, now you may be thinking, so what if a site doesn’t have an SSL certificate?
Especially considering that SSL certificates aren’t exactly free if you want to purchase one.
If we’re talking about specifics then the lowest level SSL certificate can cost anywhere from a hundred dollar to several hundred dollars every year.
And remember, that’s the lowest, sometimes called just “Secure site” certificate.
If you want better ones, then they will cost even more.
But let’s analyze the situation further to gain a better understanding.
If a website like Free Software Directory, which is a not-for-profit website, can go through the pain of acquiring the certificate (and pay for it too) then why can’t Download.com or you?
If a website that doesn’t sell anything can put in the work to make sure it can verify the website’s security for the benefit of its visitors then why can’t a giant like Download.com?
Something doesn’t add up.
Download.com is a for-profit site and quite a successful one at that.
In fact, there are many other software application file-hosting websites that can definitely afford to get that certification but don’t.
Whatever is the cause, it doesn’t bode well for a website’s reputation if there is no HTTPS or lock sign beside its address.
There are many other techniques you can use to download and install software safely on your computer machine.
We’ll discuss some more advanced techniques in the next part of this series of guides on how to download and install software safely forever.