Everywhere you go on the internet, there are pseudo buttons for fake downloads. These fake downloads can actually be advertisements to legitimate software downloads, the only difference is they are bundled with toolbar add-ons, ad-ware, spyware and other junk that will make your internet computing time very frustrating, to say the least!
Learning how to avoid the pitfalls of loading these programs on to your computer is a valuable skill. The people doing this have got so sneaky about how they are promoting these that it is difficult for even the experienced geek to catch them! Many of us fall for these tricks or they wouldn’t be so widely used.
Ever heard of the bait and switch ploy? It has been in use for hundreds of years. Think of the street vendor with the ball under the cups, rolling them all around, trying to mix you up so you can’t find the ball (if it is even under one of the cups!). This is the same thing they are doing on many websites. Have you ever wanted to download a piece of clip art, a picture, a sound file or video, and when you get to the download page there are dozens of links? You are not really sure which one is really the link to get your file. This is the new bait and switch game. They hope you click on the wrong one.
Here is a prime example of the download ploy:
Not one of the circled download buttons on this page will download the file you are looking for. Instead the link is in the text under add to favorites! Before you click on a button like one of these, hover your mouse/pointer over it. Look in the lower left of your browser window, read the link. If it says something like this: http://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclksa=L&ai=CL9RDXn2VKyiGMGNhAT49YKoC4_pjCndUVt7TZnajM5YSXzbJn29K_1vKBfbUPMWPDNQx6NVnlbZCEoIawp9ZxMxI8DW3e-9xZ23apwfDc
you will not want to click on it. Read the last few letters of the link. If the last digits say /myvideo.mp4, or http://freevectors/greatpicture/donya.jpg when you hover over it you know you have found your link. Most of the bad links are encoded and unbelievably long!
Even legitimate software can carry malicious or annoying software. Look at this image for installing flash. See the check mark box that asks you to install McAfee Virus Protector?
If you are a student or a faculty/staff member here at USC, you already have virus protection software installed or the network would not allow you on. If you have more than one virus program on your computer, it can lock your machine down or cause serious issues. A tip for avoiding this, is READ EVERY SCREEN when installing. Don’t assume it is a routine installation or better yet do a manual installation to control what is installed. Another recommendation that I have is to download software directly from the company web page. In Google if you do a search for software, and it comes up with a little gold box before it that says “AD” you can be certain that it has third party software bundled with it.
Many of you use Peer-to-Peer or file-sharing software, often called something like BitTorrent, on your computer. These are programs that allow users to share files with each other, such as games, software, music or videos.
Cyber-criminals are opportunistic, they will use any means possible to accomplish their goals. Using your data or machine power for the expansion of their malware files through BitTorrent and similar programs is a way for these cyber-criminals to reach a lot of potential victims quickly. It is possible for your computer to become infected by downloading manipulated files through the Peer-to-Peer network venue. My recommendation is don’t use them. If you really feel you must use them why not keep a school computer that is clean, and use an older computer to download and use your shared files. Your school files are important and the information you have on there is vital. Think of it as a best practice when you become a lawyer with sensitive client information on your computer. You want to protect that information at all costs and BitTorrent, peer-to-peer file sharing is a major threat to that security.
Sharing these files and proprietary software is also a copyright infringement in many countries around the world, including in the U.S., and you are putting yourself and your firm at risk of being indicted by groups that monitor the rights of the creators of these files such as RIAA for the music industry and MPAA for the movie industry. The authors themselves are monitoring the use of these sites. Is it worth your career, your information, and your client information to share, and receive these files? Again my recommendation is to quit using these avenues.
If you have been one of the unlucky students, staff members or faculty that has had to deal with an infected computer, you know how frustrating it can be. The lost time due to computer issues, changing passwords, getting the computer cleaned up and slow performance are all things that can be avoided if you follow the steps outlined in this article.
If you need help cleaning up your computer, the School of Law IT Department is always willing to spend the time to help you get your computer running at optimal performance. Come see us on the second floor of the law library if you need help with any of these areas.