It is widely known that most things in life aren’t free, or if they are, they come at a price. However, many users seem to forget this when offered a free download online. Free downloads often have viruses and malware attached to them. These programs, called Tag Along Programs or “Crapware” cause many problems on personal computers and can stop one from working at all.
How Does It Work?
Malware and viruses are often bundled with other programs that are offered as free downloads. When you install a program, they will pop up as additional install steps or “free” offers within the installation. Often the Tag Along Programs are fake PC “Health” scanners, apps which redirect your browser to a new homepage, and those which create extra ads/pop ups.
Even though nearly all of the free downloads available online are infected, many people still believe that some sites are safe. A lot of free download sites offer “guarantees” that their software is malware and virus free, citing Terms of Agreement on the website which do not allow malicious content. However, it is almost never true.
What Can You Do?
It is nearly impossible for antiviruses to catch every piece of crapware which is trying to install on your computer by bundling with other software. It is even harder for a regular end user to discriminate between the Tag Along programs and the actual software they are trying to install. In order to prevent your computer from becoming clogged with malicious software, avoid any free download regardless of a site’s claim to be malware free. If you need to download a program, say for a course, make sure to scan the files with a strong antivirus program, like Symantec.
Actually read the Terms and Conditions before installing anything on your computer. Although it is nearly second nature to just click ‘Accept’ on an install, don’t do it. You may be agreeing to allow monitoring of your actions on your computer and, even worse, allowing control of your computer and files to be taken out of your hands.
For more information on tag along programs, check out this other blog post here: groups.etown.edu/its/2013/11/12/tag-along-programs/ or read an exposé on the Top 10 Downloads from download.com.