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I Canceled a Suspicious Download. Am I Safe?

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I wanted to download Firefox and a search on Bing came up with this site at the top (it’s a download site; I’m not going to mention the URL), not Mozilla. I didn’t notice that it wasn’t the official site until I clicked Install on their site. Before I was able to install Firefox, I was taken through several steps trying to get me to agree to downloading various third-party software packages bundled in with Firefox (including Norton Anti Virus). At this point I realized that it wasn’t Mozilla and canceled the download. I don’t think that I actually ever downloaded anything. When I check in IE downloads, it doesn’t show anything and I never gave permission for any programs to run on my Windows 7 OS. Is there any way that my operating system may have been infected with any Trojans or spyware or do you think this might have been a close escape?

My gut reaction is that you probably just had a close call. You did all the right things – as soon as you noticed that something wasn’t what you expected it to be, you canceled the suspicious download.

But, there’s no way to be completely certain that something didn’t get downloaded. But clearly the site that you went to is doing more than you’re asking them to do.

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Always download from the official site

There are several issues with not downloading from the offical site:

  • Unofficial sites don’t always offer the most recent version of whatever it is you’re looking for.
  • Unofficial sites often try to give you additional software as part of the download. They’ll include things like toolbars, search engine changes and more. None of these are needed and often come as quite the annoying surprise.
  • Malicious unofficial sites may very well include malware as part of your download.
  • Malicious unofficial sites may also be constructed so that just visiting the site may compromise your machine with malware.

There are trusted and valid download sites out there, but I see no reason to use them, other than as reference for things like user ratings, comments and comparisons with alternative tools. Once you find a tool you want to download get it from the official site for that tool, or the download site that the official site directs you to.

Assume you are infected

Now, I don’t think your machine got infected, but if there’s any question it’s best to assume that something happened.

Start by having your anti-virus and anti-malware software scan your machine. Make sure those tools have current subscriptions and are using up-to-date databases of malware information.

I also recommend grabbing a copy of Malwarebytes.org’s free tool and running a scan with that simply because it has a tendency to catch some things that many of the other tools do not.

Something's UpWatch your step

Ultimately, you need to watch what you’re doing. When you need to download freeware or shareware, make sure that you’re downloading from official sites. For example Firefox should always come from Mozilla.

Now, it can get confusing when an official site refers you to third-party download site. In those cases it’s OK, because it’s an endorsement from the official site. It’s the unofficial sites that you encounter via searches that cause the most concern concern. Most of them are okay, but some of them aren’t and telling them apart can be very difficult.

If you make a mistake, scan your machine. Again, in your case I think you’re fine and didn’t download anything malicious, but keep an eye out for any odd behavior from your machine.

9 comments on “I Canceled a Suspicious Download. Am I Safe?”

  1. There’s another thing to watch out for in search engine results. The first few results are not always pure search engine results but rather paid ads. The are marked as ads but you have to read the fine print. In Bing and Google they normally have a pale pink background It’s possible that the color may vary do to the theme. It’s good to be aware of this and go to the results provided by the search engine and not the ads.

  2. My guess is the site she didn’t want to mention was cnet. I still download from them on occasion, but I never do the standard install. I do the custom so I can uncheck any or all the ancillary software they want to install with the actual software I wanted.

  3. hi leo ty for your helpful comments there very good now for my question I have yahoo mail with mesenger I can open yahoo messanger but wen I try to open yahoo mail it show that page canot shown error 500 I am running windows 7 64 bits one teri bits if you can help leo that would great ty leo tc

    • Try clearing your browser cache. And then be very careful about the page you are going to. You may have a wrong URL bookmarked in your computer.

  4. To Leo et al.:

    Leo, you recommend never using download sites.

    BUT, what do you do when you’re not looking for a particular program, but for a particular kind of program?

    Exempli gratia, you’re not looking for “Firefox,” but for a “web browser” (something other than your default)? Or a “text editor,” or a “list randomizer,” etc., etc., etc.?

    I suppose you could use Google and pick out entry results for companies only… but why should you have to? Surely a (reputable!) file download site would be easier? After all, they are specialized for exactly and precisely this type of search. A good and reputable file download site will actually make it much easier to follow your recommendations, by (among other things) including in their program descriptions a link to the original company’s website! They also typically provide user ratings, reviews, and CPU/OS compatibility information.

    So, even though you strongly discourage their use — or, limiting their use to “information gathering” only — nevertheless, a list of file download sites which you consider reputable and helpful would be much appreciated!

    • I use techsupportalert.com to find freeware. I find them excellent and they link you to the developers’ websites to download the programs. The problem is many supposedly reputable websites such as CNET include unwanted programs bundled up with their downloads.

    • I don’t have such a list. I might use, for example, comparison sites to determine what browser I want, but I would only download Firefox from the official Firefox site, Chrome from the official Chrome site and so on.

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