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Sunday, August 3, 2014

TechnoGranny Show, 7/22/13 Twenty Things You Should Know Before Downloading Free Software.

TechnoGranny Show,  7/22/13 Twenty Things You Should Know Before Downloading Free Software.

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Is downloading free software safe? You get a pop up on your computer that says, "Safe Software to Store Your Passwords, " No, you idiot, it's probably not. Beware before you click, you may just be inviting a wolf into your home, computer, records. ..........Answers to questions like What is freeware?........Where can I find freeware?.........Suggestions for safe places and curated lists to find and review software that can be helpful and tips for safe downloading.

How easy is it to fall victim to a scam on the internet?  The correct response is, too easy.   Most of us are probably aware of the hazards which could accompany opening a suspicious email.  Now we need to be mindful of downloading software that could potentially damage our computer, sabotage personal files or rob us of our identity.  This segment's subject delves into the lure of free software, or freeware, as it is often called.  

What is freeware and how can you avoid putting your computer into harm’s way? 
Techno Granny will guide you through the topic of free software and unveil the truth behind downloading programs that are often promoted to help when in reality they perform the exact opposite.  Hopefully, with the research and advice of Techno Granny, we all will be more thoughtful before falling prey to the lure of ‘free’ software.

Is Downloading Free Software Safe?
In her article, Is downloading free software safe,
published on How Stuff Works, Kate Kershner simplifies the matter of using free software; if it comes from a
reputable source, such as Microsoft, and your are searching for the programs on their direct site it is probably safe. Downloading a pop-up or an advertisement from a little known company with an unfamiliar program may not be a wise choice. No matter how alluring the ‘free’ portion of the deal may sound, Kershner advises doing an internet search of the company offering the system before downloading or installing any software.  You can read the full article here

Why Free Software Downloads Aren’t Always Safe.
Norton is a company whose name is synonymous with privacy, anti- theft and antivirus.   They span a significant corner of the internet security market for PC’s, MACs and mobile devices. The official Norton site, offers consumers insight into managing the market of freeware.  On the Your Security Resource page, general questions about freeware are answered by expert Elizabeth Wasserman.  The first question:  
What is freeware?  

The answer, “freeware is software that you install on your computer knowingly or not”.  One popular example of freeware is games and may also be referred to by the phrase widget.   Freeware can come from
a cd or directly from a website download.    It’s important to note, not all freeware is dangerous to your computer.  It depends on the source of the program.
The second question: Where can I find freeware? 
Wasserman’s answer encompasses safe downloads as well as those we should be guarded against. Well-known companies, shareware makers and widgets alike all offer freeware, therefore weeding out trustworthy and verifiable sources may seem like a daunting task.  Rest assured, there are some simple tactics which can be applied to your investigation before downloading iffy applications.  Most notably, well- known companies will often require consumers agree to a licensing agreement upon installation. Corporations such as Microsoft and Adobe Acrobat are household names in this arena.  In addition, searching for a company through the Association of Software Professionals is another good source for gauging the legitimacy of a company.
The third question what are the risks of freeware? 
The response is severe.  Some free software can have spyware or malicious adware attached to the code.  If this is the case, viruses, worms and other detrimental file management systems can become inserted into your computer wreaking havoc on your files, and putting you at risk of identity theft. 
The last and most important question, how can I protect myself from risky freeware? 
The answer outlines 4 essential steps anyone can easily take to ensure their computers protection. 
1.     Step one, do your homework.  In other words, before downloading take a few extra minutes to do a Google search of the program.  Alternatively, visit a software site like CNET or ZDNET to read freeware reviews. 
2.     Step two; look for a seal of approval.  A TRUSTe logo signals a secure site. 
3.     Step three, always keep security programs up to date.  This may seems like a no brainer but complementary to running an antivirus program is the recommendation to patch any holes in current software. Malicious software may make use of outdated programs, so keeping abreast to any updates and new versions as they are released is helpful. 

4.     Step four, be wary of social network freeware.  Many social media sites offer applications, free from cost, downloadable directly from the site onto a computer or other device.  Despite the popularity of these widgets, they cannot always be verified.  Furthermore, social networks are quick to renounce any responsibility related to the security and safety of these applications.  Knowing this alone should be a red flag. 

It can’t be said enough, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Some software companies test their software for bugs while others are simply trying to trick you into allowing them to place a virus or spyware on your device.  Read the complete Norton article  Here

For your protection and the defense of your computer and your files stored on it, please take advantage of ZDNet, the web’s largest library of software downloads.  This site has complied lists of software for Windows, Mac, and mobile systems.  Searches can be conducted by price, category or most popular downloads.  ZDNet offers a basic description of the program such as Avast Free Antivirus 2014, AVG Antivirus Free 2014, Java Runtime Environment  and also provides a link viewers can use to access the program right from their site.  ZDNet is a strong safety net for consumers.  View their home page here is another reliable site which offers freeware resources such as software and app reviews, news, how to’s and downloads for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.  Covering a vast array of electronic and computerized devices any person would find helpful, including but not limited to appliances, car tech and cameras in addition to the expected laptops, mobile devices and PC’s.  This site is an invaluable resource for today’s consumer. You can access their site here  Windows users may find helpful.  Filehippo contains a directory of downloads including freeware, shareware and software.  Aside from software downloads from trusted sites, Filehippo offers their own software called FileHippo Update Checker. This is a cost- free program that scans your computer then generates a report listing any out of date software.  The report suggests the installation of the most current versions, including links to the appropriate sites. Commonly available on Filehippo are browser and plugin software, anti- malware, audio and video, file sharing, firewall and security, messaging and chat and system tuning programs. Connect with the valuable resources available through Filehippo here

If you are feeling concerned about how to safely navigate the freeware circuit, Chris Hoffman offers some good advice in his article, How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software.  In a nutshell, research first, download later.  The type of device you have will also dictate where you seek out security information needed for reassurance purposes.  Hoffman offers 7 tips for guiding Windows users toward a safe download experience. 
·       Find a curated list of the best free software available for download.  Hoffman directs consumers to his site,  Here individuals can take advantage of research that has already been gathered. 

Make sure you trust the developer.  A company like Microsoft or Google is well known and safe but if the company is lesser known, it would be best to visit a site like and research the program and company before putting your computer at risk for a potentially harmful download.
·       Only download from a trusted site.  Many third- party sites like Cnet give consumers an opportunity to download directly from their page.  These sites are typically safer to use because they are monitored for security flaws. Try to steer clear from downloading from someone’s personal site because there are no telltale signs they are safe. 
·       Read reviews.  To increase your chances of finding an unbiased review begin with a Google search using the program name.  Social networks are another good source for reviews. 
·       Use an antivirus.  It doesn’t matter how careful you are, an antivirus will offer your computer another layer of protection. Many of the antivirus programs available can be downloaded for free.  This is a prime example of freeware.  There are many well-known corporations that offer free, or free on trial basis, antivirus software.   Just be sure the name is one you can trust or that you have researched the company before downloading or installing software.

·       Install an app in a sandbox.  This is typically something more experienced tech users are accustomed to.  The process would require Sandboxie to run a questionable program in a sandbox.  This would allow the program to be tried in an isolated area of your computer where it cannot do damage to the rest of your system. A knowledgeable computer user may also be acquainted with virtual machines which would allow you to test the program in the same manner. 
·       Pay attention during the installation process.  Despite the legitimacy of many freeware programs, even the trusted sites will include software you do not want, such as adware or default search engine changes.  Java and Adobe are notorious for this, so it is critical that you pay attention during the install so you can decline any unwanted additions to the software as they occur. 

You can read the complete article here 

What are some of the ways you research freeware?  What do you look for to ensure it won’t mess up your
computer?  We are always looking for comments and tips to share.
Imperatives for safe download.
1.     Use common sense.  Be suspicious of flashy ad or popup windows that contain unsolicited invitations to download, or that stress an urgent need for you to download immediately.
2.     Never download a file unless you know and trust the source. 
3.     Do not download a file from BitTorrent or any other file sharing program; ever.
4.     Google the product you are considering downloading.
5.     Always read the program description before installing.  This will allow you to verify its’ compatibility with your computer. 
6.     Always backup your files before you install any new software.
7.     Although scanning programs for viruses, worms, malware and the like is never a guarantee, it can’t hurt.  Any extra steps applied to ensure the safety of your files and hardware is a good idea.

Safe places to download software from.
Further Research has led us to uncover Site Advisor, a service browser plug- in from one of the most trusted names in online security, McAfee.  This free software adds safety ratings to web sites and offers a secure search box.  In addition, I have prepared an inventory of major download sources which have received the
Techno Granny ‘seal of approval’.  Often their ratings are provided by the supplier so comparing a few different sites is advised.  The list includes Tucows,, WebAttack, NoNags, Pricelessware, WinPlanet, ZDNetDownloads and CNET.  Also I will offer a plug for our very own community based Gizmo.  Gizmo selects the best of the best freeware options and displays them for your use.  I have taken the liberty of generating some special search engines available.  Please take advantage of the work I have done to find the specific type of programs you are seeking.
Microsoft’s Free Download Center provides links to over 5,000 programs, including games.  Furthermore, The Ultimate List of Windows Software from Microsoft may make finding what you are looking for a little simpler.

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Techno Granny Show Hosted By:
Joanne Quinn-Smith is the Creative Energy Officer of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and an expert on Web 2.0 Branding, 2009 National SBA Small Business Journalist of the Year, Author "Folly of Marketing Plan in Your Head, 101 Compelling Reasons to Write One." Available at:

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