Search Engines – use with care

Search engine - use with care

In previous articles we’ve mentioned that as well as watching out for computer viruses, you need to watch out for ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’- technically legal software used maliciously which may install a program without your permission, change your search engine, tracks what you are doing or many other things.

The people behind this malware are getting more clever in finding ways to get their software onto your computer and are even using search engines to help them – search engines that everyone uses every day.

Unfortunately we still find customers that have been misled when searching and have unwittingly gone to the wrong kind of website to download something from.

Check the actual website address

It may sound obvious, but when reading the search results, check the website address itself and not just the title or wording. You would be surprised how many people only look at the title or briefly read the paragraph under it and it is common that people have searched for something on a search engine, (such as printer software drivers for example) and some of the results are not genuine websites. The website addresses may be very similar, such as ‘hp-drivers.com’ instead of the correct ‘hp.com’ but they will not be the website that you want.

Some of these ‘almost’ websites are genuine, but many are not and when downloading from them, they can add unwanted programs (or worse) to what you download. As a lot of these unwanted programs are not illegal as such, they can sometimes be missed by antivirus software.

How do you avoid going to the wrong search result?

The important thing to remember is that you should not automatically assume that all the results of any search are genuine. You need to be careful what you click on, as well as what you download.

As well as being extra careful if you see the website address is not what you expect, many antivirus programs automatically check to see if a website has been reported as a potential danger and if so, will warn you. Sometimes the search engine itself may warn you too, but you cannot rely on being warned every time.

Antivirus programs may show a green icon alongside the website entry in the search list, telling you that the website is ok, which is useful – but that doesn’t mean that you must avoid any results which do not have the green icon. Many people are not aware that a website that does not have the green icon, may still be alright to visit – the fact that they do not have a green icon may just mean that they have not been added to the antivirus program ‘green’ list yet.

Stick to the original websites where possible.

If you are looking for software drivers for your computer, stick to the manufacturer website – this will ensure that you have the most up to date and malware-free download.

If you do not go to a manufacturer website to download something, try not to download drivers or programs from third party sites unless you have to and then only when they are well-known sites.

So called ‘Peer to Peer’ (file sharing) sites can be particularly problematic and again, you need to be choosy where you download from.

So long as you treat search engine results with as much caution as anything else on the web, you will be adding to your computer security. You don’t have to be paranoid – just be careful!

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