Secure IT Foundation

What to do if you download a dodgy file

Posted on: September 28, 2009

While it would be good security to never download files online, video, music, games, software etc, the Secure IT Foundation understands that is not practical. So you have told to look at a funny / naughty / offensive file by your friends. It can have been emailed directly to you / sent via Facebook /Myspace / sent a web link etc.  What should you do next? Does it matter who sent it or which web site it wants you to visit?

If you have a secure computer i.e. are using a non-administrative account, have a hardened operating system, up to date Anti Virus software, and secure settings on your applications, and are using Firefox, then you are in a better position than most to open the file with little risk of it causing harm to your computer or running a virus. Note that even the most secure computer can still be caught out as it may be a new virus not detected yet, the user can still enter the admin password to let it run or an application has a security bug and the file exploits this.

If you haven’t secured you or your computer then Anti Virus software will be your best defence against downloading malware. There is a website that offers a free file testing service for you at You can upload your dodgy file to them and it will be checked against most current Anti Virus software available for a comprehensive view if the file is suspicious. Once again this is not fool proof and will only identify known viruses, not new ones. The best advice is don’t download it but if you really have to do it then do check it first… and pray!

Does it matter who sent it or which web site it wants you to visit? No not really – unless your friends are security experts and have checked the file themselves first, then they can easily send on a malicious file without realising it. Look out for friends who suddenly have the same computer problem! Any website can be compromised so even the source matters little. It is more likely to be a virus if you are trying to do an illegal act like downloading copyright material on peer to peer or adult web sites, as the bad guys know you won’t go to the cops!



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