September 18, 2019

How to Tell if You're Using a Safe Download Source

Posted by Rhiannon

We download a lot. Music, movies, TV shows, books, apps, photos, and more. When the file is coming from a reputable location, you have easily accessible content saved to your devices. But, when it comes from an unsafe source, you open yourself up to all sorts of dangers, such as viruses, ransomware, and data hacks. The problem is, sometimes it can be hard to know if your download is safe or not. So, how do you know if you’re using a safe download source? There are a few ways:

  • Look for ads and pop-ups
  • Take a look at the URL
  • See if your browser trusts the site
  • Google it
  • Suspect incredible discounts
  • Be wary of requests for personal information
  • Don’t disable your firewall
  • Only use trusted sources

Look For Ads and Pop-Ups

While excessive ads alone aren’t a guarantee that a website is offering malicious content, it should be a warning sign. These ads mean that the site is prioritizing making money over providing a service, and they might not vet the sources of that money all too carefully. Any download button could be a spoof designed to load your device full of malware, putting your safety at risk.

Take a Look at the URL to Know if You Have a Safe Download Source

The URL of Hotbot’s blog is hotbot.com/blog, usually followed by the title of a specific article. It tells you the name of our company as well as which of our pages you’re visiting. However, a malicious website might have a web address that looks somewhat suspicious. Some things to look out for include the .com (or .org, .ca, etc.) being in the wrong place, the domain name seeming to be weirdly long, and a lot of punctuation between words to break up the name of the site. Not all of these things guarantee that a website is suspicious, but it can be a useful sign to watch out for when deciding if you have a safe download source or not.

See If Your Browser Trusts the Site

Many web browsers have safety features built in. One of those features can warn you if a website is unsafe. If your browser doesn’t let you into a site and gives you a warning along the lines of “the site you are trying to visit may be unsafe. Proceed anyways?” it’s generally best not to proceed unless you know for certain that the site is safe.

Google It

Unsafe downloads and scams happen all the time, if not to you than to someone else. If you’re unsure whether or not you have a safe download source, you can google it. Someone else may have shared a warning to stay away.

Suspect Incredible Discounts

If you find content from an unofficial source for an incredible discount, you need to suspect its safety. The website may be trying to entice you to download the content by making you think you’re getting an out-of-this-world deal, when in reality you’re about to give spam access to your device.

Be Wary of Requests for Personal Information

When you acquire online content, most of the time you can just press a button and away you go. But if, after pressing that button, you’re prompted to reveal personal information like your name, date of birth, address, and more, the website might be a phishing attempt designed to scam you out of personal details that they can use later.

Don’t Disable Your Firewall

If a download notifies you that it requires your firewall to be disabled to actually finish downloading, abort mission and definitely do not disable your firewall. The firewall is one of your best lines of defense against malicious content and by deactivating it, you put your device at considerable risk.

Only Use Trusted Sources

Finally, the best way to know if you have a safe download source is to use an official one. Use Google’s Play Store, Apple’s App Store, the flagship websites for big companies, and the like. By avoiding illegitimate download sources, you also avoid unsafe content that can put your online safety and privacy at risk.


To protect yourself further, browse the web privately and safely with HotBot VPN.

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Posted by Rhiannon

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