How to Make Sure that File is Safe to Download

The Internet is full of crap. Nowadays you cannot even trust a file from your friend in an email. The chances are someone hacked your friend's email account and sent you a malware. So, how you will trust unknown websites? You download a useful tool, and it turns out to be a nightmare. Don’t lose your hope. There are still some ways to ensure that the file you are about to download is safe. Here in this article, I am listing some steps that you can take to make sure that a file is safe to download.

The before downloading steps are to make sure you are not downloading malware and after downloading steps are to make sure you are not installing dangerous software.

Before Downloading...

Step 1 - Check what you are downloading

The first step is the most crucial. Knowing what you are downloading tells you how cautious you should be. If you are downloading cracked software from an unreliable website, then there are huge chances that you are downloading trouble for yourself. However, if you are downloading a Microsoft product from its official website, then there is no chance Microsoft will let you infect your PC with malware.

The same goes for downloading an attachment from an email. If you are downloading it from unknown sender from a possible spam email that has nothing to do with you then my friend you need the entire security tools in the world to make it stop.

Step 2 - Check from where you are downloading

The second step to ensure a file is safe to download is to check the website from you are downloading it. If you are downloading software, then make sure it is the official website. Most people look for a cracked version of a paid tool from a rogue site to avoid paying few dollars, but in the end, it cost them hundreds and thousands.

Make sure the official website address is correct in the URL field, and you typed it manually. Don’t just click on a pop-up or a link from spam email to visit the official website. There are chances that you visit a clone website and download malware instead of the actual product. Make sure there is a Security padlock (HTTPS) on the URL. It tells you that your connection to the website is secured and encrypted.

HTTPS Security Padlock - Make Sure File is Safe to Download

Step 3 - Check other user's comments and rating

Other users have downloaded the file before you. So, check the comments and ratings of the tool. If this tool is not genuine and it caused a problem for someone, then he is not going to sit quietly, he must have used all the foul words in the world to criticise the product.

iSkysoft User Review 1

Most websites offer ratings and feedback to the tool you download. If it is not there, then search on the Google. Someone somewhere had to relieve their frustration. If you are still confused, the next step will reveal all the evil.

Step 4 - Scan the URL on VirusTotal

VirusTotal as the name implies searches all the antivirus engines for a virus. There are lots of antivirus tools, and you cannot scan a file with all that. VirusTotal does that for you. You can upload the file to check its score, or you can copy paste the downloading URL on VirusTotal. It will reveal how much you can trust that URL or file. VirusTotal allows checking a file by uploading it, by URL, or by file hash, IP address, and domain.

Scan with VirusTotal to make sure File is Safe to Download

If it finds anything, it reports the detection in red like below image.

Malicious Program VirusTotal Scan

VirusTotal also has browser extensions. You can get it for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer. This extension does the whole job in just one click.

Install the VirusTotal Extension on your browser.

With the help of this extension, you can right click on a suspicious link and then click on Check with VirusTotal. It will open a new tab and scan the URL and display the report in a few seconds.

Scan with VirusTotal Extension

You can also click on the extension and then click on Scan current site to scan the website you are currently browsing. You can also search for a file by entering its hash, URL, user, tag on the search box.

VirusTotal Extension Scan

After Downloading...

VirusTotal only tells you what antivirus engines think about that file. If the malware is new, then there are chances that none of the antivirus engines has detected it yet. So it is better to stay cautious and follow some steps even after downloading the file.

Step 1 - Check the File Type and Size

After downloading a file don’t just blindly open it. See file in the windows explorer and confirm whether it is the correct format of the file or not. For example – If you are were downloading a photo then its type should be .jpg, .png, .gif there is no way the file extension could be .exe, .scr, .pif, .bat.

Also, you need to verify the size of the file you downloaded if you have downloaded a big program and the size of the installer is less then it is most probably a fake program. Ensure, you have downloaded it from a genuine source and confirmed the installer size from there.

To verify the file type and size open file in Windows Explorer.

Check File Type - How to make sure file is safe to download

Now right click on the file and click Properties.

How to make sure file is safe to download

It will show you the actual file type and size.

Check File Type and Size 3

Here I was trying to download a scenic wallpaper, but it is not a jpg file it is a .exe file, what a cheat they even name it .jpg in the end.

To avoid this kind of confusion and cheat you should enable File name extensions in Windows Explorer. It will show the correct extension of all files. To do this click on View menu then click on List view and check the box of File name Extensions.

Check File Type and Size 4

Step 2 - Scan with Antivirus

Now it is time to use the security suite you installed just after purchasing the PC. Right click on the file and choose Scan options with your installed security suite.

Scan with Antivirus 1 - Make Sure that File is safe to download

I am using MalwareFox antimalware with Windows Defender. MalwareFox antimalware not just checks for viruses but it also checks for other dozens of possible threats like Ransomware, Rootkits, Trojan, Keylogger, Spyware, Adware, and even zero-day malware.

Scan with Antivirus 2

Step 3 - Check the File Signature

The last step to make sure the file you downloaded is safe comes just before it starts executing. This step is applicable in case you have downloaded an application only. When you double click on the software to install it, windows checks the signature of the file and tells you it is safe or not. If you see Unverified publisher warning, then quit the installation right away. Click Ok if you trust the application with your life.

Unverified Publisher Warning UAC

By following the above steps, you can be sure that file is safe to download and view or install on your computer. May the force be with you.

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