Threats & Vulnerabilities > Downloading & Piracy

Threats & Vulnerabilities Downloading & Piracy Threats & Vulnerabilities

Downloading is the term used to describe receiving files that come from a different device or network, usually over an internet connection. These days, downloading new files, apps, programs, documents, music, movies, and more is relatively common. As more and more resources become available online, the number of files we download every year greatly increases. There are many benefits to downloading, including always having access to files and being able to retrieve things while you are on the go, but you should always keep in mind that downloading comes with risks.

Keep yourself and your devices safe by considering the following downloading tips:
  • Remember that your cell phone is a computer and that it can get viruses and other malware. Just like your computer, you can also download antivirus to help protect your phone.
  • Only download from reputable sites and sources. Official app stores, game stores, academic sites, and government websites are all good places to download.
  • Sometimes bad actors may sneak a malicious app onto a reputable app store or site. Beware of tactics that may make you want to download an app (like offers for free stuff, etc.). If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be careful using file sharing and P2P (peer-to-peer) sites. It can be difficult to know if you are downloading malware instead of the file you intended to.
  • Have antivirus software and use it to scan any files that you download. Remember to update your antivirus software regularly.
  • Keep your operating software updated. Patching vulnerabilities will keep your devices secure.
  • Not sure if a program or app is legitimate? Search for information on the app through a search engine or read reviews on the app store. If there is a major issue, someone is likely talking about it somewhere online.
Even if a file is legitimate and not meant to be malware, it can come with other software or features that you may want to avoid. When downloading apps, programs, services, or even just for signing up for a newsletter, read the features and permissions carefully. Some apps may request the ability to track activity or use other features that make you feel uncomfortable. Some companies may also sell your information, which might mean that you receive more spam emails that could be a security risk. Even if an app or service is legitimate, the conditions attached to using it may outweigh the benefits.

Digital piracy refers to illegally downloading apps, media, programs, or other files for free that you would normally have to pay for. In recent years, heavy fines (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) have been levied against individuals found to be downloading copyrighted files from the internet. Having a business that uses pirated software can cost you even more. Enterprise software can be expensive, but the fines associated with operating software that you don’t have a license for can put a serious dent in your books. Additionally, there is the possibility of prison time associated with these crimes.

Besides being illegal, pirating comes with other significant risks and downsides. Many of the sites and applications that host pirated content are rife with malware and spyware. Oftentimes, bad actors will upload content labeled to look like valuable pirated content (like a movie or a song) but it will actually be malware that steals your information. The risk of using these sites and applications is high and may end up costing you more than the file you were trying to pirate.

Pirating files and software is also less convenient than buying a license. Pirated files often don’t come with user manuals and may require other types of software in order to make it run properly, if it runs at all. Additionally, pirated software isn’t eligible for support or security patching from the vendor, which can mean that your device or network is now at risk for exploitation from other threats. Any damage done to your device as a result of pirated software is your responsibility to fix as there is no warranty on stolen products.

Pirating might seem like a convenient idea at first, but between jail time and fines, malware, and potential damage to your devices, you’re better off just getting a legitimate copy of the software you want. It’ll be a lot less costly in the long run.