Updates to computer software are an unfortunate fact of life. Windows updates, Adobe updates, iTunes updates… It never ends, and therein lies a problem. You might get so used to the endless stream of updates that when you visit a new website and the first thing you see is a message saying, “You need to update your media player” (or similar wording), you might just blindly click on that link (because of course you want to see what that site has to offer!). Then you find out, too late, that the site is fake, the update is fake, and you are now infected with some nastyware you can’t easily get rid of.
The only way to avoid most of these problems is to always be on guard when on the web. You look both ways before crossing the street, right? But it seems some people use the web like a motorist driving maniacally and then relying on his airbags and crumple zones to protect him. It’s easy to see the folly in that.
Just as people learn to identify counterfeit money by understanding real money, get familiar with what real updates look like. They will be very specific, telling you exactly what they are updating. They will not have any grammatical or spelling errors. And they will probably not pop up at the exact time you visit a particular web page. This last is very important. A poisoned web page might give you a pop-up as soon as you visit it, so any pop-ups that coincide with your arrival on a web page – especially one you’re not a regular on – should be suspect.
Any updates you might need can also be had by going direct to the maker’s website. Adobe.com makes both Flash and Adobe Reader (the program you most likely use to read PDF documents). Ninite.com is a safe place to download Reader, Java, and many other programs and their updates, however, you can’t get Flash from there. To get Flash safely, go to Adobe’s download site here. (Uncheck the box offering McAfee Security Scan – You don’t need it.)
If there is any doubt, always go direct to the maker’s website or to ninite.com, rather than clicking on a pop-up. The same is true of Windows updates. If you get a message saying there is a Windows update available, go instead to Windows Update in your control Panel and install from there, at least until you’re confident you know what a real one looks like. Then you’ll be sure you’re getting legit updates.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!