Wrongly or rightly, a large proportion of the internet community regularly downloads content. This can range from documents to films, games to mp3’s, and a whole host of different applications.
Download sites, especially those that operate on a peer-to-peer basis, have often been plagued with files infected with spyware, adware, viruses and other malware. One of the more popular means of downloading larger files, BitTorrent, has traditionally avoided these problems more than others such as Limewire and Kazaa. Recently, however, things have changed.
As the popularity of Bram Cohen’s BitTorrent application, and the download of torrents themselves, has increased, people have seen opportunities for making money off the back of something that was designed to provide an effective means for businesses to transfer large files.
THE DANGERS OF DOWNLOADING TORRENTS
With the sheer volume of data being transferred around the net by sharers of torrents, those behind viruses and spyware have seen the potential for getting their damaging scripts onto a large number of systems in a short period of time. After this, the compromised systems then become corrupted, turned into spam bots or are accessed in phishing attempts, according to the programmer’s intentions.
Another growth area within torrent files is that of adware and other malware. Many people who download torrent files have subsequently found their systems infected with an applications called nail.exe, or aurora.exe. Both of those are extremely irritating and annoying examples of adware.
HOW DO SYSTEMS BECOME INFECTED?
The main reason why systems become infected with adware, spyware and viruses in the first place is a lack of security measures being employed. There are an alarmingly large number of people online who do not run any kind of firewall or anti-virus whatsoever. There may also be a large number of people downloading torrents who are not aware of the dangers either.
Even those who do have some knowledge of computer security may be at risk of downloading malicious applications. This is because it is impossible to verify and check torrent files at source – they are downloaded in pieces and the code, malicious or otherwise, is not complete until the files(s) are reassembled on the user’s machine after the file has completely downloaded.
With file sharing services often limited in the types of advertising they can attract, they often partner with sites and services that the average user may find less than tasteful. This may explain why some partner with services such as hotbar who provide a toolbar add-on which includes advertising.
Obviously, the most effective means of avoiding malicious files that are transferred and often installed secretly via downloaded torrents, is to simply not download torrent files in the first place. If that is not an option then you should consider a good antivirus program a necessity.
It is also advisable to run some sort of adware detection, such as the free Ad-Aware 2009, on a regular basis too so that it can be identified and removed from your system promptly.