Searches for “Free Downloads” Can Lead to Trouble, McAfee Warns

For years online scammers have caused untold misery for people searching for free content online. Now McAfee’s seventh annual malware study has revealed that the trend won’t end anytime soon.

dangerAnyone familiar with Internet piracy in the 90s will be aware of the perils of crack sites. They weren’t selling the potent cocaine derivative of course, but a promise that the download of a small program would unleash the full potential of a previously restricted software package.

The lure of free software dangled by these sites proved too great for millions of Internet users. They naively entered crack portals but often didn’t make it out unscathed after being tricked into installing viruses, keyloggers and other malware on their machines.

The bad news is that 20 years on and delivery mechanisms aside, not a lot has changed.

“Cybercriminals consistently take advantage of consumer interest around award shows, new movies and TV shows as well as the latest cultural trends driven by celebrities,” McAfee reveals in its latest annual malware study.

“These criminals capitalize on the public’s fascination with celebrity to lure them to sites laden with malware that enables them to steal passwords and personal information. This year, searching for a celebrity name coupled with the search terms ‘free app download’ and ‘nude pictures’ resulted in the highest instances of malware-laden sites.”

McAfee offers some tips to stay safe, some which are particularly useful for novice torrent users faced with downloads that claim to need other software installed in order to play.

“Beware of content that prompts you to download anything before providing you the content,” the security company warns. “Don’t download videos from suspect sites. This should be common sense, but it bears repeating: don’t download anything from a website you don’t trust — especially video. Most news clips you’d want to see can easily be found on official video sites, and don’t require you to download anything.”

The McAfee report can be downloaded here.


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