Download sites considered harmful

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Download sites considered harmful

Published by on April 26th 2013.

Few days ago, I have visited some of the more well known download sites to see how my software is doing or read an occasional review left there by a happy/unhappy user. I was horrified. Virtually all download sites are overloaded with ads and, what is worse, many of them mislead users to download and install adware instead of the software they actually wanted.

In the past, download sites provided useful services: they gathered, categorized, and reviewed software and they guaranteed certain level of safety, because software was actually tested by the people running the download site. Software developers were happy when their software was accepted by a major download site.

But today, the advantages of download sites are all gone. Google does a better job when you are looking for a particular software or doing research. Only a tiny fraction of software actually gets reviewed by the staff of the download sites. Usually, they just display the description supplied by the software author.

And now, even the last advantage of download sites (safety) is gone. When I clicked Download links on pages about RWPaint or other software, the downloaded file was not the real installation package. It was a malware that asked for admin permissions (despite the fact that most RW software can be installed without admin permissions) and started displaying irrelevant ads, misusing the name of RW software in the process.

Naturally, I was not happy with the situation. I contacted a couple of the web sites and asked them to either remove the misleading links to malware or remove my software. The responses were not great.

This leads me to the only possible recommendation: ALWAYS download software from the authors' own web sites, NEVER download anything from any download site. Even if it is trustworthy today, it may not be tomorrow.

Quick reviews of download sites

CNET's download.com - NOT SAFE. Although RW software downloads are safe, I had to send them a request a while back. Since not all software authors did that, some download links on download.com still lead to malware.

Tucows.com & their child Butterscotch.com - NOT SAFE. After sending them my request, RW software was removed from tucows. All download links on tucows lead to malware.

Brothersoft.com - NOT SAFE. RW links on brothersoft.com are safe, but I have checked some other random links and they lead to a custom download = malware.

Softonic - NOT SAFE. Big green Download buttons lead to malware. They actually responded to my request with a single line email essentially saying that they will not do anything I asked them to.

soft32.com - NOT SAFE. Big green button leads to malware. No response to my requests...

Softpedia - mostly safe. Software is mostly downloaded from original locations, just beware the "Secure downloads" links and you should be fine (does it sound absurd?).

download3k.com - safe for now. Although they push links to their own mirror sites, the installers seem unaltered.

soft82.com - maybe safe. Only offers download from a mirror, installer seems unaltered.

fileguru.com - seems safe now.

snapfiles.com - seems safe now.

It is true that there are still some decent download sites, but the number of the big ones that turned evil is alarming. And there is not much we can do about it...

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Recent comments

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user icon Vlasta site administrator on April 28th 2013

Thanks for letting me know, I sent an email to Baixaki.

user icon cdl contributing user on April 30th 2013

It is best to download from the originating website if possible.
Naturally not all software designers share the same motivations.

icon-image/8307-24x24x32.png image

Thanks for listing a few bad ones to avoid.
Sadly CNET has become rather bad lately.
Cannot trust them any longer.

user icon Anonymous on May 4th 2013

Gracias por avisarnos

user icon jojois74 registered user on May 13th 2013

I accidentally downloaded a virus today in an installer, I don't think from one of these sites, but it came down to me stupidly doing recommended install rather than custom install, so I got their adWare, and guess what? They weren't even kind enough to at least give me what I wanted in the first place in addition.
They did give me an abnoxious little note telling me that I downloaded their malware, the first sign that something was wrong. I am at least a little knowlegable with computers and after following some instructions, I think I have managed to remove all traces of the virus (doing anti-virus check as we speak), but it as an annoying and terrible thing that people would do this.
Yes, I made a stupid mistake, but still, com'on.

At least I'll never make that mistake again.

In fact, I have reason to believe that it was once a genuine installer, corrupted by nothing more than a desire for ruining other peoples' days..... hmmm.

user icon jojois74 registered user on May 13th 2013

Good news, it seems that I have cleaned the virus from my computer.
These were my expressions throughout the whole thing: :-o :-( :-) |-) 8-) :-( :-D.
I'm shocked when I first learned I had a virus, then sad, then happy when I realize it might not be too hard to get rid of it, then I'm calm, In fact, I'm cool, then I doubt myself, thinking maybe I won't be able to do it right, then I realize it worked, or at least I think so I'll still be on the lookout, so now I'm really happy.

user icon Vlasta site administrator on May 13th 2013

Sad to head that. Everyone must be extremely careful when installing any software these days.

user icon jojois74 registered user on May 31st 2013

Is filehippo safe?

user icon smyskr registered user on September 26th 2013

I actually like to fool these sites and get the url downloader-free downloads (does that make any sense?).
Once this info is found, I can get all other files from that site by doing simple URL-replacements!
(Makes me feel like a hacker). 8-)

user icon velodrax registered user on April 18th 2014

I'm curently compiling a whitelist (download sites that do not use foistware installers), and blacklist (download sites that do), so your article above is most welcome addition to my research. Thanks!

To 'jojois74', filehippo looks to be currently fraudware-free...Google has not been able to find any dirt on them yet.

user icon Keira registered user on May 24th 2016

CNET was about the same as softpedia long time ago, but few years lately they became so bad. All softwares they provide come with their downloader, not original install package. And for very large file, it maybe make sense (not much), for small and medium filesize, downloader is completely useless, not to mention they probably come with ads, malware, etc...

Since then whenever I google for a software and the download side provide some odd file I ignore them, cnet went to my blacklist for long time.

user icon Anonymous
Vista & Win 7 icons
What about ICL files?
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I wish there were...