Not on the button
This issue Ken can’t resist clicking…
I’ve probably been using online services for more years than most people. While I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when first connected a computer to the outside world, it would have been some time during the 1980s, via a dial-up modem. Remember those? They always felt to me like an electronic version of marriage, ready to emit a series of ear-piercing screeches in my direction every time I fancied a bit of fun.
I similarly struggle to recall what I actually did once connected but certainly, by the mid 1990s, a lot of my time online was spent downloading. Sometimes I’d go looking for downloadable MP3 files or, if I wanted to run up an enormous phone bill, a special-interest video or two.
But, while the specifics are hazy, what is clear in my mind is how easy it was to download stuff back then. There was just one button to click.
Nowadays, such straightforwardness is both a memory and a pipe dream. Indeed, it’s often easier to download something you don’t want – such as a ransomware infection – than the thing you thought you were getting. And the reason for this is fake Download buttons.
I don’t know when the idea first surfaced, but within the past few years some bright, malevolent spark realised that they could dress up online adverts to look like Download buttons. Moreover, because they can be bought and served up by third-party digital-advertising systems, legitimate websites are often blissfully unaware that they’ve been infiltrated. Magazines know what adverts are in their pages, but websites often have little or no control over what might appear.
I’ve already mentioned what might happen if you make the mistake of clicking a fake Download button but, because I’m an idiot, I thought I’d do it for real. So I visited the Downloads section of Cnet ( http://download.cnet.com) and saw on the right a Download button for ‘CC Cleaner’ (see screenshot). Note the suspicious gap between ‘CC’ and ‘Cleaner’, which suggested to me it wasn’t a genuine link to Ccleaner, that great little tool which is a firm favourite with Computeractive staff and readers alike.
In the name of research, I clicked the advert and the download began. Then my security software kicked in to ask what the heck I was doing: it had detected malicious content in ‘CC Cleaner’.
Think about that. An attempt to download one of the world’s most popular cleaning utilities from one of the most popular download sites would’ve ended up with spyware or a virus or something unpleasant. Call me foolish or call me lucky, but that’s just not right.
There was something else I used to do back in the 1980s, and that was type the software code listed in computer magazines, in order to write programs. Had Ccleaner existed then it would’ve taken forever to tap its thousands of lines of code. My fingers may have ached, but there would’ve been zero chance of clicking a fake Download button.
An attempt to download one of the world’s most popular programs ended up with something unpleasant
Do fake download buttons trick you? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org