Not on the but­ton

This is­sue Ken can’t re­sist click­ing…

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents - KEN RIGSBY is Com­put­er­ac­tive’s Mr An­gry

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 let­ters@com­put­er­ac­tive.co.uk

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