The dangers of using free open source applications and download apps

So you can’t be bothered to actually buy software from a recognised manufacturer because it’s too expensive. You don’t need all those bells and whistles, surely? So why not find some nice open source software. Some free open source software…the rumours can’t be true can they?

The problem is that the rumours are true, and this is a great way of people falling fowl of some very devious people who just want to break your computer or else get their hands on your data. Here are 10 ways in which crimes are committed just because you decided to save money in the short term.


Like viruses below, but they sit on your computer giving the creator of this particular sort of virus a back door to your computer. Like the Trojan horse fame in the legend. And you won’t know it until it’s too late.


These have been around since the early days, and they were built by people just wanting to screw up other people’s computers. They get onto your machine, and then lay dormant for a period of time, making copies of themselves and hiding away in files of your hard drive. They spread from computer to computer by usb drives, and on the back of emails and even in pictures and sounds. They can hide in computer programs that you might share with family and friends. Then when the countdown reaches zero…boom, it makes its presence felt by breaking your machine.

Add on apps…like browsers

Whilst there are a number of applications of open source software, many of them are used to sneakily track your browsing habits, or get you to use a third party software for some reason or other. And it’s not always obvious that it’s about to happen. I downloaded some files for a music competition the other day, completely innocent, and public domain. To access the files took a while to work out which button to press. Then when I did there were about 6 pages of tiny print asking if I agreed to a certain extra browser being installed on my machine. I thought I had said no to everything, then suddenly there it was, sitting between Google Chrome and my searches. I had to de-install then run my virus checker. It picked up that there was a Trojan now sitting on my computer, which it had quarantined. Others add plugins to your browsers. Still others hack your email address and spread that around the internet.

Don’t think you won’t get caught out…I did, and nearly suffered for it. Last time I do that!

Older systems

Some of the free open source web applications are seriously out of date, and may well not run on your computer. Is it worth the bandwidth or bashing your head against your monitor trying to get it to work?

Unsupported software

It might be out of date, or just might not be supported anymore. In which case even if it is safe software, it might still break your computer.

Ad supported

Sometimes these programs will add a bit of code to display ads on your browser, or put something into your system tray which says hello every now and again. Or I have had one which popped up in the middle of my monitor every time I ran another program

Phishing software

The most innocent of these open source application software gathers data on your browsing habits. The worst gathers key strokes, sending the data back to the creator who runs it through a software algorithm to check for the most frequent series of keystrokes. If you use a username/password combination regularly this will have a higher frequency than any other series of keystrokes and will be identified, then the information says where you used that information. Personal data hacked and stolen.

Fewer features are to be found on some open source web applications

You might want fewer features…but sometimes the free software also lacks the key features of mainstream software that costs money.

Cracked and rebranded software

This is illegal. Somehow someone has gotten behind the pass-code system of commercial software, changed the graphic interface so that it doesn’t look like the original software, and then rebranded it to sell bootleg or give away on the net. Usually comes complete with any of the above Trojans and viruses.

Sign you up to email scams…or to email lists which ‘promise your privacy!’

How many times have I been caught out by this one?! The software itself is perfectly fine, but they have to send you a code. They need your email, and of course “your personal private information is important to us…” of course it is, because you then sell it on to firms who collect email warm contacts. And that’s where you end up getting your email trash from.

Who can you trust?

There is just one area though of web applications that I do trust much more, and that is those belonging to the Google Chrome system. Their chrome book is excellent, and the idea of hosting the programs off your computer is brilliant, so long as you have an internet connection that is.

So in short, free open source applications might look like a great idea in the beginning, but they can be expensive in the long run, and could run the greater risk of putting your personal information in the hands of others. Who falls for such things? Well new users, especially the elderly (so called silver surfers) who haven’t been warned.

And me!

…and perhaps you too…

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