How To Avoid Downloading Bad Browsers

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Everyone Loves a Free Browser

Free software is great. Whether it be a useful application or an exciting game, downloading something you want without having to pay a fee is normally a welcome experience. Unfortunately, with freedom comes a hefty price tag.

The number of free downloads that can be harmful to your computer and personal information seems to be growing at a rather alarming rate. Hackers and other folks with malicious intentions have found that exploiting freebies can be quite a successful method towards achieving their goals. Most Web surfers are quick to download free software without taking the time to investigate exactly what they're getting and where it's coming from. Web browsers are certainly no exception to the rule here, and you should be very careful when it comes to where you obtain them from.

What Is a Bad Browser?

A bad browser can be a lot of things. For the sake of this discussion, however, it is a web browser that contains harmful or unwanted components or add-ons. Many vendors offer their own browser downloads, packaged with their toolbar or other piece of software. This is especially the case with open source options such as Mozilla's Firefox. Amateur and professional developers alike are encouraged to create their own add-ons to enhance the browser's capabilities. This is a great boon to the industry as a whole, with third-party ingenuity taking the power of the browser to a level never before thought possible. However, there are those out there looking to exploit this trend for their own diabolical needs. Ranging from minor annoyances like low-level adware to viruses that can seriously compromise your security, undesirable items can be easily masked inside a browser package.

The majority of these packages, such as Firefox's Campus Edition, are perfectly safe and provide a level of convenience by including a useful set of add-ons as part of the download. This particular example is actually hosted by Mozilla, so you can be almost certain that you are getting a good product. On the other hand, there are many third-party sites offering Firefox downloads that are, to put it lightly, not as reputable. These downloads can contain adware, malware, viruses, and other items that we would all like to avoid. Another safe example is Google's custom offering of Internet Explorer 7, which comes packaged with the company's toolbar as well as other features tailored to its popular search engine.

Most of the time, the add-ons that are offered as part of a package are also available as separate downloads. In these cases, if you feel that the add-on is indeed offered by a trusted source than I suggest that you play it safe. Download the browser itself from its official site, and then install the add-ons that you desire separately. This may border on paranoia, but it is better to be cautious when it comes to these free downloads.

There are other cases where developers create their own browser altogether, competing with the likes of Firefox, IE, Safari, etc. These are usually full-fledged applications built on top of existing engines, sometimes containing an impressive array of unique features. You have to be most careful with these offerings, as they are more than just a well-known browser packaged with add-ons. Some of these look nothing at all like the applications you may be used to, and boast mainly original components. Because of this, the room for exploitation increases exponentially if the creators choose to take that route. Some originals, like the Avant Browser, have developed a solid reputation over the years and present an enjoyable and productive user experience. Others, such as NetBrowserPro, have been exposed for integrating negatives as serious as keyloggers and packet monitors. The scariest part is that some of these bad browsers have the ability to slip right through the cracks and be undetected by your spyware and virus protection software.

In these cases, do your research prior to downloading! Search the Web for user reviews and other information about an original browser prior to installing it on your computer. The extra time you take to do this may save you from a giant headache in the long run.

Deceptive Links and File Names

Some free browser downloads turn out to be something else altogether. Links and file names can be easily masked to look like a browser download when they are actually a form of adware, malware, or something worse. These are prevalent not only on Web pages but also through P2P and other file sharing avenues. There is a simple way to avoid becoming a victim of this type of trickery. Only download browsers from their official site! There is no reason to obtain a browser from a non-sanctioned location or, worse yet, from a file sharing program.

Safe Web Browser Downloads

The following is a comprehensive list of official and safe web browser downloads.