How do I identify a fake torrent

Danger level 5: torrents, fakes and fatal downloads

Nick Mediati
EnlargePirate Bay torrent service

Torrent websites (such as BitTorrent) are often used to illegally share music, videos or software with other users - and they are a veritable hot spot for malicious programs. Because no control instance checks the downloads offered here - malware can easily disguise itself in a harmless manner. Ben Edelman, private researcher and assistant professor at Harvard Business School, thinks torrent sites are among the most dangerous places on the web. Because they neither have a business model nor do they have a good reputation to defend. In contrast, many dangerous pornography websites, for example, claim to be particularly trustworthy.

What you can do

It is best and safest to avoid torrent sites as a matter of principle. If you still can't get around to visit one, use a second PC to protect your main system. Also use anti-virus software and make sure that it is up to date. Thoroughly scan downloaded files and wait a few days before opening them. Brand new malware is difficult to identify even for current virus programs. If you wait a few days, you give your program the chance to get the appropriate, protective update.

Fake antivirus programs behave - and look - just like real ones. They even give warnings in the form of a text window. And when you then find that these system messages are riddled with devastating typographical errors, it is usually too late. Most fake virus programs are ransomware: the free trial version will annoy you until you hit the paid full version of the fake software - and your system is guaranteed not to protect it. Once you give the criminals your credit card information, they can use it for other purposes, such as buying high-priced items under your name.

Counterfeit virus software can infect you in a number of ways. For example, by downloading other programs, the malware creeps in when they are installed. Most of the time, the additional installation is not implemented or only when it is too late.

What you can do

If you get a malware notification from an antivirus program that you did not knowingly install, immediately stop whatever you're doing. Try restarting the PC in Safe Mode and run a scan with your legitimate virus software. However, it will not necessarily detect and remove every malware on your system - be it because it lacks the appropriate signature or the program does not behave like classic malware. When all else fails, you should seek the help of a professional.