Everyone likes to get free stuff. That’s why free software is so enticing. Who isn’t tempted by a free anti-virus program or free organizational app? But that freeware often isn’t actually “free” and if you’re not careful, you could be opening yourself up to viruses, non-stop ads, or spyware.
There’s a reason for sayings like “you get what you pay for” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Developers give those free programs away for a reason, and you might be shocked at the dangers that can install with that innocent looking freebie.
Of course not all free software is dangerous. After all, WordPress is one of the biggest free website building softwares on the market. But even that well-known platform has drawbacks, with a “pay-to-play” if you want to go farther than just a basic template.
Software companies make 20 times more from in-app purchases than they do on paid app downloads.
It pays to give software away for free then charge the user for more capabilities, aka in-app purchases. According to Braze.com, a study of over 100 million device owners showed that while just 5% of users made in-app purchases, they spent 20 times more money than users paying for an app download.
Our Clockwork Networks Team is often asked by Castle Rock businesses to make software recommendations and give input on free software. We let our clients know what is safe or not safe for their data protection and productivity. We don’t want anyone getting nasty surprises from a “free” download.
What Are You Risking With A Free Software Download?
You might wonder what the harm is with a free download. You can always delete it if you don’t like it, right? While not all freeware is malicious, some can leave viruses and malware behind on your system even if you delete them from a computer or mobile device.
As a top Managed Service Provider in the Castle Rock, CO area, we’ve seen and eradicated millions of dangerous programs from our clients’ systems. Many of them were the result of downloading freeware that was used as a vehicle to download other malicious software.
Main Risks of Freeware Downloads
- Non-stop Advertising Banners
- Annoying Popups for a Paid Upgrade
- Lack of Support and Documentation
- Bugs and Lack of Upgrades
- In-app Purchases for Full Functionality
- Conduit for Viruses and Malware
- Incompatibility with Other Programs
4 Types of Free Software
As we mentioned, not all free software is created equal. While some is really free and doesn’t harbor any malicious threats, others are not so innocent and can compromise data protection and infect your system with unwanted programs.
Here’s a rundown put together by our Clockwork Networks experts on the common types of free software.
Open source is at the top of the list of “good” types of free software. This type is not just free to download and use, it can also have the source code tweaked and be resold. Plus, it doesn’t typically have hidden costs to open functionality.
It’s usually shared by a group of individuals, businesses, or teams that have worked together to create it out of a passion for technology.
Downsides of Open Source Software:
- Little support other than user forums or an FAQ.
- Unknown whether there will be upgrades to the software down the road.
- User interface may not be as easy to use as commercial software.
Freeware with Functionality Upgrades
You thought you just saved a ton of money downloading a free computer animation software, but then you find out you can’t export without a watermark on your videos unless you pay. That’s a telltale sign of freeware.
Freeware, and “Freemium” apps, from reputable companies are typically safe to use, but you often won’t get all the features you want with the free version. Anti-virus software is a common type of freeware that may allow a basic scan with the free version, but you have to pay to remove threats.
Downsides of Freeware Software:
- You don’t always get the features you want for free.
- They can have annoying popup windows asking you to upgrade to the paid version.
- You may think a free virus scanner is enough to keep your system safe, when it isn’t.
Adware relies on advertising dollars to make money, so they give you the software for free. In this case, you’ll typically see ad and banners in the user interface and possibly output on printouts or if you save to a PDF or image file.
If you don’t mind seeing ads, banners, and popups whenever you’re using a program, then this type of free software may not bother you. But for most people, the ads end up getting in the way of productivity.
Downsides of Adware Software:
- Ads are often placed in areas natural for clicking, causing you to accidentally click on them while working.
- Banners often need to be dismissed in order to see what you’re doing.
- Support can be non-existent or limited.
Malicious Free Software
The most dangerous type of “free” software is created specially to deliver a virus or malware. They can do a lot of damage, such as get control of your system, plant a spying script, or encrypt your files so a cyber criminal can request a ransom.
They’re often disguised as innocent-looking freeware, such as an anti-virus program or free photo editor in order to get more people to download them. Once you allow them in your system, they can wreak havoc.
Dangers of Malicious Software:
- They can give hackers entry into your entire network and the connected computers and devices.
- You can end up being the victim of ransomware. (Did you know? A company is hit with ransomware every 40 seconds!)
- You can end up losing valuable files and time cleaning up the mess.
Call Us Before You Download That “Not-So-Free” Software
As an expert Managed Service Provider in Castle Rock, Colorado, Clockwork Networks helps clients will any and all computer needs. That includes advice on the best software to help your business run efficiently.
Call on us anytime for expert and friendly advice for all your technology needs 303-588-9019.