Practical Application: Determining What is Safe to Download Online

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Determining whether an internet file is safe to download can sometimes be tricky. In this activity, you'll be presented with three hypothetical scenarios where you have to be the judge about whether to click 'download' or not.

A World Wide Web

A jumble of different sites and pages accessible through the internet makes for a very wide ''web'' indeed. Sometimes, navigating the World Wide Web can be a little sticky.

Deciding what's safe to download online can be tricky. Some files carry viruses, which are internet code or software that can either spy on your online activity or damage your computer or entire network. Other files might be unsafe to download because you accessed them illegally, either because you don't own the rights (like a new CD of music) or you don't have permission to access them.

But, for some files, it's easier to tell that they're safe. They come from a reputable website, for example, or they're work-related downloads sent via email from someone you work with. Maybe your boss or IT department asks you to download a particular file and install it to your desktop. There is safety here because the sites are reliable, and you know the person you're interacting with.

Now, take a look at these two scenarios and write down your answer to this question: ''Is this internet file safe to download?''

Download Scenario #1

You've been with your existing company for almost a year, and it's just about time for the updated employee manual with the list of holidays for the new year to be distributed by the human resources department. On a Friday afternoon, just as you're getting ready to sign off your computer, you receive an email from Jamie in HR. It looks like the email has gone out to every employee in the office, and it asks recipients to click on a link and go to the website to download the new employee manual.

Do you think this download is safe? Why or why not?

Download Scenario #2

You're doing some research for an upcoming work project and have found several sites with helpful information. One is a case study from a major corporation's website, another is a report full of statistical data from a popular news magazine. Both can help you as you start preparing your report. One final page you visit is poorly designed, and it's not a website that you've heard of before. It does, however, promise to let you download an entire book by a famous author that would be the perfect finish to your project.

Do you think this download is safe? Why or why not?

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