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Disadvantages of freeware and its relationship with malware

Disadvantages of freeware and its relationship with malware

Disadvantages of freeware and its relationship with malware

By Birma YAKUBU

DISCLAIMER

This article is not intended to scare people away from using freeware, but to educate you on the negative effect of freeware downloaded from unknown/ untrusted developers. It is also not aimed to teach you how to distribute malware through freeware. This article is for educational purpose only.

First of all, what is freeware?
Although there is no Universal definition of Freeware, a couple of acceptable definitions are used. Some of the acceptable definitions are:

According to Wikipedia, “a freeware is a software most often proprietary that is distributed at no monetary cost to end-user. There is no agreed-upon set of rights, license or EULA that defines freeware”

According to Techopedia, “a freeware is any copyrighted software, application or program that is freely installed, used and shared. Freeware differs from free software as the latter allows users to modify source code for republishing or integration with other software”.

We can simply define freeware as a software that allows download, configuration and usage to be free. The whole software may be free of charge or it may be a free version of particular software with limited functionalities compared to the paid edition. 

Usually, some vendors publish freeware to provide a limited but free version of software to prospective buyers prior to purchase. Brand buzz and market reputation can be enhanced if large independent software vendors publish some freeware.

History

The first person to use the term freeware is Andrew Fluegelman. In 1982 he wanted to sell PC-Talk, the communication application he had created, outside of commercial distribution. Fluegelman distributed the program via a process now called shareware.

In the 80s and the 90s, freeware was often applied to software released without source code. It is quite great to get some awesome functionality that will enhance your business or company without having to pay for it. As a matter of fact, everyone desires to get something for free. There are a lot of freeware out there that can solve day-to-day business problems, speed up business processes, save time and money, etc.

Disadvantages of freeware

With all these exciting functionalities of freeware, it also has a lot of disadvantages, below are a few of them:

  1. The difficulty to use – some freeware applications may be tricky to setup and use. They may not have a user-friendly interface that the general public may be familiar with, this can affect productivity and prevent a lot of people from adopting or using programs with ease.
  2. Hidden cost – a lot of software is usually free upfront but later cost to run can be a major burden, especially if you haven’t considered hidden cost from the outset. Below are some hidden costs that may be contained in freeware.
  3. Setting up – you may need new hardware in other to use the software.
  4. Installation – you may need to pay someone to install and configure the system for you.
  5. Malware – No warranties regarding malware, in fact, freeware has been one of the major sources of malware.
  6. Liabilities and warranties– With proprietary software, the developer usually provides indemnification and warranty as part of a standard license agreement. This is because they fully control and copyright the product and its underlying code. Open-source software licenses typically contain only limited warranty and no liability or infringement indemnity protection.

Relationship between Freeware and Malware

First of all, what is malware? 

Malware is a short name for malicious software. Malicious software is any software design in such a way that it can damage the computer system, make the system to behave abnormally, use the system resources without the knowledge of the owner and even encrypt the computer system. There are different types of Malware such as Virus (computer virus), Trojan horse, and Spyware to mention but few.

You might wonder, what is the relationship between, malware and freeware? Is malware not malicious software? Is freeware not software most often proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to end-user?

As a matter of fact, you are right, malware is malicious software and freeware is software most often proprietary, that is distributed at no monetary cost to end-user. This raises the question, what is the relationship between malware and freeware? The answer is freeware has become a major source of malware today. A lot of malware developers take the advantage of freeware, they insert the malware into the freeware and they distribute the freeware containing the malware to the public.

Because of the public’s interest in using what they don’t have to pay for, they just accept the terms and conditions without reading and understanding it, giving the software all the permission it requires in other to carry out its attack. Nowadays malicious software developers have understood that a very easy and sufficient way to distribute their malware is by inserting it into a freeware so as to attract a lot of victims. It is quite clear that some freeware will ask you deactivate your antivirus protection in other to install, although not all the freeware that ask you to disable your antivirus software contains malware, most of them have a malware or malicious capabilities which will be activated the moment you install the freeware.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FREEWARE THAT CONTAINS MALWARE

  1. Don’t download/install any freeware from websites or developers you don’t trust.
  2. Any freeware that ask you do deactivate your antivirus before you can install it should be avoided, except if you trust the developer of that freeware.
  3. Use strong antivirus software that has the capability of scanning software before install, this will let you be sure that what you are installing will not affect your device.
  4. Do not be deceived by all those freeware that claim to offer a lot of functionalities for free, nothing is actually free, you will definitely pay for it in one way or the other.

NB:  Paying for the software in one way or the other doesn’t necessarily mean that the software contains malware, the freeware may contain some ads and other way that it helps the developer to gain something either money, fame or other forms of profits.

Now that you have been informed try to stay safe and help to inform others in the war against malware distribution. Don’t forget that information is power and only the informed are safe.

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