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The Price of Freeware

Over the years, there has been an increase in free software, also known as freeware. More developers are making their software available to the public, where anyone can access it on the internet. Though it has proven to be beneficial for a variety of users, there are also many vulnerabilities that have yet to be revealed.

The Benefits of Freeware

Since freeware does not cost any monetary amount, more people are saving money on software. Without freeware, every software used would have to come with a price, large or small. Eventually, these prices could add up and cost hundreds if not thousands. With accessible freeware, people can save money on some of the software that they use since they do not need to pay for it. For example, many antivirus software companies allow their software to be downloaded and implemented at no cost, but there tends to be a price that the users are not aware of. 

The Problems with Freeware

Despite the many benefits of freeware, there is more background activity in freeware that users are not aware of. Since freeware does not cost any money, the security of the software tends to be weaker than other commercial software that comes with security built-in. With a weaker defense, freeware is more susceptible to adware, spyware or malicious code such as viruses, worms or so-called Trojan horses. These threats could attach to the software when downloaded from the internet and get inside your computer and attack the computer as well as steal and/or delete important personal data.

Many people in this information age do not realize the dangers of the online world. Since people find the internet so easily accessible and convenient, they tend to forget that the online world is not any safer than the real world. Due to user negligence, there have been many instances of hacking and stolen information that have occurred, some of which could have been prevented with more care and attention. In situations such as these, it would have been more cost-effective to purchase the commercial software, rather than the freeware because of the security capability differences. Once the damage has been done, it can become irreversible or cost more than the commercial software to fix and recover the lost information. 

Safety Measures When Using Freeware

Because of these problems, experts recommend that users research the company before downloading on any software, free or commercial. Moreover, in many cases, it is safer to use commercial software that may cost you a few hundred, but in the long run will save you from losing valuable data that may cost you more. One thing you can look for is an official seal. Some companies participate in verification programs, such as TRUSTe, BBB Online, and WebTrust, that verify that the software is legitimate and display the seal in order to show proof that their software is safe for usage. Once you have confirmed the legitimacy of the software and have downloaded it for use, you must keep the software up to date. Besides the legitimacy of the software, companies of commercial software periodically send out updates for their software that include bug fixes and security patches that your software may need in order to prevent any future problems. Using an outdated version of your software makes the software more vulnerable to attacks and risks you losing important data and files.

Sources: “The Real Cost of Free: #30SecTech Video” by Norton (https://community.norton.com/en/blogs/norton-protection-blog/real-cost-free-30sectech-video)
Sabrina Nguyen 
Information Technology Pathway
Robert Turner College and Career High School 
Intern - Cyber Security Institute, University of Houston-Clear Lake

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