Safe Handling of Internet Files

July 29, 2015 by
Filed under: Internet Life and Humanity, Technical Info 

Safe Handling of Internet FilesIt’s pretty common these days to hear of data breaches, virus infections and computers essentially hobbled by malware stuffed in every corner of the hard drive. I’ve found that a lot of the reason these things happen is because people lack basic knowledge of how things work. With some background information, I’ve also found that people learn rapidly not to expose themselves to risks and threats. Since I’m a lazy cuss and I’ve grown weary of teaching the world one measly human at a time … I wrote this post.

Internet Hyperlinks

In order to properly understand what it means to safely handle files on the Internet, first you have to understand what actually happens when you click on things on the Internet. In the early days, most of the clickable things were “Hyperlinks”. Nowadays they are mostly buttons, widgets and other active doodads but there are still a large number of Hyperlinks out there as well.

Hyperlinks, or simply Links, take you to another web page, activate or show something on the screen or begin the process of downloading a file. In fact, when you click a Link to visit another web page, you are actually asking to Download a File! It’s not one you have to save on your computer; it will be saved temporarily so that it can be displayed. But the File you are Downloading is the web page itself. This is why Hyperlinks are used to either visit another web page or download a file to local storage; both actions are essentially the same thing.

Downloading or Opening a File

Bombsquad - Safe Handling at its bestThese two things might seem at first to be the same, but they are very different. Knowing which is which and when each happens can save you a lot of trouble down the road. But let’s start with this bit of confusion: both start the same way, by clicking a Link. (Well, sorta the same way. Bear with me.)

When you use a standard click on a typical Link, you are telling your computer “Go and get a file then open it and figure out what it is.” That’s a lot of stuff to happen, fortunately it happens fast. But it also includes that fateful step “open it”. If the file your computer goes and gets contains a virus, it will lightning fast open it, launch the virus and … you’re now very unhappy.

There are ways to take the process in steps, and more importantly there are ways to easily tell WHEN you need to break it down into steps. Let’s get into the steps and how to tell when to use them one at a time.

Regular Hyperlinks

I do not want to scare folks away from clicking Links on web pages. When you hover your mouse over a Link, see that it turns into the icon that says “you can click here” … and then you look at your browser to find where the Link points … you can rest assured that it’s safe to click. As long as things look normal and the next step will be to open another web page, almost exclusively you are safe to proceed.

However if the Link points at something to download (a program file, a PDF document, a photograph or video, etc.) then you should most likely take some extra time to look at the “Road Signs” and then decide how to proceed.

Most modern web browsers will show you, somewhere on screen, where the Link will take you or what file or action will launch when clicked. It’s usually tucked down near the bottom of the window and only appears when you hover your mouse over a clickable link. Practice hovering over Links and looking for the status display so you can find it rapidly when needed.

Here is a LINK to this Blog – Practice by hovering over the LINK to

One Step At A Time

If you are not sure about the file you are about to open (and by that I mean an actual file such as a PDF or program file) then you should take precautions to be sure it is opened only when you want it opened. As you remember, above I said that just clicking a Link causes the file to be downloaded and opened. Staying safe, handling files in a safe manner, basically means only opening them after you’ve had an opportunity to check fully for bad things hidden inside.

Right-Click or Option-Click

Computers and modern browsers provide a special way to click a Link such that you get a menu of options instead of the normal “do this” action. It’s often called “right-clicking”. Using this method of clicking a Link gives you the option to download the entire file without opening it! This last bit is most important. Because the file is saved directly to local storage but without inspecting or opening it, the danger from possible bad things is reduced almost to zero.

Your Virus Scanner is HERE!Once you’ve got the file safely downloaded then you can submit it to your Virus Scanner or other protection software. (And if you don’t have a Virus Scanner installed then you really ARE asking to get hurt, aren’t you?)

Here is a LINK to the picture of the robot on the right. Practice Right-Clicking and “Save to disk” the picture file. You don’t have to actually save the file; just get to where you understand what’s happening and then Cancel.

Safe Handling Quick Run-Through

So let’s do one last quick run-through:

  • Know What You Are Clicking – If you are in doubt, look for the status display that shows you what you are about to click, open or run.
  • Web Pages Are Okay (mostly) – If the status shows that you’re about to open another web page, you are almost always safe.
  • Files Are Best Downloaded – Any file you might want to receive or download should be saved to local storage first.
  • Download But Do Not Open – Use the right-click or option-click method to download the file for scanning but do not open it.

If you get all these steps down and built into your personal Internet Habits then you will find your time spent yelling at a slow or half-dead computer will be greatly reduced. You may even find those links that lead you to:

Rewards of Safe Handling of Internet Files

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