Why that free Windows download could cost you more than you bargained for

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Depending who you ask, Windows 10 is still the reigning rockstar of operating systems that many PC users still love despite a later version being introduced. The conundrum here though is that Microsoft does not sell Windows 10 directly anymore.  It stopped offering it as a standalone product a few years back and only sells Windows 11 or devices that come with Windows 11 pre-installed.

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So where does that leave the people who want to upgrade their computer to the popular Windows 10 without being forced into Windows 11?  Many have been turning to illegal downloads and torrents. In case you don’t know, a torrent is a type of technology that lets people share and download files through a network of connected peers. Sadly, hackers are using this technology to exploit people by distributing illegal downloads.

What’s wrong with this free version of Windows 10?

Researchers with Dr. Web found that this free version of Windows 10 is contaminated with a type of malware called Trojan.Clipper.231 which tries to steal cryptocurrencies by replacing wallet addresses in the clipboard.

What makes this malware unique?

What’s unique about this Trojan.Clipper.231 malware is that it is designed to hide in the EFI system partition, which is a separate storage area that contains boot files and drivers. The Trojan.Clipper.231 malware may employ techniques to try and evade or escape detection by antivirus scanners that you have on your device.

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What can this malware do once it’s on my computer?

The Trojan.Clipper.231 malware has numerous capabilities. What it will mainly try to do is look for any cryptocurrency wallet addresses from your clipboard. If it can find any of those addresses, then it will replace the real addresses with hostile ones that the hacker has control over. This then allows the hacker to redirect any cryptocurrency you receive directly into their accounts.

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Woman visibly upset, staring at her laptop.

Woman finding out that her computer has been infected by malware. (CyberGuy.com)

How can I avoid this malware from infecting my computer?

There are a few steps you can take to be sure that your computer doesn’t fall victim to this kind of malicious malware. Here are some of my tips.

Tips to prevent malware infections

Don’t download free software

The widespread infiltration of this malware into numerous computer systems stems from the unfortunate reliance placed by many on a counterfeit operating system, solely because it was available at no cost. If you see something online that you want and it’s being offered for free or for a much lower price than it normally would have been, then you should probably take that as a red flag.

Any good software is likely going to cost you a bit of money. However, it’s better to pay a little extra for something legit than to get a “free” service that ends up taking your information and causing a huge nightmare for you.

MORE: UPDATE YOUR WINDOWS NOW TO AVOID THE ACROPALYPSE VULNERABILITY 

Woman with her hands over her face, sitting in front of her desktop computer.

Woman upset after finding out that the free software she downloaded contained malware. (CyberGuy.com)

MORE: MASSIVE DISTRIBUTION OF MALWARE EXPOSES GAMERS TO THEFT AND DATA BREACHES 

Use antivirus software

Having explained that this Trojan.Clipper.231 malware has the potential to try and evade antivirus software, that doesn’t mean that it will be successful and that you shouldn’t use antivirus software on your devices.  It’s the smarter and safer way to protect yourself. Antivirus software scans your device for viruses, spyware, and other types of malware. It can also detect and remove malicious software that has already been installed on your device.   Plus, it will prevent you from clicking on malicious links that will potentially install malware on your devices without you knowing it.

See my expert review of the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices by heading to Cyberguy.com/LockUpYourTech

Kurt’s key takeaways

If you see something being offered for free, proceed with extreme caution and don’t give in to that urge right away to jump ahead and get it. I understand the temptation as we all want to save money. However, the cost of falling victim to scams and hackers far outweighs the allure of a free offer. Don’t be tempted.

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