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Cnet Introduces Download.com Installer; More Shady Than Secure

If you’re trigger happy and still turn to Cnet’s Download.com for software downloads, there’s a chance you might already have fallen victim to the new Download.com Installer. It’s Cnet’s newest way of turning a greener shade of evil. Cnet has just rolled out a download installer that will now serve as the portal to all Cnet downloads and the download comes bundled with the least amusing of all browser additions; a toolbar. If you hadn’t already found another software repository, this reason alone should be enough to make you want to look for better less sneaky side-door using alternatives.

cnet download installer

The second you click on the little green download button next to any software, you’re prompted to save a file which users are likely to do, considering they clicked to download a file. Closer inspection will reveal that what you’ve downloaded is actually an installer for the Cnet downloader. Step 1 of the download tells you what you’re installing and how to proceed.

cnet downloader

Proceeding to step 2; you can read their terms and conditions and learn about the Babylon toolbar you’ll be installing, making Babylon your default search engine and of course your home page. For the trigger happy or just those excited to get to downloading their software, this step might be glossed over in a frenzy to click ‘Next Step’ and before you know it, an annoying toolbar will have installed and your default search engine changed. Since the option to install the toolbar and to edit your search engine is checked by default, many users wont know what they’re doing until it is too late.

This is wrong on one major count; while Cnet is giving users the impression that they are securely downloading software, the fact is that there is no added security, just a way for Cnet to profit from your installation. This shady installer is being added to every software uploaded to the Cnet database.

The work around? There is none, the site has effectively put this installer between you and file downloads, so you can either install it very very carefully or it’s time to turn elsewhere for downloads. Of course if you do decide to install software that lets you opt-out instead of opting-in to downloading a little something extra, ask yourself what other evil might lurk beneath it.

[via Extreme Tech and gHacks]


  1. I have the CNET download installer and did not know it, nor did i know till recently it is on the allowed list through firewall. However, I did not make Babylon my default toolbar and have not seen any difficulties accessing the internet. But it would hve been nice to be give the option to decide if it can beon the allowed firewall list. They led me to believe it was needed to download a software and would remove itself when downlaod was complete.

  2. People defending them: download.com makes no mention of the fact that you are not downloading what the link says, but a downloader. Yes It’s easy to see that if you check the filename but this article merely labelled the behaviour as “Shady” and nothing more. This behaviour is the same as a lot of Shady websites so there’s nothing more to say about it at this point.

    Btw brothersoft and I’m sure many other sites are doing the same thing. Sneakily getting you to download ANYTHING other than the file you require is out of order whether there is a way around it or not.

    • Actually, the file name is changed, too. So, unless the user knows in advance that CNET has secretly replaced the file he and/or she wanted with CNET BRAND CRAPWARE™, the user gets tricked into downloading a useless god dam downloader program that nobody ever needed and didn’t ask for. And that’s fine for those of us who know to drag it to the recycle bin and delete it and move on, but for the poor defenseless newbies out there, some real damage can be done. Can you imagine what it must be like to live in a world where you think downloading stuff through the fraking CNET BRAND DOWNLOADER™ is normal? I shudder to think about it.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some torches and pitchforks, organize and angry mob, and march on CNET headquarters. Have a nice day.

  3. People still use Downloads.com???? The last time I used it was 1999, lol. Tucows.com was another one I fondly remember.
    Anyway, if you think you cannot live with the new Cnet installer, then use another site, that’s all.
    Every single website need to make money somehow, and this “custom” installer is one way.
    Try to create an account on Cnet and then op-out from this downloading method.
    Or, use majorgeeks.com, and filehippo.com.

  4. What a biased site. You can directly download the file just by signing into your cnet account (read as: free). If you can’t spend time to check, don’t write it at all.

    • I agree: Boycott CNET. There’s only about 1000 other, better, faster places that host files for free.

      Try BN Fileforum, for one. Or learn how to Torrent your files, for another.

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