Often we’ll get email from someone asking us if a file/program is safe. And sometimes we’ll feature a freeware pick and we’ll have people tell us that their antivirus program found a “virus” or something else wrong with it. And other times, we’ll recommend something that will make Windows’ crazy “SmartScreen” go wild with all kinds of warnings.
We use Emsisoft on all our computers, so we never know when someone using Avast, AVG, McAfee, TrendMicro, Norton or another antivirus will write us saying their security software found a problem with a file or program we recommended.
We’ve had issues with Windows SmartScreen many times – but we’ve learned that SmartScreen isn’t always smart. So, normally when we find a good program that ticks off SmartScreen – we’ll go ahead and recommend the program anyway after we’ve double checked it. But we’ll make a note that SmartScreen detected it but the file is safe. Here’s a an article we wrote about a program that SmartScreen said was malicious, but was not.
So, how do we know the file is safe, even if SmartScreen – or some antivirus says it isn’t? We use VirusTotal to scan the file with 70 different scanners to determine if a file is safe, whenever we have the slightest doubt. The last thing we’d ever want to do is not be certain before we recommend something to you.
Then today, when looking at some fun and crazy sites to feature, I downloaded something that set off SmartScreen. I uploaded it to VirusTotal and found the file was safe. Then it dawned on me… why not make VirusTotal a Cloudeight Site Pick? It sure deserves to be.
It’s easy to use. It’s free to use. And anyone can use it. You can upload a file to VirusTotal. You can upload a file from our computer to VirusTotal, use a URL (link) to the download, or you can use the search on VirusTotal to check out a file you’re considering downloading.
Above: VirusTotal is easy to use. You can upload a file from your computer, paste a link to the file, or search for the filename.
Above: VirusTotal scanned this file with 70 different scanners (including Emsisoft). None of the scanners found any problem with this file.
Above: You may, on occasion, see where one or two ‘engines’ (scanners) detected a file you submitted for examination. In the screen shot directly above you can see the file was scanned by 68 scanners and only one found a problem (a heuristic “malware”). When you see this kind of result, you know that the scanner that found a problem is reporting a false positive.
So, now it’s time to bring in VirusTotal’s people and have them tell you a bit more about VirusTotal before we send you on your way:
“…VirusTotal inspects items with over 70 antivirus scanners and URL/domain blacklisting services, in addition to a myriad of tools to extract signals from the studied content. Any user can select a file from their computer using their browser and send it to VirusTotal. VirusTotal offers a number of file submission methods, including the primary public web interface, desktop uploaders, browser extensions and a programmatic API. The web interface has the highest scanning priority among the publicly available submission methods. Submissions may be scripted in any programming language using the HTTP-based public API.
As with files, URLs can be submitted via several different means including the VirusTotal webpage, browser extensions and the API.
Upon submitting a file or URL basic results are shared with the submitter, and also between the examining partners, who use results to improve their own systems. As a result, by submitting files, URLs, domains, etc. to VirusTotal you are contributing to raise the global IT security level.
This core analysis is also the basis for several other features, including the VirusTotal Community: a network that allows users to comment on files and URLs and share notes with each other. VirusTotal can be useful in detecting malicious content and also in identifying false positives — normal and harmless items detected as malicious by one or more scanners.
Free and unbiased
VirusTotal is free to end users for non-commercial use in accordance with our Terms of Service. Though we work with engines belonging to many different organizations, VirusTotal does not distribute or promote any of those third-party engines. We simply act as an aggregator of information. This allows us to offer an objective and unbiased service to our users…”
And here’s tip from good ol’ Darcy and TC: It would be a great idea to bookmark VirusTotal – a day will come when you’ll want to use it.