The internet is a hotbed for illegal actively when it comes to ebooks. Let’s say that you want to download a royalty free title, but the concept of royalty free differs from country to country. In the USA the term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. Meanwhile in Canada the date the book was first published, plus 50 years from the end of the calendar year that the creator died. In Australia, Germany and in the UK, it is all different as well. It can get quite confusing.
If a website offers royalty free, copyright free or even free ebooks published by major publishers, it is hard to know if you are breaking the law in your own country, or even breaking it at all. Readers should not have to research various laws in order to download a book from an app, websites or forums that offer downloads and feel confident that are not breaking the law.
Normally when you download ebooks from websites you have never heard of before, it can be daunting to know what is legit and what is not. Various actors prey on readers who just want to download a few free ebooks and little do they know it can lead to their payment details or personally identifiable information being stolen. Identity theft when it comes to books, is rare, but it still happens. There are tons of shady websites out there promising royalty free or non-copyrighted books, but the reality is they are anything but.
As is the case with pirated movies and TV shows, hackers often decide to conceal malware inside free ebooks. No matter whether you download ebooks in .pdf, .epub, Kindle, .zip, or .rtf format, it is possible that you could end up accidentally downloading a virus, worm, trojan, spyware or malware.
This makes downloading free copies of ebooks extremely risky, because even a relatively small amount of malicious code could permit a hacker to later download dangerous secondary exploits to your device. These kinds of trojans could allow a cybercriminal to install a keylogger, turn on your microphone or camera, access your photos and contacts, or steal the contents of your storage.
While it may be tempting to download free ebooks from sites like pdfdrive – it is important to understand that among the 54 million books it has in its free repository – there are many dangerous files waiting to cause you harm. For privacy and security reasons we recommend that you take the following steps to ensure you protect your devices from attackers:
- Do not download pirated ebooks. Purchase ebooks from genuine sources or download legitimate free ebooks that are in the public domain from websites such as Gutenberg.org or Archive.org.
- Stay away from suspicious websites or offers that claim to be giving away new bestsellers for free. These websites may seem legitimate at a quick glance, but they are distributing copyrighted content illegally and often conceal malicious files within the files. Some are profiting by charging membership fees, while others rely on advertising revenue.
- Always carefully monitor the ebook files that you download and look out for executable files. If an ebook is a .exe file it could easily contain a virus.
- Ensure you have an up to date antivirus software like Malwarebytez on your device to catch any viruses or malware that you may accidentally come across.
- Download files you are concerned about in a sandboxed environment to avoid infecting your entire system.
Use a VPN
If you download an ebook onto a mobile device while connected to a WiFi hotspot, you could open yourself up to the risk of hacking. Public WiFi hotspots that are misconfigured can allow hackers to intercept your traffic. This can allow those cybercriminals to steal your data as it passes from your device to the internet.
Connecting to public WiFi also exposes you to the danger of “evil twin” hotspots controlled by hackers. These kinds of hotspots are placed in locations where you would expect there to be WiFi, such as in coffee shops, hotels, or airports. Connecting to these fake (but seemingly legitimate) hotspots will allow cybercriminals to intercept you traffic and steal your data.
The trouble with these public WiFi exploits, is that it could allow hackers to steal your card details when you enter them to pay for an ebook. This means that even purchasing a legitimate ebook from Amazon or another ebook retailer could cause you to have your data stolen.
The solution to this problem is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN completely protects all the data coming and going from your devices using robust military grade encryption. As a result, it is impossible for hackers to access your data as it passes over the WiFi network. This means you can access the internet and purchase ebooks while travelling without having to worry about hackers.
Markus lives in San Francisco, California and is the video game and audio expert on Good e-Reader! He has a huge interest in new e-readers and tablets, and gaming.