Retro games, abandonware, freeware and classic games download for PC and Mac


How we keep GamesNostalgia safe from viruses and malware

By: GN Team
Published: 6 June 2018, 9:28 pm

Running a website with more than 1000 games and more than 2000 files gives us a huge responsibility regarding the safety of the PCs and Macs that will download those files.

Our visitors know that GamesNostalgia is an extremely well-curated website that doesn't spam or fill the pages with aggressive advertising and only provides quality content. We want to maintain this solid reputation, and the last thing we want is to hear that someone got a virus after downloading a file from our website. That's why we take all the necessary countermeasures.

Below you will find a recap of the "safety" measures:

Server-side generated packages

First thing, the majority of the game wrappers that you can download from GamesNostalgia are not created on a Windows or a Mac computer. They are created automatically on a server.

The server runs Linux, which decreases the chance that the files got infected by a Windows or Mac virus.

A copy of the latest versions of the required emulators (e.g., FS-UAE for Amiga games) is saved on the server. The emulator is transferred directly from the source website to our server, which means the emulator cannot get infected during the transfer.

This is true, in most of the cases, also for the original DOS or Amiga games. For example, the Amiga "whdload" packages don't need to be downloaded on a client computer. They are transferred directly to the GamesNostalgia server, where the package is created. It's all automatic, and even in the case that a virus infects the computer that I'm using to type this article, the game archives on the server won't be infected.

A random screenshot of a Linux command line interface
A random screenshot of a Linux command line interface

Please also note that the original games' files cannot get infected by "modern" viruses or trojans. If they contain a virus, it's an Amiga or C64 virus, and this malware cannot be transferred to your PC or Mac. The only thing that can get infected is the emulator, but as described before, this software is downloaded only once, from its source website to the Games Nostalgia server directly. Unless the emulator's creator distributes an infected file (doubtful), the packages are safe.

Additionally, after the archive is generated, we usually download it to our PC or Mac to test the game. This means there's also a client-side check, as described in the next paragraph.

Packages created on PC or Mac

Some packages are processed remotely, but other games require some work on a PC or a Mac. This is the case of old Windows titles (e.g., Hercules and Road Rash).

No need to say that the PC and the Mac that we use are both well protected. On the PC we use Avira PRO, while on the Mac we have F-Secure. Once the packages are created, they are compressed and uploaded to the server. But the initial antivirus check is not the only one; there's another security level, described in the next point.

Avira is a very good antivirus. They also offer a free version
Avira is a very good antivirus. They also offer a free version

Server-side antivirus check

Additionally, the Linux server where all our files are stored has an antivirus called ClamAV. A cron job scans all the packages every day. The virus DB is continuously refreshed, so that old game archives are checked for new viruses again and again. In three years of GamesNostalgia, it happened once only that a package was reported as infected by malware. It was probably a false positive, in fact, we downloaded the game and scanned it, and it was clean. Anyway, the package was removed and replaced.

The ClamAV logo is quite scary
The ClamAV logo is quite scary

Worst case scenario

Ok, so the games are clean on the server, but what happens hackers break into the server? Is that possible?

Of course, it is. We took all the standard security measures, but no server can be considered 100% secure. If some nasty hackers decide to enter into our server, with the required time and required resources, they would be able to do it. If they hacked Apple, Twitter, and all the top companies, how couldn't they be able to hack GamesNostalgia? If they enter, they might delete everything, or they could infect some games with Melissa or other viruses, who knows.

To be honest, I highly doubt they will spend money trying to enter since we don't have anything valuable for them. But, let's say that this happens. Even if we don't notice it (very unlikely) and hackers really infect a game, we would receive tons of emails from angry people, and the website would be shut down immediately - I really hope this will never happen.

Why does Windows Defender report a trojan in our games?

Ok, so if all the above is true, why some people receive warnings from their antiviruses? Well, there is a thing called "false-positive". Since old games present strange patterns to the antiviruses, sometimes they think they are infected, but they are not. We also discovered a problem with Windows Defender that cannot read maximum compression 7zip archives properly. Sometimes Windows Defender finds a virus/trojan/malware in our files, but these are false positives. If you want, deactivate Defender, download the archive and extract it. After that, you can rerun a virus scan on the game folder. You will see that the files are clean.

Windows Defender is a bit too overprotective
Windows Defender is a bit too overprotective

Said that, if you still don't trust us, feel free not to download anything from this site.

gamesnostalgia security status update

Latest Comments

Chris Korff - 7 June 2018, 2:29 am
Thanks for your countermeasures, team. I had a high oppinion about your work, even since changing my Disqus nick often cause I never sued it ^^ Thanks for your work, i trust you.

Chris Korff - 25 June 2018, 4:28 am
May I add an comment? I know your trello page but cannot connect in my account to make a wish for future games:
Can you manage to get "Walker", the game where you play the robot and his weapons with the mouse? Perfect game! Horrible problems with the ADFs from other sides due to disc change.
And the german "Das Stundenglas" would also be very nice, also "Burntime", which is runable from other ADF files, but still buggy with broken graphics.
Thank your for your effort team!

Chris Korff - 26 June 2018, 12:42 am
Oh and Spy vs Spy, a hypercool game that I never mastered ^^

Manu - 28 June 2018, 5:57 pm
Ok, added to the todo list :)

Chris Korff - 28 June 2018, 8:39 pm
<3 <3 <3

Chris Korff - 2 July 2018, 2:16 am
Another request, pls:
Exterminator. A game where you chase bugs on a chessboard like environment. I never got my greedy hands on it as a child, want to try it maybe ^^

Mark Tortoise - 27 October 2018, 11:24 pm
Why not use a different form of compression if this is an ongoing issue? I don't have this problem (Windows Defender setting off an alert that I've just downloaded a very dangerous trojan) with 7-zip compressed downloads from any other website. And this didn't even used to happen with other files downloaded from your site. As a result, your explanation is not completely convincing and I can no longer download your files. Is the extra compression really worth driving people away who aren't able to trust people whose identities they don't know?

Manu - 28 October 2018, 9:21 pm
The fact that Windows Defender doesn't like our files is quite irritating. The problem seems to be related to the fact that the archives are created from a Linux server (with p7zip) using maximum compression. The problem does not happen with medium level compression or if the archives are created on Windows. Anyway, two years ago we almost shut down the website because we could not afford the cost of the bandwidth anymore and the new archive format (7zip instead of zip) + compression level saved us, so yes, it's worth using it. It's also not feasible to compress all files manually from a Windows computer, we simply don't have the time.
A good alternative would be tar.lzma archives but it's possible it would create even more problems to the users and I don't know if Win Defender will like them. But we can try. If you want to help making some tests, leave a message on discord or using the official email address.

Mark Tortoise - 30 October 2018, 9:11 am
Thanks for the explanation and not getting angry at me for asking about it. Sounds like an understandable situation.

Manu - 23 May 2020, 1:04 pm
No problem ;)

John Georgie Jones - 18 March 2021, 10:48 pm
It’s great to read all the measures you’ve taken to secure these games. Thank you! One question, my laptop (macOS) prompted me with an alert that said the game would like to receive keystrokes from ANY application. Is that normal? It kind of sounds like the a keystroke recorder. Probably just part of the emulator but I thought I’d ask. Thanks!

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