How we keep GamesNostalgia safe from viruses and malware
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Said that, if you still don't trust us, feel free not to download anything from this site.