- An old game is released on GOG / Steam.
- It proves to be incompatible with new Windows systems. (Crashes, game breaking bugs, fps of 0.5 and the likes)
- An unofficial patch is released by the fanbase, either for this particular game or for a range of games that use <obsolete technology X>. This unofficial patch is released in the form of a .exe file that is supposed to repleace the game's main executable, a .dll to be placed in the game's folder, or instructions how to manually patch the game's executable. Sometimes the patch is even released on github with source code.
My question is, how to estimate the safety of those binaries?
- I suppose that it is hardly possible to include malware by arbitrarily changing a few bytes in the executable; so this should be safe;
- Github binaries with source code provided should hopefully be safe, though I may be naive here, especially since out of box builds may differ from the source code
- Arbitrary executables provided on fansites dedicated to the game are only as safe as the site is reputable... but that's an odd way to say that if the admin isn't known to have included malware within past 10 yrs they're unlikely to include malware now?
Bottom line: * Is the only reasonable approach to never run any binaries from the interet outside of the virtual machine unless they've been tried by half of the world already (I mean cases like League of Legends or even Battle for Wesnoth), at least if I don't want to see that my files were encrypted and I have to pay XXX BTC to have them decrypted; * Or are there any other ways to estimate the safety of an arbitrary binary?