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Advertising Security Windows Worms

Tearing Apart a Hard-Sell Anti-Virus Ad 192

Posted by timothy
from the what-naive-users-face dept.
climenole writes "I came across an email sent by a security vendor, reminding me, no urging me with the liver-transplant sort of urgency, to renew my subscription to their product, lest my pixels perish. I spent a minute or two staring at the email, thinking about all the poor souls out there who do not have the comfort of being a geek and who may actually take the advertisement seriously." That led to this insightful deconstruction of these over-the-top ads, the kind that make it hard to keep straight the malware makers and the anti-malware makers.
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Tearing Apart a Hard-Sell Anti-Virus Ad

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  • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @06:46PM (#32552980)

    Friend of mine has the most annoying product ever. Whenever it updates itself, it plays a recording of a voice saying "virus database updated". So we'll just be sitting there and hear that. Since a well-functioning anti-virus just does its thing without bugging the user for the most part, the ones that are for profit have to make themselves loudly obvious and play up the threat level (not to imply there isn't one of course).

    I'm not convinced anti-viruses are any better than snake oil, really. Some like Norton are basically viri themselves, slowing your system to a crawl, and all they can do is look for fingerprints of known viri. Sure they can occasionally be bandaids on a sucking chest wound, but the main key to windows security is to not expect it, stay updated, avoid IE, and not run random programs strangers email you. Sure there might be a 0 day in your browser or mail client that causes something like a picture to execute code, but those aren't the main uses.

    *gets off rantbox*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UNHOLYwoo (1213830)
      So you're refusing to like a product because of it's default settings? Good luck in life being the guy that won't buy a car because he doesn't know (or care to know) how to adjust the seat.
      • When I think the default settings are manipulative instead of just incompetent or a bad fit for me? Yes, I do think that's a good reason to distrust a product and the company that makes it.

    • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:16PM (#32553160) Homepage

      The core problem is that security is only good security when it's transparent to the user. Of course, users won't buy products that appear to do nothing for them (even if they did actually work perfectly well), thus vendors are forced to produce bad software so that people will buy it.

    • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:24PM (#32553208)

      Whenever it updates itself, it plays a recording of a voice saying "virus database updated". So we'll just be sitting there and hear that. Since a well-functioning anti-virus just does its thing without bugging the user for the most part, the ones that are for profit have to make themselves loudly obvious and play up the threat level (not to imply there isn't one of course).

      As other said, it sounds like Avast, and is a easy enough default to change. BTW, while they do sell it, there is also a free version for non-commercial users. Frankly the free version of Avast seems to do a better job than Norton and McAfee by far and IME better than NOD32 and Kaspersky.

      • by bendodge (998616) <[bendodge] [at] [bsgprogrammers.com]> on Saturday June 12, 2010 @08:44PM (#32553610) Homepage Journal

        While I think it's atrocious that Windows has to have a third-party layer akin to the FDA to keep users from getting waylaid by malicious code, I'm a little surprised that you think Avast is better than NOD32 or Kaspersky. The most recent AV-Comparatives report is rather unflattering to Avast. I'm personally a NOD32 (ESET) fan.

        http://www.av-comparatives.org/images/stories/test/ondret/avc_report26.pdf [av-comparatives.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I guess it all depends on what you expect an "anti-virus" program to do. I'm only concerned with Avast looking for viruses and none of the other things listed in the link you posted. ESET detected 183 viruses vs. 182 by Avast, which is virtually identical. Kapersky only detected 105, which makes Avast better in my mind.

          I pretty much gave up on NOD32 on my work system when it got hit with Winfixer and ESET missed it. Spybot had no problems with it though and also detected several hundred other trojans that N

        • by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @10:26PM (#32553988) Journal

          While I think it's atrocious that Windows has to have a third-party layer

          They don't. I have been using MS Security Essentials for a year now, on several XP, Vista (ugh) and W7 boxes (over a dozen). Uses less resources than even AVG, and haven't had a single virus yet, even with all the stupid browsing that gets done by users. And it is free.

          It is sad that you need AV, but at least it is now free, good quality (relatively speaking) and works as good as or better than the average. Of course, I still would rather we switched the whole office to Linux or BSD, but if you have to use Windows, you don't have to use a 3rd party AV solution.

          • and haven't had a single virus yet that was detected, even with all the stupid browsing that gets done by users.

            There, fixed that for ya. ...considering that the detection rates of that thing are a complete joke.

          • While I think it's atrocious that Windows has to have a third-party layer

            They don't. I have been using MS Security Essentials for a year now...

            I guess it's technically not a third-party solution, but it still has to be installed like one. That's what is truly a shame. Why couldn't they have just made it secure to begin with! Then we wouldn't have to worry about this shit in the first place. So you'll have to pardon me for not having much faith in it now.

            • by Pharmboy (216950)

              I'm not a fan of MS either, but we have no choice on the corporate desktop. AV is a shim, but it is as well on Linux if you run AV. Windows 7 is honestly much better than XP even if it is still flawed, but then again, XP was designed a decade ago. I'm just buying time until Linux is more desktop ready than it currently is. Now on the server, I've not run Windows in over 10 years.

              My problem with MS isn't about the usability of Windows. It is still easier on the desktop than Linux, although that is more

    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:49PM (#32553352) Journal

      Friend of mine has the most annoying product ever. Whenever it updates itself, it plays a recording of a voice saying "virus database updated". So we'll just be sitting there and hear that.

      Yes, but it also gives you the opportunity to say "Thank you, computer, that will be all" like you're in Star Trek.

      Wait... What do you mean I'm the only one who does that? Guys?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by El_Oscuro (1022477)
        I have my computer set to say "Just what do you think you are doing, Dave?" when I reboot it.
      • No, you’re not. :)

        We were promised smart speech interfaces all our lives, so I better damn can at least act as if.

        Oh, and a tiny script will allow you to let it answer “You’re welcome!”. ;)

    • by Smauler (915644)

      AV does not protect against 0 day exploits

    • by Minwee (522556)

      Friend of mine has the most annoying product ever. Whenever it updates itself, it plays a recording of a voice saying "virus database updated".

      You know, all your friend has to do is open up the settings dialog and turn off audio notification. It's about three clicks of the mouse and then all of those messages will disappear.

      Just because you're using Windows doesn't mean you have to accept every annoying misfeature of every application as normal.

    • There are some like Norton (Boss: "We don't say anything bad about our competition. So when someone raises the topic Norton, we say 'Norton is packaged in a really well designed looking box'"). And I can understand why they have to dig into the system so deeply. Simply because they, being big players in the AV biz, have become targets for malware themselves. So it has become a battle between these companies and the malware writers who can dig deeper into the system and make sure the other one cannot uproot

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cgenman (325138)

        I'd say about a quarter of the completely messed up machines I've seen have come from AntiVirus software that went rogue and deleted large chunks of the system. The only systems that I've had to entirely re-flash were from said destructive AV software. And all of those were either McAfee or Norton.

        • Boss: "We don't say anything bad about our competition. So when someone raises the topic MyAfee, you excuse yourself and go to the bathroom, and you better hope the topic changes before you return. To be sure, make it a long dump."

    • actually i used avast just because of the voice playbacks.
      in the middle of the night:"virus database updated!"
      when you plug in a friend's usb drive: "[loud siren]Attention!! A virus has been detected!!"
      its cool and scifi!! unfortunately avast also made my pc slow as molasses and then msse was released.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by st0nes (1120305)

      viri

      Viruses please. And calluses, octopuses, platypuses, polypuses. Thank you, that is all.

    • by Kitkoan (1719118)
      To turn off those sounds bring up the Avast User Interface. In the top right of Avast box click on the Settings button. Under the Sounds tab (fourth from bottom) uncheck the Enable avast! sounds. Your done and it'll shut up.
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      ...but the main key to windows security is to not expect it...

      The main key for ANY security is not to expect it.

  • Spam exclusion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Little known, though highly comical peice of info, is back in the day the McAfee spam filter constantly triggered on the McAfee advertising emails. You'd think the marketing guys would have figured out their techniques needed adjustment... but instead the smart ones at the top demanded a fix... so the engineers built an exclusion into the software for anything coming from the company... becuase clearly that was the right course of action. I'm not at all surprised their 'emails' can't be distinguished from P

    • by swamp_ig (466489) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @08:39PM (#32553592)

      If you receive an e-mail with a subject of Badtimes, delete it immediately WITHOUT READING IT. This is the most DANGEROUS e-mail virus ever.

      It will rewrite your hard drive and scramble any disks that are even close to your computer. It will recalibrate your freezer's coolness setting so all your ice cream melts. It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit cards, screw up the tracking on your VCR, and use subspace field harmonics to render any CDs you try to play unreadable.

      It will give your ex-boy/girlfriend/ex-husband/wife your new phone number. It will mix antifreeze into your fishtank. It will drink all your beer and leave its socks out on the coffee table when company comes over. It will put a kitten in the back pocket of your good suit and hide your car keys when you are late for work.

      Badtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin. It will give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will pour sugar in your gas tank and shave off both your eyebrows while dating your current boy/girlfriend behind your back and billing the dinner and hotel room to your Visa card.

      It moves your car randomly around parking lots so you can't find it. It will tease your dog. It will leave strange messages on your boss's voicemail in your voice. It is insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve.

      Badtimes will give you Dutch Elm disease. It will leave the toilet seat up. It will make a batch of methamphetamine in your bathtub and leave bacon cooking on the stove while it goes out to chase high school kids with your snowblower.

      These are just a few of the signs. Be very, very afraid!

  • McAfee is for noobs (Score:5, Informative)

    by kaptink (699820) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @06:55PM (#32553030) Homepage

    McAfee is for those who have no idea and therefore the warnings make perfect sense. Ethically wrong, sure. Its been made up by the marketing department with the sole purpose of getting the likely clueless user to cough up. And that i'm sure they do. Tobacco causes cancer yet cigarette companies will still do whatever they can to flog their products to anyone who will buy them. It doesnt mean its right. What do you think about Microsofts 'Windows Genuine Advantage' program? It does absolutely nothing for the user but certainly helps Microsoft make a lot more money. Yet its pushed as giving some sort of advantage.

    • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:19PM (#32553172)

      It's not any more ethically wrong than anything else. The REAL problem are those "YOU HAVE A VIRUS CLICK HERE" fake-windows webpages. Even if you know better sometimes finding a way out can be tricky because the fuckers have started opening "OK" boxes over where you'd normally click to close the window.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Smauler (915644)

      Tobacco causes cancer yet cigarette companies will still do whatever they can to flog their products to anyone who will buy them. It doesnt mean its right.

      I enjoy tobacco and don't mind dying younger. They're not doing anything wrong by supplying what I ask of them. They might be abusing dimlows but that does not mean they're abusing me. What they are doing _is_ right. AV vendors on the other hand only have a business from abusing dimlows - anyone who knows anything about it will generally either use

      • by astar (203020) <max.stalnaker@gmail.com> on Saturday June 12, 2010 @08:34PM (#32553574) Homepage

        do you wish to assert that your dying young is not going to have some sort of social cost I have to pick up?

        I question the dimbulb argument. I have a very nice IQ. No doubt I am a dimbulb here and there anyway. But tobacco has often been a big issue in my life. And I come out of an era where tobacco company out and out lies are well established. I wonder how I should process your remarks.

        Lastly your argument would also support giving out smack on the street corner. Somehow, I suspect that you would find making that argument inconvenient.

        • by selven (1556643)

          do you wish to assert that your dying young is not going to have some sort of social cost I have to pick up?

          I question the dimbulb argument. I have a very nice IQ. No doubt I am a dimbulb here and there anyway. But tobacco has often been a big issue in my life. And I come out of an era where tobacco company out and out lies are well established. I wonder how I should process your remarks.

          Lastly your argument would also support giving out smack on the street corner. Somehow, I suspect that you would find making that argument inconvenient.

          Well, good, because I have absolutely zero problems with making the argument that giving out smack should be legal.

          First of all, sin taxes on tobacco, alcohol, etc are meant to cover the costs of providing medical care to their users. That covers the social costs of those substances. Secondly, the parent accepted that tobacco companies do lie and deceive their customers, he just stated that they're not deceiving him, since he's an informed consumer and understands that tobacco consumption is a high-risk act

          • by astar (203020)

            thank you for a response.

            On sin taxes, a few random thoughts cross my mind. "Intend" is often tricky. For most of the last century, the relevant intent was the tobacco people, mediated through southern politicians. I think I could make a good argument that the sin taxes have yet to cover the social costs. Since the sin taxes are never supported by the tobacco companies, but are forced by the government under some sort of general welfare approach, I wonder how you manage to support the sin taxes. Can th

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I enjoy tobacco and don't mind dying younger. They're not doing anything wrong by supplying what I ask of them. They might be abusing dimlows but that does not mean they're abusing me. What they are doing _is_ right.

        It's questionable whether someone knowingly inhaling a carcinogenic agent should call anyone "dimlow". It's also questionable whether supplying such a person the means to self-abuse is morally right. What isn't questionable is that having others suffer from second-hand smoke is quite thoroughly

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "It's questionable whether someone knowingly inhaling a carcinogenic agent should call anyone "dimlow""

          Consider your atmosphere and current city pollution levels.

          Rethink your statement.

          Backpedal faster than a politician.

  • by cacba (1831766) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:08PM (#32553100)
    You seem to use the exact same hyperbole that you claim is so harmful. This is a needless article that is preaching to the choir.

    Seriously, there are blatant scams advertised and you write an article about a product emphasizing its need.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mindbrane (1548037)

      This is a needless article that is preaching to the choir.

      uhmmm, ya maybe, but me, i think of it as more of a contrapuntal invention [wikipedia.org] inviting the choir to join in, but then, that's how i see most /. articles.

  • by sootman (158191) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:14PM (#32553144) Homepage Journal

    Right up there with those assholes at Domain Registry of America. [2mhostblog.com]

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Yeah, I did a double take the first time I heard from them, assuming that it was just a different trading name for one of the registrars I actually do use - it didn't take me long to confirm that it was nothing to do with anyone I purchase from (the rather excessive prices were the first clue!) but it was still misleading enough that I had to check.

      I must admit that I do feel a little bit of satisfaction knowing that they're paying to send several pieces of snail mail across the Atlantic to me every year.

      • It looks like an invoice. If you're a small business owner that doesn't know any better it can get in a stack of bills and you see the $37.50 and something about your domain name and cut a check. That is what they are hoping for. I bet I get 10 - 15 a month from them.

      • by discord5 (798235)

        I must admit that I do feel a little bit of satisfaction knowing that they're paying to send several pieces of snail mail across the Atlantic to me every year.

        The sad thing about that is that they're probably making enough money to be able to send out that many letters in international mail each year. I get about 3 or 4 of those things in the mail each year, each for a separate domain, and so do a couple of acquaintances of mine. If for every 10 letters they send, one sucker gets fooled, that still makes it profitable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zzyzyx (1382375)

      Their letters come with prepaid reply envelopes. I always take some time to inform them of the other great opportunities I receive along in the mail.

  • Maybe I'm missing something, but why is he all of a sudden complaining about the .NET installation saying when you can disconnect from the internet? I realize that he most likely has an always-on connection, but there is still a large number of people using dial--up connections that only give you x number of hours per month. It's helpful to know that the installation is not going to need the internet again to download some extra bits later on. I'd hardly call a little note of convenience for those who ne
  • by X3J11 (791922)

    The one time I actually decide to RTFA, and it's this? What a waste. It probably would have been more amusing if he'd dissected some of the spam e-mails waiting in his inbox.

    Buy a new and modish watch today, and become recognizable tomorrow. If you are looking for fancy and cheap jewelry, you just found it.

    a click away

    That's just a sample of the excitement waiting in mine!

  • Why pay? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by owlnation (858981) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @07:44PM (#32553318)
    If you must use windows, I totally fail to understand why you need to PAY to use anti-virus. There's plenty of free anti-virus software out there that is better than any of the racketeering paid-for versions. I would have thought every single reader of /. knows this.

    Should this article be on /.? It seems more suited for some AOL support board.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      There's plenty of free anti-virus software out there that is better than any of the racketeering paid-for versions.

      That's fine, as long as you don't use your PC for any commercial purposes at all. All the free antivirus software specifically says it's for non-commercial use only, leaving small business, and the like, in limbo.

      • by MikeyO (99577)

        . All the free antivirus software specifically says it's for non-commercial use only

        clamwin [clamwin.com] is GPL which, of course, can be used in a commercial setting.

  • I'm sorry. I'm honestly sorry. Trust me, if we (the techs) could fire the markedroids, they'd be going out the next cannon. And as far as we can overload said cannon without endangering human life (markedroids are NOT human).

    The whole scaremongering bothers us the most. Trust me on that one. Because when we, the ones who do actually know when something really is bloody dangerous, cry bloody murder over a security threat, nobody listens anymore.

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Maybe the Navy would let you arrange a demonstration with USS Wisconsin's 16" main battery.

      • And given the amount of grease in the 'droids, that should oil their cannons pretty well too. Win-win!

  • This was once a well known form of extortion, principally of small business owners. While it may still exist, this Internet version seems to have eclipsed it. Crime marches on.
  • seriously, after all the ranting about mcafee being ambiguous and misleading, he himself says "oh and btw, surun[or something equally exotic sounding] is a great and powerful tool." at this point of time the best recommendation to a windows user regarding malware protection is ms se. i'm really surprised to see that se has not become the dominant antivirus. but now i know that its because of people like the author, who is either an asshole or an idiot.
  • McAfee are going in for the hardsell. At work our enterprise uses McAfee Anti-virus products. They've had add-ons to IE and Firefox for some time, but the latest automatic updates were ridiculous. They've added a McAfee toolbar WHICH TAKES UP AN ENTIRE LINE of screen space just to list a little red/green McAfee button. Firefox already lists McAfee as a "problematic extension" but doesn't mention the wasted space problem: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Problematic_extensions [mozillazine.org]

    It doesn't affect Chrome. Ironically
  • I very rarely send out emails to multiple parties, and I never send out something worthy of a Snopes review. But I did send out a mass email containing the link from TFA, even to some who already understood what it explained. They could use it to explain to others, the inherent un-trustworthiness of commercial AV "providers."

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