Oct 17, 2013

When It Comes To Anti-malware, For God's Sake Listen To The IT Guy!

Malware logo Crystal 128.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So the other day my dad tells me that he can no longer send emails from his email account. When he tried to send it, he got a bounce back from his email service provider saying that his account had sent too many suspicious emails, and he had to call support.

What does that sound like? Some kind of spam malware right? Maybe a worm or something right?

Well he calls his email provider's tech support and they said he had to run an anti-malware tool on his machine and send them the report before they would turn his email service back on.

First he ran Microsoft Security Essentials, and didn't find anything. He said he wanted to run an anti-spyware program too. At that I told him that I recommend Spybot Search and Destroy, as well as Malwarebytes. I told him how both are free, and very good at detecting and removing malware.

Well yesterday morning he was running a scan from a program I've never heard of called SpyHunter 4. He told me he paid for the program, and is running it.

WHAT? Why would you pay for a program when I gave you two great programs that are free for personal use? Two programs that have been proven to work, and are NOT rogue anti-malware programs?

Wait, what? What's a rogue anti-malware program? I'm sure you are asking... Here's a description from Wikipedia:
Rogue security software is a FraudTool (a form of Internet fraud using computer malware) that deceives or misleads users into paying money for fake or simulated removal of malware (so is a form of ransomware)—or it claims to get rid of malware, but instead introduces malware to the computer. Rogue security software has become a growing and serious security threat in desktop computing in recent years (from 2008 on).
That's right boys and girls, there are software companies that make programs that look like anti-virus or anti-spyware programs, that really harm your computer. That is why you can't just use any willy-nilly program you find out there! Especially if your IT guy already gave you two programs that work!

Anyway, I checked around and although SpyHunter wasn't on any current known rogue anti-malware lists, it was once listed back in 2004 because of their misleading marketing practices. Here is a full explanation from Spyware Warrior:
Enigma's SpyHunter anti-spyware application was listed on this page primarily because of the company's history of employing aggressive, deceptive advertising. The company was also known for exploiting the name "spybot" in its domain names and online advertising. These objectionable business practices were employed primarily from late-2002 to mid-2004.

Sometime during summer of 2004 the company halted the most obnoxious and objectionable aspects of its online advertising. It also unloaded all the "spybot" domains (which were promptly picked up by Paretologic for its XoftSpy anti-spyware application).

While there are still unresolved allegations that SpyHunter transmits the Windows Product ID from users' PCs, we can no longer classify this application as "rogue/suspect." Nonetheless, SpyHunter -- at least in its current state -- cannot be recommended because of its mediocre performance as an anti-spyware scanner. Testing indicates that it does not recognize some well-known spyware installations and has difficulty removing critical spyware/adware files even from those it does recognize. Given the many excellent competing anti-spyware applications that are available (some for free), users would do better looking elsewhere for trustworthy anti-spyware protection. 
Here are a few good lists of known rogue anti-malware programs:
So long story short, if your IT guy recommends some good free programs, don't just go it alone and disregard what they say. Chances are, they are recommending those products because they have used them plenty of times to know they work. Plus, if you screw around and download the wrong program, you could find yourself in a world of hurt by actually installing something worse than you are trying to remove. I think my dad was lucky this time.

Has this happened to you? Tell us a story about how someone you knew disregarded your recommendations and messed things up worse in the comments.
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