McAfee Security Scan #Fail – If It’s Free, It’s Probably Useless

by on December 2, 2012

in consumer

Consumer Bits on Brusimm 200w logo, [Consumer News, advice and reviews]When something gets loaded up on your PC as a secondary install (for free), that doesn’t always mean you get the benefits from that program that you think you’re expecting.

At times, the name of the application can mislead you, like in the case of this McAfee Security Scan.  It should be named Useless, Won’t Do Anything But A Security Scan.  And that’s what this consumer awareness piece is about.  Attentive software installations.

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Every now and then when I install new software, I actually forget to uncheck all the “extra” installations that a program “offers” to install for me.  And on one occasion, apparently I forgot to uncheck the McAfee Security Scan installation option during an install.  (Or it snuck by and I was never offered the chance to not install it.)  But when I had noticed that software I did not want as installed, but saw what it was, I decided, “What the heck!  It’s a security application.  It can’t hurt.

And sure, as far as I can tell, it has not done any damage and I let it stay on my system.

But…

The other day I had a warning message from my McAfee Security Scan software.  You see, when it set itself up, without asking, it set up its own schedule for scanning my system.  It said I had a malware threat on my computer from a website I had visited.

Now sure, the website name was not one I had actually visited manually, but that isn’t to say that when I visited some other website, that the layer of supporting sites behind any website I hit up may might have had this one in there.  (Usually websites have at minimum, a few websites that support their operation in the background.  It’s complicated but necessary at times. Ads, images, secondary cached data, etc. all are processes that deliver your web experience and in a way, have you have contact with those websites.  Usually, it’s not a bad thing.)

But when McAfee told me I had an issue, it offered to “Fix” the issue.

Ha!  This is where my expectations of this installed application failed miserably.

When I have a program called Security Scan, I actually expect it to do its job.  But I also expect that if it finds an issue, it will fix it.  But that’s just me. I’m weird that way.

In all fairness to McAfee, in this case, the title of the application is exactly what it is.  It scanned.  It found.

When I clicked the “fix” option all it did is take me to the McAfee website with an offer to buy their software.  Nowhere did I find the option to fix the problem it was apprising me of.

And that, in my book, is a fail of a dubious application or business practice.

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This isn’t necessarily what I call an evil thing.

There are many associated software companies that offer to install other things while you’re installing their apps.  It’s a business association at the time that both orgs believe will benefit each other.  And as far as I can tell, you always have the ability to opt-out of a third party installation.  If you’re paying attention and not just clicking ‘go,’ ‘yes,’ ‘go,’ ‘agree’ buttons blindly.  (And yes, I’ve seen some friends do just that.  When I asked what they agreed to after clicking yes, they couldn’t tell me what the ‘yes’ button was for.)

Me, when I install app A, that’s all I want.  Not app B or browser bar C and such.  Just the app.  Plus, I have my installed base of internet protection suites already.

So what’s the real moral of the story?

Pay attention to those app installs.  And temper your expectations of what these free-to-install apps just might do.

In this case, McAfee’s business tactic just pushed me farther away from potential consideration of future products of theirs, because I like upfront dealings.  But that’s just how I am, as a consumer.  I’m silly that way.  -Bruce

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PS/Update:  After the fact, I ran two other utilities to look for the issue that McAfee claimed.  From what I can tell, McAfee tried to pitch me their product from something they pulled up out of my surfing history, because no other app could find this issue McAfee said I had.  Most interesting way to pitch the purchase of a product.

About 

Bruce has been been writing for the web since 1999. He likes to take a more pragmatic approach to most of the news and marketing that gets floated out there while still keeping a light tone about it.

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