SELLING FEAR

A friend left us a panicky phone message a few days ago. Her computer screen was flashing a message from McAfee anti-virus and it said she had to take action right away. She’s physically disabled and was very scared.

It sounded serious to her. A screen prompt told her to install McAfee’s online backup program, which she neither needs nor wants, and then asked her to pay for it. When she didn’t do that, an icon flashed ominously in Windows taskbar, telling her she must take action. This is a gun to the head to someone unfamiliar with the computer.

Joy went over to her apartment, looked at the message, and right-clicked “exit” on the flashing icon. She then looked for the online backup program in the “add/remove programs” section of the Windows Control Panel, but couldn’t find it. So she clicked “start” and then “run” from the main desktop screen and typed “msconfig” to view the “startup” tabs. It didn’t appear there either.  She told her handicapped friend that if the flashing icon comes back when she reboots, just click exit again. It is possible to find the programming code that triggers these stupid warnings, but not worth the effort when you can just click exit.

This is nothing less than fear marketing and McAfee is not the only purveyor of free floating anxiety. We used to get if frequently from Symantec’s Norton anti-virus programs, which not only insisted on frequent updates but frequent payments as well. Bob says he will never deal with them again. The word is out that their newest version is light and fast and much better than the old clunky version. But we no longer care; they poisoned the well. On a lesser scale, Rebit’s backup software would tell us every day how many hours it had been since we last backed up our files. It was like we were naughty, naughty. We asked them how to remove these notices and they told us they had no idea how to stop them. So we removed Rebit from the startup menu and that stopped them.

One of our biggest criteria for anti-virus programs and backup software is no-hassle protection. Keep it clean, keep it easy. We don’t want to be nagged to do updates; we don’t even want to be aware of them. We don’t want any esoteric programmers’ messages that say something like “error 43X67-2” has been encountered and this program will be shut down.” Our Avast anti-virus program just presents small box on the screen telling us it has already done an update without asking. In fact it never asks us to do anything. Without any fear marketing from them, we paid to get the pro version for extra protection. Before that we used their free version for a year or more and were quite satisfied.  MalwareBytes.org, has an excellent anti-spyware program, which is also free and we sometimes activate for a double check.

Don’t tolerate bullying market pitches – in any field. There are plenty of competitors to turn to in every area of software. We’re looking at a new security program now, and we’ll get to it below.

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