Scareware – Symantec come under fire. A sign of a struggling marketplace?

A little opinion post where after Xmas and the rise of non-desktop form factor’s and platforms, I look at recent allegations made towards Symantec and ask, is this to be expected?

Over on ZDnet it’s being reported that Symantec is coming under fire after a series of incidents which are alleged to be misleading to consumers.  ZDnet reports:

Security firm Symantec is being taken to court over claims that the company’s flagship anti-malware and performance software suites mislead consumers into buying full versions of its products.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was brought by Washington state resident. It was filed in the District Court of San Jose, California on Tuesday on behalf of his lawyers, according to Reuters.

The complaint alleges that misleading ’scare’ tactics are being used by Symantec in its Norton Utilities, PC Tools Registry Mechanic, and PC Tools Performance Toolkit products. The claims also suggest the software range always report harmful errors, privacy risks and other issues that exist, regardless of whether they actually exist.

Source: ZDnet

Now whilst this in itself is not breaking news, I bring it up at a time when coincidently I recieved an email along similar lines.

Those who follow my dulcet tones on TechBytes or read my musings on the various social networks I maintain will know that recently (after years of being let down) I changed my ISP.  With this change brought the expected, a shiny new router, a nice welcome letter and, shovelled into the box was also a free trial of McAfee Anti virus.  Of course there was no way of them knowing that the troubles Windows users may get with malware, virus’s and spyware don’t really have any relevance to a Linux user, but nevertheless their “kind” and “free” trial was put in the same place as probably many a Windows machine when it had been brought to a halt by malicious code and the user (through their own lack of knowledge) merely thought the machine itself was broken.

Ironically in the last few days I was spammed by unwanted email from Mcaffee, presumably because my ISP had given them my details and Mcaffee were at a loss to explain why anyone would turn down their “great” offer.  Here’s the contents of the email (details personal to me have been omitted):

                 As a part of your Broadband package, you’re entitled to a free 12 month trial of McAfee anti-virus software – and we’re contacting you because yours does not appear to have been activated. Without anti-virus protection in place, you run the risk of being the victim of identity theft, phishing attacks or suffering serious damage to your computer. You could lose digital content, such as files, photos, or music in the process. So please, if you do not already have anti-virus protection in place, take a few moments to download and install your FREE trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite. Then you can get back to surfing the Internet, with a little more peace of mind.

It did make me remember that as a Windows user at home in the distant past, peace of mind was something rather lacking when surfing the net.  Whilst all these issues which Mcaffe suggest can be experienced by Windows users, to have the nerve to send this to a user who may already be adequately protected (or not even a Windows user at all) looks a little bad.  Notice the way it targets your personal documents/files as its method of sale?  See how it mentions identity theft and other subjects which I assume Windows users will worry about and are certainly “hot potatoes” in the news?

Linux doesn’t have such issues.  I challenge you to find a home user of Linux who’s had that annoying malware that requires your PC to return to the shop.  I don’t have a firewall, I don’t have anti-virus.  My Linux desktop runs as quickly now as it did the day I installed it.  Run a Windows PC on the net for a day without protection and see what happens.

So what could this show?

I digress. That email was thrown in more out of coincidence.  Moving back to the rest of the ZDnet article, I would like to suggest that maybe more aggressive marketing of anti-virus products is because of the dwindling revenue in them.  After all, the sales figures for Xmas seem to back up what I said around November 2011 which was that the mainstream consumer is moving to smaller form factors and away from the desktop – worse still (as far as Mcaffe et al are concerned) these form factors are not running Windows.

Maybe more aggressive marketing is going to be seen now where these companies fight for your custom in a market dwindling in the home due to other more popular (and non-Windows) products coming to the fore?  Examples from complainants reported on ZDnet say things like:

The software is falsely informing the consumer that errors are high priority and in addition it is falsely informing the consumer that their overall system health and privacy health is low… The truth, however, is that the scareware does not actually perform any meaningful evaluation of the user’s computer system, or of the supposed ‘errors’ detected by the software

I can’t exactly call McAfee “aggressive” and since its the first time in many years I’ve changed ISP I cannot say if this practice has always been common-place, but maybe the actions which Symantec are accused of are a sign the Windows platform (which is a cashcow to many indirectly) is slowly eroding forcing companies to fight more for your custom?

Maybe this article is one about nothing, but consider for a moment that as we see Microsoft’s stranglehold on tech diminish in multiple area’s, there’s many 3rd parties who have a great deal at stake in keeping them alive.

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on

4 thoughts on “Scareware – Symantec come under fire. A sign of a struggling marketplace?

Add yours

  1. Greetings,

    I stumbled onto your blog while searching for info on Symantec, particular because of their recent “report” on the Android.Counterclank trojan:

    Regardless of the state of Android’s marketplace (which is bad, imho) one has to wonder how far companies like Symantec will go to sell you their crapware. I bet we’ll see a future where most of the malicious/rogue apps in the Android market are actually released by antivirus companies (I refuse to call them security firms) in the first place.

    Btw, I actually got a call from my ISP some months ago, asking if I wanted to order a years worth of antivirus crud. Instead of my obvious “I use Linux/BSD” answer, I opted for the thing that Chinese take-out lady did in the film “Dude, Where’s My Car” …. you know, where she just goes “and then ….. and then …… and then…”. That’s what I was saying to the rep after each explanation he gave on why I needed an antivirus app. Try it.

  2. Right here is the right website for everyone who would like to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

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