Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

McAfee throws pop-ups from the system tray that appear to be security alerts, but actually are advertisements for their subscription service. The pop-ups confused us into thinking there was a security breach on the laptop, and I spent a lot of time trying to hunt down the infection. Eventually, I realized the pop-ups weren't security notices. I finally realized they were ads for their update service.

Let's call this software what it is: malware. Malware is the genus of unwanted software that includes, most famously, spyware. I'd consider McAfee to be a form of malicious adware. It doesn't spy on you the way, say, Gator does. It does, however, sneak its way onto your computer (in this case, preloaded by Toshiba) and throw irritating (and possibly deceptive) advertisements at you.

There are two things that make the McAfee software harmful. First, the pop-ups are asynchronous. They happen for no known reason. Humans like reasons; we create them when none exist. So, when you receive one of their pop-ups, your natural inclination is to assume that some event on your computer—such as a virus infestation—triggered the alert. It's like a cruel joke when you find out that there is no virus, they just decided to give you an ad.

The other problem is that the language of the alert is alarmist. You install a virus scanner to tell you about problems on your system. You trust it to alert you when action is required, so when you are alerted you believe you must respond with action. McAfee is abusing your trust. They word their pop-ups in a way that, I believe, most people would find misleading.

Once we recognized the McAfee pop-up ads for what they were, we left it alone because there were bigger fish to fry. No matter what I did, outbound email wouldn't work. The laptop had to be setup to use Outlook Express with a secure connection (port 465 for outbound SMTP). I could watch the connection coming in to the server, but the SSL (secure connection) handshake kept failing. I spent days trying to troubleshoot this to no avail.

On a whim, the user removed all the McAfee software from the laptop. We hadn't tried earlier because we learned to ignore the pop-up ads, and we didn't think that the virus scanner would affect outgoing email. So, imagine our surprise when email suddenly started working. It was the blasted virus scanner that broke email.

I'm rather irritated at McAfee for writing such awful software, and Toshiba for pre-installing this value-detracted crap on their laptops. The next time I have to work on a computer with McAfee software, my first step will be to de-install their software completely. The second step will be to smash the distribution CD into bits with a ball peen hammer. Then, if I thought it would do any good, I'd burn the bits in a fire.


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re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

Don't forget to stomp on the ashen bits once they've cooled...just to be sure. :)

re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

I purchased their virus scanner from their website a couple of years back. Shortly after installing it, I discovered that the scheduler it installed had the irritating habit of stealing the focus every 5 minutes. Playing my favourite game because impossible because every five minutes my computer would jump back to the desktop. Their technical support were no use in solving the problem, and I ended up uninstalling it.

Then a year later, without warning, they charged my credit card for a second year's updates. I managed to get a refund on that, fortunately.

re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

I'm using McAfee on this computer. For what it's worth I like Norton/Symantec less, this week. But thanks, Alden, for the clue: I'll keep an eye on my credit card.

But, yeah, it broke my email too. There was a setting which by default, prevents SMTP traffic; the McAfee helpdesk informed me where to click to change that setting.

All of 'em are infuriating with their marketing. I'd pay good money for a virus scanner that just scans for viruses. Or just load Linux. :)

re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

Theres lots of good AV sollutions out there other then Norton/Symantec or McAfee. I've been using and resell Norman Virus Control for the past 4 years.

I've tested more then a dozen other products and a few such as Sophos I liked, but its hard to beat Norman "Sandbox" Technology for detecting unknown viruses.

re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

McAfee antivirus is very terrible. One person complained as well as I did. They do not keep their promise as to protect computers. Stay away from McAfee!!!!!!!!!

re: Bad Behavior by McAfee Anti-Virus

I agree with all the insightful comments here about the McAfee Antivirus software. I am so irritated by the sneaky popup ads that I am about to uninstall this crap and go with something else. On top of this, I am required to "verify" my subscription every so often by logging into the McAfee site with a registered name and password. Who's leading that company anyway? This will be the last year I use McAfee then it's being removed from 12 machines that I run.