SpywareBot: Phoney “Free” Software

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I wanted a cross-check on how well McAffee finds spyware. I did a Google search on “spybot”, since I had a very elderly copy which did quite well but was hopelessly out of date.

I picked the top ranked link on the search results (which McAffee said was a trusted site) and downloaded the product and installed it. I ran it. It found over 60 files, mostly cookies, which are considered spyware. Since doubleclick had several entries in the found list, I was satisfied. I clicked the Repair button.

Surprise! I received a dialog stating this operation could not be performed until I had registered the product. And, you guessed it, “Registered” means “”purchase”. No trial period. No free version after all. Well, what do you know about that!

How can this be? Checking my software registration lists, I had never registered an OLD version of SpyBot. I re-investigated this morning.

  • The click to download button actually says, in small print, “Click to scan free“.
  • The product listed at the very top of Google’s results for the “Spybot” search is NOT “Spybot”. It is “SpywareBot“.
  • The real SpyBot, the free product, is listed further down the page.
  • OK, so I was flim-flammed. OK, if, like millions of other Google users, I was conditioned to think the top ranked “find” was the closest match to my search, that’s my fault.

    There’s no way I’ll pay for an unproven product just to see if I like it, only to have to fight the corporate stone wall if I decide I want my money back. On here-today-gone-tomorrow utilities, I expect a fully functional 30 day free trial period, before deciding whether to pay or bail out.

    Needless to say, I will never – that’s NOT EVER – use the underhanded SpywareBot. If they don’t mind wasting an hour of my time on their stoopid Venus Flytrap marketing schemes, I don’t mind badmouthing the hell out of them and avoiding their product like the Black Death. Honestly, don’t you ever wonder: if their marketing and development people will aprove a come-on like that, what else lies in wait for the unwary? Can’t you just hear flea-infested rats skittering between the walls?

    Alas, poor free SpyBot – the author is still supporting it after all these years, and it’s still free, and it does one heck of a job doing what he designed it for.

    As part of a staged scheme to gradually dump the in-your-face Symantec/Norton suites for something more low-maintenance, I’m going with McAfee for antivirus and firewall protection (behind my router), and System Mechanic for now for system scans, repairs and cleanup. I have System Mechanic 4 now (pretty old) and will upgrade to version 7. McAffee seems to take care of limited anti-spyware needs, and System Mechanic should find what McAfee doesn’t. As long as you run these manually to avoid contention between different programs, you might do well to keep a couple of anti-spyware programs in your collection. No one application is going to find them all.

    You know, my eyes really don’t get any better with age, and it would appear that, “just like everybody else”, I have a tendency to click a link and follow it, without actually reading the text of the link carefully, when I’m in a hurry.

    I never heard of “SpywareBot” before. But, let’s face it, it could have been a lot worse.

    Granted, the “Spywarebot” listing shouldn’t have been included in my Google results. I think there was a huge uproar about paid placements some years back. Today, if you look carefully, you can find a tag that discloses this is a “Sponsored Link” (in grayed-out font). After a couple of experiences like mine, you won’t forget what a “Sponsored Link” is.

    It’s just like any other advertisement. You can find ads for clean, well-designed products that pay back the original investment over years and years. And, you can find ads that would seem to offer the same polish and richness of detail, only for crappy products that are going to disappoint again and again. The ads all look alike. Like talking crows, some are liars. Some really talk. You can’t tell, and the liars aren’t saying.

    For my money, if a product deeply disappoints once, why would you wait to see if it disappoints again and again?

    If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

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