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Warning: Should I download

by | Nov 5, 2009 | Tech Tips for Small Business | 4 comments

I took a break from NPR the other day to listen to a commercial radio station. (And it wasn’t even pledge week!) I heard a commercial for a web site called The ad promised to remove registry errors, viruses and malware from your computer to increase the speed of your computer by a factor or two.

I decided to visit the web site to see what would happen. encourages you to download and run a product called Cyberdefender. Among other claims, it promises to “remove dangerous spyware and virus traces that make your PC slow.”

I downloaded the software and ran the scan. After several minutes, the program claimed to find 2277 errors on my work PC! I quickly realized that these so-called “errors” were normal items you’d find in the Windows registry after installing and uninstalling a lot of programs. None of the errors were causing any problems with my computer.

Despite the claims made on the radio and on the web site, the scanner doesn’t actually scan for viruses or spyware. After you run the scan, in order to “correct” the so-called registry “errors”, you click on a button to activate the software. This button opens a browser window to a web page where you can buy the program. The registry cleaner is $39.98. There is an additional check box (pre-checked for your convenience) to buy an additional program to clean viruses and malware (which you may or may not be infected with) for an additional 29.95. So now you’re into them for a total of $69.93.

Here’s the best part. At the bottom of the page, in small print, is a statement that the anti-virus software you are purchasing is actually a yearly subscription. But they don’t mention on the purchase page that there’s an automatic renewal. For that info, you would need to click on the tiny link on the bottom labelled “Terms and Conditions”. Most of us don’t read this stuff, but I’ve been burned by T and C’s hiding important information before. So I clicked on the link. There I discovered, buried in the fourth paragraph, that the subscription is:

“renewed automatically for successive periods of one (1) year, unless either party provides written notice of its intention not to renew not less than sixty (60) days prior to the end of the then current term.”

So you probably won’t know when you purchase the product that the renewal charge will show up on your credit card in a year and by then it will be sixty days too late to cancel the charge. And by the way, don’t call them. You have to write to them to get them to stop charging your credit card. (Hopefully they provide an address when you complete the purchase as there is no contact information of any kind on the web site.

To make matters worse, when you “run” the program, it gets installed in your system tray. (This means it is running in the background all the time. The system tray is the list of running programs that appears in the lower right hand corner of your screen.) If you right-click on the CyberDefender icon, there is an option to “exit” which, with a reputable piece of software, would remove the program from the system tray. In this case, however, a window pops up with more links to buy the product. You cannot even click to exit out of this Window. You have to click “continue”. Then you go to the main product window behind this one which you can exit out of. Finally, after four clicks, you have shut down a background program you didn’t authorize in the first place.

The invasiveness doesn’t stop there. When uninstalling the program from the Windows control panel, you are not permitted to proceed to the uninstallation unless you check off the reason you want to remove the software. Whatever option you check causes another window to pop up coaxing you to buy the program yet again. If you then click “Continue” you are finally permitted to uninstall Cyber Defender from your computer.

The bottom line is that the free download offers no useful information about your system, and does not do any kind of virus/malware detection. If you do purchase the (untested) anti-virus protection, the web site does not make it clear that you are going to incur future credit card charges automatically. Finally, the free download is stubborn and unwieldy to close and remove (much like the spyware it purports to defend against). For these reasons, I will be recommending to my clients that they stay far away from