Posts Tagged ‘siteadvisor’

Don’t believe everything you see on TV

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Recently I’ve been seeing ads on television for FinallyFast(dot)com.  Supposedly a piece of software for Windows which will speed up your computer.  Since I’ve seen many pieces of software of this type advertised in various media, I was curious, though skeptical.

Going to the site, SiteAdvisor gives it an unknown rating at the time of this writing.  I’ve submitted it for them to review.  The site for the parent company, Ascentive, listed in the top right of the FinallyFast web site comes up red.  I used the SiteAdvisor plugin to get a report of the site and it stated that “Well-respected security researchers have analyzed the software available from this site and found that it offers little or no security protection and may use deceptive sales tactics.”  A link is then given for the Spyware Warrior Rogue Anti-Spyware list, a resource I’ve used frequently whenever I come across a new anti-spyware tool on a client computer.  It states for the Spyware Striker Pro software offered by Ascentive “ridiculous false positives; outrageous license terms; trial version uses outdated defs.”

So, how do you determine a source that you can trust for good software that isn’t going to make things worse?  That can be a huge challenge given that there are so many questionable options out there and they are pointing to themselves and other questionable software.  I could point you in a few directions but how then can you trust me?  I’ll admit that I have a business and a reputation to protect but that may not be sufficient reason.  Between flashy packaging, web site, TV ads, and your best friend, it’s a lot to take in.

As a starting point, the rogue list above also has a link to a trusted list of software.  It’s not the be-all, end-all list of options, but it’s something.  Feel free to e-mail me and I’ll let you know my thoughts.

The lure of free software

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Free software can be a wonderful thing.  For just about any task you need to do on your computer, someone has written a program to do it and is willing to allow you to use it without monetary compensation.  Some of these programs are classified as open source which means that not only can you use them, but if you know how, you can reprogram to suit your needs.  What’s not to like about that?

The problem comes when you decide you want something and now it’s time to go looking but you’re not necessarily sure where to go.  Your first inclination may be to bring up your favorite search engine and and look for it.  This can be good, but you may end up with software which has a hidden cost attached to it.

Popular categories such as screensavers and fonts will frequently come with hidden extras.  Often called spyware, these extras will then monitor your every move on your computer, report back to a server somewhere, and display pop-up ads based on what you’re doing.  Install several different such things from various locations and you may have a huge mess of many programs sitting in the background watching what you’re doing slowing it down as a result.  The scary part is that you don’t know what information they’re gathering for their reports.

Protecting yourself from these is better than trying to remove them afterward.  Your anti-virus program (you are running one, right?) will catch some, but not all of them, as you try to download them.  However, you don’t have to wait to download something to have an idea as to how well you can trust it.

Enter SiteAdvisor.  Originally created as an independent plug-in for Internet Explorer and Firefox, it is now owned by McAfee, a maker of security software.  McAfee has still kept it as a free option but they also include it with their security suites.

The plug-in will put a status button on your browser to help you identify potentially bad sites. They use a color coded system to let you know how risky a site is going to be (green for low to no risk, yellow for medium, red for high, and gray for not yet rated).  When you’re on a site, the button will change color appropriately.  If you’re searching for something, SiteAdvisor integrates with popular search engines like Google and Yahoo! to let you know before clicking if one of the sites is a problem.  You’ll have icons with the same color coding scheme next to the links in a search result.

As of this writing, SiteAdvisor is available for Internet Explorer and Firefox.  I’d like to see it available for Safari as well, but Mac users currently have very little to worry about in the realm of spyware or viruses.  If you’re using some other browser such as Opera I would expect you already have an idea how to avoid bad things or you had a well-meaning friend or relative who set it up for you.

So, use SiteAdvisor, keep your security software up to date, and if you want a cool free screensaver that won’t be a problem, I recommend Electric Sheep.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.