Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How Dumb Can I Get?

Funny how over the last few years of plunging into computers and the online world, I have had to learn one or two tough lessons, but I thought I had got through the worst.

When people ring me in panic saying "a pop-up window says my computer may be infected with a virus" I reassure them it is merely an ad, etc, and to ignore it, and maybe download a free antivirus thing like AVG.
So what came over me last night I have no idea. Up in the small hours, enjoying myself, a window popped up for WinFixer 2006 (maybe you shouldn't click that link to their site).
It sounded interesting, even if it also sounded too good to be true [sinister organ music...]. I thought I'd try the free download (I often have experimented with software over the last 6 years, and not all of it freeware) but it wouldn't do much until registered, which I read as $29 (about £15-20) and for some silly reason I went ahead (I have a feeling I thought it had popped up near a free site I like, and there might be some kind of tie-in, like I was helping the site, or some such - how does my brain work at 4 a.m?)

Anyway, I did register it, and then saw that it said £29 - rather more than I expected. So I did a bit of research, and although their site looks good, and the top hits in Google seem OK, as soon as you dig you find words like Trojan, Malware, Spyware, etc. I suddenly didn't like the smell of it, and the first references didn't look good (almost impossible to remove, etc). As usual, no-one really explained what it could or would do, so I took a deep breath and rang my bank and stopped my card. Probably a small hours, paranoid over-reaction. I only use it for online shopping, so it doesn't inconvenience me much, but I just felt uneasy about the whole thing. Sure enough, that payment to WINSOFTWARE had been paid to someone in Singapore...but nothing else from the account. On reflection it probably mostly does pop-ups until you pay the £30, and then it may stop nagging. Hard to say. Just how illegal does it act? I did a bit of clean-up today, but do not feel secure that I have removed all traces yet.

I do find it confusing that CNET download.com offer it (but read the users' comments!)
I feel dumb not to have heard of Winfixer2005, which people talk about in terms of viruses..
I do feel very stupid, but I figure I have to confess to stupidity if it saves even one of you from the same thing. DON'T EVEN DOWNLOAD THE FREE VERSION AS IT WILL TAKE OVER YOUR MACHINE AND NAG YOU.
Now that I have regained my sense of humour, I enjoyed this User's Comment on their support page, under How can I use Winfixer for free? Perhaps they do have a sense of humoour, even if they look like crooks:

Comment #1 (Posted by kraprao)

This is very good software I have never used before. Thank god.

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