Well, it’s been over a year since I last posted. I suppose it’s time to say something.
Malware. It’s all over the place. If you have installed any program that you downloaded from the Internet you are probably infected no matter how legitimate the program was. How-to Geek did a test. I post a brief summary of the results here:
How-To Geek has tested and described something that you probably shouldn’t do on your own computer — unless, as they did, you do it on a virtual machine just for this purpose. Namely, they downloaded 10 of the most popular software titles from download.com, clicking through as a naive user might, accepting the defaults or the most obvious Next buttons, as most users surely do.
They note that download.com’s stated policies certainly look good on-screen; it says that the site comprehensively screens for, and disallows, malware of all kinds. But malware of various kinds, even if much of it is in a grey zone rather than actually malicious, is a fair description of what the authors encountered as they clicked through.
Bundled software, some pieces of it at odds with others, was attached to each of the downloads, and from download to installation the process by design foisted more and more junk on their system, even if some of the bundled junk could have been avoided by a user jaded by previous hijackings.
The conclusion: No matter how technical you might be, most of the installers are so confusing that there’s no way a non-geek could figure out how to avoid the awful. So if you recommend a piece of software to somebody, you are basically asking them to infect their computer. And it doesn’t matter which antivirus you have installed — we’ve actually done this experiment a number of times with different antivirus vendors, and most of them completely ignored all of the bundled crapware. Avast did a pretty good job this time compared to some of the other vendors, but it didn’t block all of it for sure. There are also no safe freeware download sites because as you can clearly see in the screenshots in this article, it isn’t just CNET Downloads that is doing the bundling it’s EVERYBODY. The freeware authors are bundling crapware, and then lousy download sources are bundling even more on top of it. It’s a cavalcade of crapware.
It has gotten to the point where you can’t safely download ANYTHING off the Internet unless you are a professional computer expert.