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Security The Almighty Buck IT

Antivirus Firms Short-Changing Customers 205

Barence writes "Two leading security firms have been accused of ripping off customers by cutting short their antivirus subscriptions. AVG and Symantec are offering their own customers discounts on subscriptions via email or pop-ups, but the new subscriptions start immediately, 'short-changing' users who had months left on their existing deal. Both Symantec and AVG owned up to the practice, and said they had no plans to change their ways, instead advising their customers to upgrade as close as possible to the end of the subscription. However, the pair actively send out emails and pop-up messages that encourage customers to upgrade immediately."
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Antivirus Firms Short-Changing Customers

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  • It's all a scam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:53PM (#34433628) Journal

    Honestly, I don't know what you get out of paying for these that you don't get out of free solutions.

    Has anyone ever had a controlled experiment where having the full paid for version of Symantec or AVG actually provided more security than their free counterparts?

    • Windows - Microsoft (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:55PM (#34433686)

      Here's the best free anti-virus [microsoft.com] I have ever used on the Windows platform. And, it works better than Norton and McAfee.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03, 2010 @02:03PM (#34433822)

        it works better than Norton and McAfee

        Really setting the bar up high, aren't you.

        • By comparing it to the "big boys" in the market? Yeah, they may be crap, but they're the gold standard crap.

          Would you prefer my "I like it better than any other antivirus I haven't paid for, and really wish that the MS security center warning would list 'Download and install MSE' as one of the options in response to 'You lack an antivirus or it is out of date' error"? No forcing it, no bundling it, just make it a clearly available option, maybe with an (MS Recommended) beside it or something. It's a real

          • by Sancho ( 17056 ) *

            I really have no metric for guessing at how well any given Antivirus works, because I haven't had Antivirus software fire an alert in years. I'm required to run something per corporate policy, so I run MSE because it's the most lightweight.

        • by __aamnbm3774 ( 989827 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:03PM (#34436188)
          instead of opinions and conjecture, here are some numbers about which is better: linky [av-comparatives.org]

          Security Essentials is good, but I've been enjoying Avira without incident since this report came out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Here's the best free anti-virus [microsoft.com] I have ever used on the Windows platform. And, it works better than Norton and McAfee.

        But does it work on Linux?

      • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @03:49PM (#34435956) Homepage Journal
        And if your rather nervous about continuing to support the Microsoft Monopoly there's Avira [avira.com], which I've been using for years for free.
    • Honestly, I don't know what you get out of paying for these that you don't get out of free solutions.

      Besides would you really be comfortable paying crooks for your internet security?

      • Crooks or not, I often wonder about it though.

        At work, we've got a massive volume license on Symantec - we have our own Synametc AV server that downloads the updates from their server and then our computers connect to our server to get the updates, at a time of our choosing, as opposed to hundreds of computers all requesting updates from the Symantec www server and bogging down the internet - we basically put all that traffic on our Gigabit intranet, much quicker and less slowdown.

        Now - it does occaisonally

      • Interesting business model...

        "Look we will eventually OWN your computer. What we can do is if you sign up and install our control program, you get to run your computer when you want. When you're away it's part of our network. In exchange, you also get to access our supernetwork for large processing tasks, including offloading video encoding, increasing lag times for all your opponents in PvP matches, and routing around any throttling put into place by your ISP.

        "We'll also ensure that any "grey" P2P downl

    • This [flickr.com] graphic sums up, better than mere words, the quality of Symantec, and the general scumminess that so easily creeps into "protection" businesses...
    • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @02:15PM (#34433998) Journal
      As the title of this post suggests, I have AVG free edition (yes, I know... it's bad). It's due to renew in 2 weeks with the new version. Amazingly, with only a short time to go on the free edition it detected a "generic trojan" for the first time (despite daily scans and relatively safe online behaviour) last week... just after the nag pop-ups started to appear. It recommended that I upgrade to the paid version. No online scan (eg. House Call from Trend Micro) seems to identify this heuristically detected "generic trojan" in my Sony-Ericcson phone management software. Convenient that it happens now, I thought. Guess who's switching to Avast? sarcasm Although maybe I should stick to this new version of Antivirus7... errrrr, I mean AVG. sarcasm/
      • I tried Avast once... And it's UI is a major, MAJOR deterrent. I had 2 icons in the system tray. The annoying spinning icon is distracting.

        And their UI once you open it reminds me of the cheap UIs that motherboard makers ship to tune overclocking settings: futuristic (yeah right), confusing, irregularly shaped windows, with inconsistent buttons and color scheme that doesn't make sense.

        I hated it. So did the people I installed it for.

        Perhaps they changed now.

        As it is, Microsoft Security Essential
    • Has anyone ever had a controlled experiment where having the full paid for version of Symantec or AVG actually provided more security than their free counterparts?

      No, but I have had plenty of experiences where they (almost exclusively Symantec actually) cause a hell of a lot of problems on their own - and missed some rather nasty viruses. Disinfecting a computer that already has Norton installed is _not_ fun. Because Norton won't let you remove it, and it seems to do battle with any alternate antivirus you install. I've seen computers slowed to the point where it takes a good 5-10 minutes to move the mouse over and click the 'start' button because they accidentally h

      • by ais523 ( 1172701 )
        Symantec actually make a separate Norton Removal Tool [norton.com] available from their website, which allegedly (this is second-hand info, I don't know this from personal experience) actually works to uninstall Norton. (It's advertised as a tool to help you recover from problems during the installation, incidentally; I wonder if that's an attempt to justify the existence of a tool that should be redundant to the uninstaller?)
        • by jimicus ( 737525 )

          I've used it, it works quite well and is in fact Symantec's recommended way to remove Norton if you actually want rid of it properly.

          Apparently it never occurred to them to, I don't know, write a proper uninstaller in the first place.

      • by scrib ( 1277042 )

        Try the Symantec Removal Tool. Yep, there's a tool they make specfically to remove the "software."

        http://us.norton.com/support/kb/web_view.jsp?wv_type=public_web&docurl=20080710133834EN&ln=en_US [norton.com]

      • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

        My brother screwed up & accidentally installed McAfee on his PC, which already had Avast on it. It was bundled with something else he was installing & I guess he didn't read the fine print on the installer. Brought his other wise snappy home PC to a screeching halt.

    • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
      As part of a college group assignment, that is what we did. This was 5 years ago. Comodo and Microsoft had not released an AV product. The test was to verify if the AV products would prevent various attack vectors. The computer was re-imaged after each test and then loaded with the tested AV product. One test was performed with the image and no AV. We tested AVG, Norton's, McAfee, and ZoneLabs offering (using the free or free trials version). I also tested with one product that was advertised on Tec
    • Actually, AVG specifically states that their A/V engine is identical in their paid and free versions.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:53PM (#34433638)
    Sounds both deceptive and illegal, but ianal. Let's get some actual lawyers that deal with consumer rights issues on this and see what they say.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Costco did something like this. They settled in a class action suit. A source [sun-sentinel.com].

  • Sure sounds like some kind of phishing scam to me! What are we paying these companies for again?
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:54PM (#34433648)
    Solution: Uninstall AVG and Symantec and try http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/ [microsoft.com] instead.

    Maybe it will be free forever? Maybe it will stop all malicious attacks?
    • The free MS option is the best I've used -- it catches as much crap as Norton, is free, doesn't nag you to upgrade or re-up, doesn't hog resources, and doesn't leave bits and pieces of itself and other Symantec software scattered throughout your registry and HD. Honestly? I'm smelling desperation out of Symatec -- it looks like they're trying to milk their users for every possible cent before people wise up that Norton AV both sucks and blows, and that MS has a superior free product available. And, I mean
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        That's what Symantec does. They buy a company, outsource development and support, cut staff to the bare minimum needed to meet contractual obligations (if that), pump it full of nagging goodness, and try to squeeze every cent out of the product before the users realize that it has been glorified abandonware for years. They do that in pretty much every aspect of their business, not just antivirus protection.

    • Uninstall Symantec? Last time I tried that...it refused. The uninstaller says it can't uninstall while it's running. But there's no 'exit' button on it. You try through CTRL-ALT-DEL and it just pops back up. Even if you can manage to get the entire process killed, the installer still usually gives you something along the lines of "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that."....even in Safe Mode it won't let you remove it! I generally end up booting a Linux LiveCD and just wiping whatever Norton files I can find...onl

      • Go into the folder where the program is installed and delete every file you can. Open Task Manager and kill any related processes. Delete more files if you can. Reboot. Repeat until the whole damn thing is dead.

        It sucks, but this will kill just about any nasty thing you want off your computer.

      • Add/Remove programs - it works, trust me
    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      It definitely is a solid product. Its big brother (Forefront Client Security) has been advertised by microsoft as the only enterprise level A/V solution that can actually actively stop the zombie apocalypse.

      Just the anti-undead capabilities put it ahead in this match for enterprise level AV stuff.

  • a corporation with completely open and honest policies was found today; er correction that story is unfounded.
  • People who profit from other peoples' unethical behavior are accused of unethical behavior themselves? SHOCKER. AV companies are scum.
    • Now, now, that's like saying all police is scum because their only existence is warranted by crooks, murderers and thieves.

      And just like with the police and crooked policemen, don't toss the whole lot just because of a few foul apples.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary@nOspaM.yahoo.com> on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:58PM (#34433746) Journal

    I bought a laptop for my wife from Best Buy less than a year ago. Normally, I would never buy from them, but this laptop was on sale, and the best bargain we found. It came with a year long subscription to the horrible, horrible Webroot anti-virus program. Less than a year later, we saw a mysterious charge for $49.95 on the credit card we had used to purchase the laptop. Turns out Best Buy had thoughtfully resubscribed us, and only charged us a small fee for the service. Of course, I had uninstalled Webroot the moment we got the laptop home.

    We called the credit card company, and as soon as we said the words "best buy" they said "we'll reverse the charges, this happens ALL THE TIME." How is this not criminal fraud on Best Buy's part?

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Which is Why you never EVER buy a computer from best buy with a credit card or debit card.

      • Then how do you go around and buy a computer from Best Buy? With a money order? Cash? Pennies?
        • You do realise that cash is still a valid and perfectly acceptable form of currency... right... RIGHT?
          • by D Ninja ( 825055 )

            Yes, because cash gives me back 1.25% on all my purchases, and it's safe to carry around >$1,000 (especially where I live). And, you are protected by case in case the computer breaks and you want to return it. And cash gives you an extended warranty.

            Yup. Cash is wonderful. /sarcasm, in case you missed it

            • And along with those benefits you also get the benefit that the subscription based software on the computer can be have its subscription setup to renew automitically against the card. That way your anti-virus won't unexpectedly expire.

              • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

                And in spite of the shock, at least in principle, if the antivirus software were good (which it sounds like maybe wasn't the case for you), one could reasonably argue that this is a useful service for your average person who doesn't understand technology. Given that nearly 100% of people who buy computers at Best Buy don't understand technology (or else they would have shopped online to get a significantly better deal), the net result of this is fewer non-antivirus-savvy Windows users letting their subscri

        • Why not cash?
        • There's this weird technology called checks. You deposit money into a "checking account" and then write on these checks to make payments for things. I've tried it. It works. :p

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          Yes there are two very secret technologies you can use. I will probably be killed by the FreeMasons for revealing this secret of theirs but I think it's worth the risk..

          1 - you can use a very secret form of payment called cash. It's specially printer paper issued by a secret government department that very few people know about.

          2 - a bank check or personal check. These both are very secret ways that many people have been killed over by even talking about them... What do you think Jesus was crucified f

          • by eyeball ( 17206 )

            Trust me, we're encouraging those two "alternative" forms of payment wherever possible.

        • Pennies. Preferably dirty ones. And not rolled, bring them in plastic grocery bags.
        • by DavidTC ( 10147 )

          Then how do you go around and buy a computer from Best Buy?

          What do you mean? Why would you do that?

      • by spun ( 1352 )

        Which is Why you never EVER buy a computer from best buy with a credit card or debit card.

        This should be a fricken' Public Service Announcement.

        The More You Know!

    • It was in the microscopic .001 font size print. What? You COULDN'T read it?
    • I use virtual credit card number when I shop on line. But having to protect the card number against unauthorized use against a brick-and-mortar retailer is new.

      Here is what you do. Go to a reputable trusted vendor and buy BestBuy gift cards. Use it to pay for BestBuy purchases. They would not be able to pull this stunt again. Best part of the deal? Local grocery store selling BestBuy card considers it a "purchase" and gives cents-off-gallon frequent shopper reward.

    • > How is this not criminal fraud on Best Buy's part?

      Did you file a complaint?

      • by spun ( 1352 )

        Who would you recommend filing a complaint with? The BBB? State AG? I don't really know where to go here...

        • You could start with the management of the store... then the local newspaper if they refuse to do anything. They like it when crap like this goes public around Christmas time.

    • by hazydave ( 96747 )

      If you buy a TV at Best Buy, you MAY get a good price. I bought one there a few years back, a bit more expensive than B&H in New York, but that more than made up by the lack of shipping charges (for a 125lbs 71" TV).

      But if you look around the TV department, accessories are crazy expensive -- and consumers by those anyway, just because it's easier. So you drop some cash on a carefully investigated HDTV, at a great price, then spend $50-$100 on an HDMI cable you could get at Monoprice.com for $5-$10. The

    • by pogle ( 71293 )

      We got a replacement laptop for my wife this summer at Best Buy, and got a free 6mo of Kaspersky with it. Which I never bothered installing. It started its countdown on date of purchase, and expires this Sunday without every being used. I've been getting nag emails about it for a month+ now, but its not defaulting to auto-renewal. I specifically checked (while trying to find a way to turn off the nag emails).

      So, no auto-renewal without my permission: good. But constant email nags w/o any visible way of turn

  • It always was. It only catches some of what's out there, and once your system has caught something, you're hose. Time for a wipe and re-install. The stuff it doesn't catch is what you'll get. I recommend against it for everybody I know. Too many people think that somehow having antivirus software actually does something useful, or that their PCs will be magically immune because they have it.

    The only real defense against viruses is software that is written from the start to have as few security holes as possible, making sure you keep up on patches, and being careful about what you agree to when you computer asks you if you're sure about something.

    People who are already participating in a scam getting scammed even worse than they originally thought isn't much of a surprise to me.

    • by scrib ( 1277042 )

      This is the worst kind of tautological argument I've heard, and it gets repeated so often on slashdot... You only get what AV doesn't catch? Exactly, just like vaccines never stop what actually makes you sick.

      It's called "herd immunity." The reason those old viruses aren't still infecting lots of people is because lots of people have protection against those old viruses and they can no longer spread effectively. You are fairly safe against those old viruses, even if you are completely unprotected, just like

  • If you upgrade from one norton product to different product, say like going from norton antivirus to norton Internet security, when you renew you lose the remaining subscription. If you upgrade or renew to the latest version of the same product, like going from norton antivirus 2009 to norton antivirus 2010, you loose nothing. If you renew your existing product you loose nothing.
  • which other free AV is good? How does Antivir compare to AVG?
  • Symantec ripping people off. This can't be true and I don't believe it. I mean, they have never done it before.

    I mean, anybody that used to use EarthLink and tried the EarthLink solution more than likely knows how great Symantec is. For those that do not know, please let me enlighten you: I use to take tech support calls for EarthLink. We were supposed to upsell the EarthLink solution, which was Symantec. Now, if a person already had Symantec, we would be trained to talk that person into buying thi
  • You pay more, but the offerings from Trend Micro have been top notch as far as I'm concerned. From detection, protection, to customer support, I couldn't be more happy.

    Minor gripe. Trend Micro upgraded their Worry Free suite to version 7. Six was always good. Only a few service packs and updates needed now and then. Seven OTOH seems to be a rushed product.

  • We have a large footprint of OfficeScan/ServerProtect/ScanMail and we renewed 6 weeks early in 2008 and suddenly we got shortchanged, that time. Now, I don't even schedule the order renewal until the week before it's due. We have a large footprint of OfficeScan/ServerProtect/ScanMail and we renewed 6 weeks early in 2008 and suddenly we got shortchanged, that time. Now, I don't even schedule the order renewal until the week before it's due.
  • by DaveWick79 ( 939388 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @02:43PM (#34434622)

    As a reseller of AVG, I have never experienced an upgrade license behaving in this manner.

    If the end-user is unintelligent enough to purchase a brand new license direct with AVG, of course they will get a brand new license that starts on the date they purchase it.

    However, if they renew an existing license, the license always renews from the existing expiration date, AND they often tack on a few extra days or weeks to the license. Even if they are renewing and also upgrading to a different version (say, Antivirus to Internet Security), the license is upgraded, they are charged the prorated upgrade price based on time left on the existing subscription, and then the renewal year(s) are added.

    So if you are getting short changed, it's your own fault, not the vendor.

  • by BBTaeKwonDo ( 1540945 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @03:18PM (#34435358)
    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/security/363322/updated-antivirus-firms-short-changing-customers [pcpro.co.uk] says, "The two firms have now denied the claims"...
  • Paper magazines send out "your subscription is about to expire" within a few months of starting your subscription. Network Solutions also sends you crap telling you your domain is about to expire. They base this on the hope that when you signed up you didn't keep track of when you signed up and maybe have forgotten how long you signed up for.
  • ClamAV for Windows [clamav.net] is a great alternative to AVG/Symantec, and it's also, of course, free of charge. I use the Linux version on my Linux boxes and the Windows versions on the Windows boxes I maintain.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone