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Anti-malware software tries to insert itself between you and "possibly malicious" links and webpages on the internet... it often does that less than perfectly.

I recently downloaded an Adobe update and a virus scan tool was offered with it. I decided to check it out and checked the box. After everything was finished, I went about my usual stuff and logged on to a website I've used many times before with no problems; but this time, three different links on the site could not be found. Naturally, I suspected the scan tool since it was the only thing that had been changed and went back and removed from my programs. After I did, I went back to the aforementioned site and it worked perfectly. Why would a well-known scan tool do something like this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #50, I look at a machine that downloaded an extra software package and then started behaving strangely.

Malware tool mistakes

The short answer is it happens.

The issue is that many of these anti-malware tools (various different security suites) attempt to insert themselves into your internet conversation when you're using your browser. In other words:

  • They're actually looking at what's coming down into your browser;

  • And scanning it on the fly trying to protect you from malicious sites, bad links, who knows what.

In some cases, simply the act of doing that may render some things inaccessible due to the software declaring something as say a false positive.

  • They'll think a link is malicious when in fact, it is not.

More commonly, however, (and this is what it sounds like is happening to you) is that the software is installed into your browser in such a way that it just doesn't work quite right.

Real-time scanning

It's one of those things. My blanket advice for anti-malware tools (almost always) is to:

  • Turn off what I call "real-time scanning" of email;

  • And "real-time scanning" of internet web browsing.

That gets the software out of the conversation, out of the way, and prevents it from doing this kind of thing.

Causes of failure

I know that it works. I mean obviously, the feature is there - and works for a lot of people. But it is known to fail in some cases. And those cases depend on all sorts of things like:

  • The speed of your machine,

  • The browsers,

  • The add-ons you have in your browsers,

  • The software that happens to be running at the time.

I mean, there's a very complex equation that says whether or not this is going to work or not-work for you. When it doesn't work, I just say - turn that feature off.

Uninstall questionable tools

Now, in your case, you uninstalled the program, which is fine. That's a good solution, assuming you've got a different anti-malware solution in place. In other words, assuming you've got some kind of anti-virus or anti-spyware tool that is successfully running and not interfering with your activities.

Careful what you download

Ultimately, I don't want to call it a mistake, but I will say that it's a decision that I would not have made... and that is:

  • Checking that checkbox when you're downloading another program.

So in your case, you took an update from Adobe and they offered you this other thing. You know what? Never, ever take those! The reason I say that is because in this particular case, you got lucky. The offering from Adobe (this other software that came down with it) is apparently legitimate software:

  • It's a well-known manufacturer and it uninstalled and worked fine.

  • All too often these, what I call "drive by downloads"... they don't;

  • They are from less than reputable companies;

  • They install things that you don't want;

  • And they can be incredibly difficult to uninstall.

So if there's anything I would have changed about the scenario that you've described, it's that when you're downloading a product (be it an update or a new product that you're getting, or just some other kind of download), take only what you're there for:

  • Say no to all of the other things that are offered with it that don't relate to what it is you actually are there for.

I see too many people get their machines messed up by some of this additional software that seems to come down that way. So, in your case, you got lucky. It uninstalled and that's great. Avoid doing that kind of thing in the future.

Article C5776 - September 5, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
September 6, 2012 5:51 AM

i`m the one who asked the question and i just want to thank you for clearing that up and from here on out that advise will be heeded just as any other advise you`ve given. this is a great newsletter.

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