They know that users just click, click, click…
By Charles Miller
A couple of questions about last week’s column from my volunteer proofreaders told me that I should go ahead and continue on that subject and not wait until after publication when I could receive email feedback from readers. Obviously a lot of people like free software, I included, and so knowing how to legally and safely acquire it is a popular topic.
Back in 2009 the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle was to knowledgeable computer users as it would have been for Star Wars fans to learn that Luke, Hans, and Chewbacca had been acquired by Darth Vader. Sun had promoted free and open source projects such as Java, MySQL, and Open Office while Oracle is the Death Star of proprietary software. While Java has remained free, Oracle has pursued some insidious ways to monetize their products.
It used to be that Skype and Adobe were the worst offenders when it came to foisting Trojans and unwanted junkware programs onto user’s computers. Both of these companies have for the most part cleaned up their acts while Oracle now pushes unwanted software on users of Java by using sleazy and deceptive techniques. Users installing or updating Java will see a dialog box offering the opportunity to decline installing the annoying “Ask Toolbar,” however; it has been shown that ten minutes after the user answers “No” by unchecking the options, Oracle waits until nobody is looking and then silently and surreptitiously installs this junkware anyway.
Likewise, it seems that almost all the previously reputable file download sites have gone over to the dark side. A year ago one of the best, CNET’s download.com repository started bundling free software with Trojans, shady toolbars and other hard-to-uninstall junk programs such as the Babylon Toolbar. This was done without the knowledge or consent of many of the software authors, but the advertising money to be made from this practice is just too much for most download web sites to resist.
They know that users often just click, click, click as fast as they can through installer screens. Then next time they open their browser, they find it taken over by unwelcome toolbars, their search engine and home page changed, plus whatever other shenanigans the installer software performs. As my client last week learned, trying to uninstall these unwelcome programs can sometimes make things go from bad to worse, much worse.
Right now the best defense against this onslaught of junk software is to seek out the originator’s web site whenever you want to download a free program. Many of the companies that create software are as upset with the download web sites as we are, but they seem to have little control over how their software is bundled when it is distributed by others. A frequently-encountered trap you will encounter on download sites is a fake download link, usually a brightly colored button with text like “Free Download” or “Download Now.” These are often just advertisements crafted to mimic real download links, tricking you into clicking them and installing different software than what you thought you were downloading.
This is why it is best to dig a little to find the web site of the original creators and writers of the software you want to download. The originators of the software have not all gotten into the practice of bundling their product with all of the junkware foisted on unsuspecting users of download.com.
Taking time to do a few online searches to locate the company that makes the product may take a little bit longer, but you will often be rewarded by finding a Trojan-free download and sometimes when you go directly to the source in this way you can obtain a newer version than found on other more-convenient download sites.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.