Please Be Careful Out There!

Do you practice “Safe Computing”? Do you have an up-to-date Anti-Virus programme running on your computer? I hope so and if you don’t then please come to the next How Do I…? Workshop at SeniorNet to find out how to get one installed. Our latest Workshop Timetable is here.

Just as pervasive and often, even more difficult to get rid of, are those programs which slip quietly onto your PC while you’re upgrading your legitimate software. Normally these programs are just plain annoying but they certainly go out of their way to make themselves hard to remove. Nobody really wants this rubbish so here are a few tips on avoiding them in the first place.

Oracle YachtThe latest in a long line of these annoyingly sneaky programmes is the ASK! Homepage and ASK! Search Engine which are riding in on the back of a Java Upgrade. What’s frustrating is that if you ask me whether you should apply updates from Java, my answer would always be “yes” because it provides services to your Web Browser and often drives whole websites on the Internet. Keeping up-to-date is therefore important and Java comes from a respectable company called Oracle – heck, they even race yachts….but enough said about that debacle!

So, the question is how do you stay up-to-date while also practicing “Safe Computing” when even the most respected software companies are trying to offload unnecessary (and often VERY irritating) software onto your PC. Well the answer is very simple….patience and vigilance!

Thinking CapWhen you’re installing any software from any vendor it is absolutely critical that you read every screen that pops up CAREFULLY and consider the consequences of every tick-box you’re presented with. You need to keep calm, take your time and think everything through. BEWARE of sentences offering to do the exact opposite of what might seem logical – they are trying to trick you!

Not every “I accept” is simply accepting a complex and unreadable licensing agreement – some (eg inside the installation of SmartDefrag 3) are asking you to accept the installation of more software from the same company. It’s perfectly reasonable to click the button beside “I do not accept” and then press the Next button thereby keeping yourself out of trouble! And to make matters worse, when SmartDefrag 3 is finally installed, the “completed” screen appears with two more tick-boxes pre-ticked which will result in further software being installed unless you untick them….very sneaky!

The latest “trick screen” from Java/Oracle looks like this when it first pops up… Jave-AskNote the two tick boxes in the middle are already pre-ticked for you….
Now go back and read what they say….
Do you really want this upgrade to install an extra Search Bar in your browser?
Do you really want to use ASK! as your Search Provider from now on?
Are you sure you want ASK! to be your new Home Page?
I very much doubt it, because you’ve already chosen a homepage, you like Google Search and your PC is working just fine so why on earth would you want this stuff!!

UNTICK both boxes then click the Next button to proceed with the Java upgrade. By the way, at the end of the upgrade, Java may tell you that you have out-of-date versions of Java and ask whether you want to uninstall them – the answer is “Yes” although I’m rather mystified why this isn’t done automatically during the upgrade.

Another upgrade which I’ve seen pull this type of trick is the anti-virus programme AVG. Partway through the installation or upgrade (of AVG Free) you’re presented with a screen to confirm the version you’re installing. Rather cynically, the AVG Pro version is pre-ticked and the actual choice is 3 screens down, well out of sight. If you fail to select AVG Free at the bottom, you’ll end up with a 30 Day Trial Version of AVG Pro and be none the wiser. Then in a month’s time, you’ll be told that your trial is over and you have to pay $US39.95 to continue for another year. If this happens to you and you’re not confident fixing the problem, please bring your laptop down to a How Do I…? Workshop and we’ll uninstall AVG Pro and re-install AVG Free for you…and our charge is a lot less than $US39.95! Please don’t ever pay for this stuff!

So, my message is simple – please practice Safe Computing and PLEASE read the screens/windows that pop up during legitimate upgrades VERY carefully before you proceed. I’m not saying “don’t upgrade”…just do it carefully and think about the consequences of everything you tick/untick/select or agree to. It’s not really any different than life itself ….is it?

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