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Journal Zerathdune's Journal: McAffee, You worry me.

I've been using McAffee Security Center on my windows box since january, when my previous subscription expired. it comes free from my ISP, so I figured I'd give it a try. I'm still using it so far, but every now and then there are little things that make me worry, make me wonder if it wouldn't be worth paying for a service that I'm more comfortable with, even if it's just for piece of mind.

After all, for a home user, to a large extent that's all security software ever really does. it's much like an "elephant whistle" or something like that. the worst luck I've ever had with one machine where I was the only user is a single virus over the course of 3 years, which was caught by the security software. usually, windows fucks itself up badly enough for it to warrant a reformat (given that backing up for me is a very easy process what with a file server on the network) before that ever happens. I see people who go to rediculous lengths to keep their machines safe, and I think it's total overkill for anyone with nothing extroadinarily valuable on your machine. your fortress doesn't need to be impenetrable, just more effort than it's worth. and probably a much larger part of that than security software, is just thinking before installing something. the biggest windows security flaw of all is user stupidity (not to trivialize the others ;).) education will do more than any patch.

but I digress. the biggest worry of all came during installation. it requires an active internet connection throughout the install process. an unprotected windows system can be compromised in a it requires an active internet connection throughout the install processmatter of hours, though realistically, that doesn't tend to happen with desktops unless one is engaging in risky behavior while the precautions are not in place. regardless, having heard those numbers, and not used an unprotected windows system since ME, I was somewhat unnerved by the net based install. As if I wasn't concerned already, McAffee utilizes Active X for it's install. naturally this means IE, and big scary security holes whole my pants are down. it wasn't just the install process itself that bothered me, but what it suggested given the nature of the software. I was beginning to doubt the security savy and technical knowlege of the vendor I had switched to. Active X is forgivable for creative driver updates, since anyone who's going to want windos drivers will be able to use it, so I have no issues as far as interoperability, and it's very convinient, but when the software that's using this giant mess of a tool is supposed to plug security holes, one worries. furthermore, once you get the software installed, there's one more techincal disheartenment I notice before the software gets its first chance to prove itself on its core functionality. certain parts of the security interface link to the McAffee website, and they do so with the default browser, which on my machine is Firefox. but most of these pages also need active X, so one wonders, assuming one has lost interest by now in complaining about the use of active X, why a feature that frequently requires features of a specific browser does not include at least an option to use that browser over the default, which may not be the same, and may be that way for a reason. it's a small inconvience, but again it makes one worry about the vendor's technical compotence, or failing that, commitmet to quality.

Normally, I'm not nearly this nitpicky. but like I said, much of what you're buying with security sofware is piece of mind, so when you open it up and it makes an impression like this, you're getting significantly less of that.

another example. some of you may remember that a month or two ago there was an article on slashdot about McAffee identifying all sorts of system files and legitamite dll's as viruses and deleting them, because of an issue with an update. while I enjoyed the humor in noting that McAffee had decided windows was a virus, along with exell and many other microsoft and non microsft programs, it struck somewhat close to home as I was using the software at the time. it's simple enough to just tell it not to take action without consulting you, but it's still unnerving.

I haven't really encountered any of the issues that people have critisized McAffee for, at least as far as personal experience, but I'm a wise enough web surfer that for the most part, anti-virus is just piece of mind anyways. I get closer and closer to jumping ship every day though, as I'm more nervous with McAffee than I've been with any other software I've used.

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McAffee, You worry me.

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