McAfee software installation issues

We have never had a lot of time for McAfee security software or its BT counterpart. They slow systems down, and when the months trial version (it comes bundled with most retail computers) or annual subscription expires it usually prevents you from accessing the internet. Whether the “100% virus detection” guarantee actually works remains moot.

Recently one of our clients bought a McAfee renewal licence and tried to install it. In order to do this, you are asked to visit an activation website, log in to or create a McAfee account, provide credit or debit card details for automatic renewal (more on this below) and then, finally, download and install the software.

Unfortunately this process is far from straightforward. When you search for the activation website, it does appear on the first page of results (in Google, anyway), but the top search result, below a paid advert which is also a misleading result, is for a page which looks very similar to the McAfee page, but which offers “help” in installing the software by means of a telephone service. This page is not part of the McAfee website, or affiliated with them in any way.

The page is of course a clever scam, and as happened to our client, once you have telephoned the “help” number results in the scammer taking remote control of your computer, pretending to activate the software, predictably telling you that there is a problem, and offering to fix it for a fee – in this case £60.00. Thankfully at this point we were contacted, and advised that the computer be closed down and the call to the website “support” service ended.

The computer came to us later that day, and we found that the McAfee licence had been registered to an account totally unconnected to the owner, and also that backdoor remote access software and spyware had been installed while “repairs” were ongoing remotely. Use of the software was effectively lost.

As a result, the owner had to buy a further McAfee licence in order to access the software, which we carefully registered to their existing McAfee account after changing the password which was fairly certain to have been compromised. We also removed the malware installed by the scammer.

We also noticed during the installation that it is impossible to proceed beyond a certain point without providing name, postal address, ‘phone number and credit or debit card details. This is to facilitate automatic renewal of the McAfee software in 12 months once the current subscription comes to an end. In smallish print it is mentioned that this is at full retail price (our italics), which will be charged without reminder or notification. There is an option to opt out of this, which we did on our clients behalf, but not without lots of “are you sure?” boxes and a couple of warning emails.

In conclusion, if you must use McAfee software, be very, very careful while activating it online, and also be sure to deactivate the automatic renewal option. Record the details of your McAfee account, and keep them safe.

Based on our experience of it, we cannot recommend McAfee as a security solution. If you must use it, tiptoe carefully through the minefield 🙂

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