Vintage Snake Oil !!!
Once upon a time there were only a couple of hundred viruses ... but even though they were few in number, they managed to grab plenty of headlines.
"Virus" was the computer buzzword of the late 1980s. Few people knew much about them, and entrepreneurial antivirus vendors took advantage of this by feeding mountains of hype to journalists who wouldn't have recognized a virus if it bit them on the nose!
The fact is that in those days virus attacks were nowhere near as common (and usually nowhere near as serious) as the public was led to believe ... but every time the headlines screamed "V I R U S", gullible computer users went into a panic and threw buckets of money at the prophets of doom.
History shows that the doom-and-gloomers who shouted loudest were antivirus vendors who (amazingly!) could protect you from the latest "deadly" virus threat ... at a price!
It was the Golden Age of Snake Oil !!!
Now it's a whole new ballgame. Today there are thousands of viruses ... many of them very dangerous and extremely hard to detect ... but thanks to all the early hype it's almost impossible to get a legitimate virus warning published, and expensive cleanups have been so common in the past couple of years that a virus attack has to cost a fortune before it even rates a mention in the media.
We don't hear all that much about the many thousands of expensive virus attacks which occur every day of the year ... only occasional "big hits" like Melissa, Babylonia, CIH, and ZipFiles make the headlines ... but this doesn't mean the virus threat has been eradicated.
Today's computer user faces a greater threat from viruses than at any time in history!
He just doesn't know it !!!
"In House Testing" Snake Oil !!!
At one time or another every cheap-and-nasty antivirus program in the world has been proclaimed #1 by some self-appointed "virus expert" no-one has ever heard of.
Some of the so-called "independent reviews" used as references by some antivirus companies have been exposed as fairy tales written by shills hired by those very same antivirus companies to make their own programs look good!
"Independent Test Report" Snake Oil !!!
There's no doubt that test reports by reputable evaluators like Virus Bulletin and various university virus laboratories are the average PC user's best source of unbiased opinion ... but be aware that some antivirus vendors have been caught modifying these test reports.
The version you read on an antivirus vendor's website may have been selectively edited to make that vendor's own program look much better than it really is!
This sneaky little Snake Oil trick has become so common these days that the only way to be sure you're reading a genuine independent test report is to read it on the evaluator's own website!
"Virus Writer's Recommendation" Snake Oil !!!
Some unethical antivirus vendors have used "endorsements" from virus writers to promote their programs!
Some even less ethical antivirus vendors have actually paid known virus writers and virus spreaders commissions to sell their programs!
If this isn't a conflict of interest ... we'd like to know what is!
"Simulated Virus" Snake Oil !!!
As far as ethical members of the antivirus industry are concerned, there is no such thing as a "simulated" virus.
It's either a virus or it's not ... and no decent antivirus program will detect simulated viruses.
Beware of any antivirus vendor who offers "proof" of his product's detection figures based on such rubbish.
Don't believe the results of computer magazine tests which use simulated viruses either.
They're fairy tales!
"Modified Virus" Snake Oil !!!
At least one unethical antivirus vendor is suspected of modifying live viruses so that only his program could detect them!
A few years ago this vendor made the fatal mistake of giving a number of such viruses to Jan Wikström ... a highly regarded computer journalist who does know his stuff, and Technical Editor of Australian PC World at the time ... on the pretext of helping him to establish the detection rate of antivirus programs.
Jan immediately smelled Snake Oil !!!
The vendor denied modifying these viruses, and of course it was virtually impossible to prove otherwise ... but to this day Jan still finds it hard to believe that several viruses on the same floppy disk managed to somehow modify themselves in such a way that this vendor's program was able to detect them all with 100% accuracy while the world's top three scanners failed to find even one!
"Live virus demonstration" Snake Oil !!!
Beware of any antivirus vendor who offers to demonstrate his program on live viruses in your own office!
Even if he's not a "modified virus" cheat, all you're going to see is a Snake Oil detection demonstration on viruses the vendor knows his product will detect!
No ethical antivirus vendor will ever give you a live virus or bring a live virus into your workplace ... for any reason !!!
"Magazine Test Report" Snake Oil !!!
"PoopScan detected all 6 viruses we used in our test with amazing 100% accuracy!" (PC Blah Magazine, April 2000)
You've all seen computer magazine articles recommending PoopScan (or whatever) as your best antivirus buy ... right ?
If you read between the lines you'll see that these recommendations are often based on tests performed on a few antique viruses by some obscure part-time scribbler no-one's ever heard of ... some nerd who was appointed as the magazine's virus guru because nobody else in the office could spell "PoopScan". When it comes to viruses and antivirus software, most of these "virus experts" don't have the faintest idea what they're talking about!
Not all magazine articles are Snake Oil, however. Some Technical Editors and computer journalists actually do know their stuff when it comes to viruses, and this shows up in the professional manner in which they conduct their tests and the way they present their findings ... but unfortunately they're few and far between.
It's a sad fact of life that many of the test comparisons you see in PC magazines aren't even worth the paper they're written on!
"Antivirus Newsgroup" Snake Oil !!!
Internet newsgroups like alt.comp.virus can be good sources of independent opinion on various antivirus programs from satisfied (or dissatisfied) users of those programs ... but be aware that some antivirus company shills have been caught praising their own programs while posing as satisfied customers.
Some antivirus company employees have been exposed as shills by alert newsgroup regulars when they posted questions like "I'm looking for a good antivirus. Can anyone tell me if PoopScan is worth buying for my company's 5,000 PCs network ?" under an alias, then replied to themselves (using another alias) with glowing praise of their own programs.
Ignore posts (and personal email replies) from any antivirus vendor who habitually rubbishes other antivirus programs. This unethical Snake Oil sales pitch is universally disliked by newsgroup regulars, and the vendor's products are generally regarded as a waste of money.
Take posts and replies originating from anonymous remailers or freemail accounts which tell you "I've used PoopScan for years and it's the best - you can download a copy from www.poopscan.com" as Snake Oil. Credible alt.comp.virus regulars who genuinely try to help people who come into the newsgroup looking for advice don't hide behind aliases or freemail accounts ... they post under their own names from their own accounts ... and although some of them may have a favorite program they will usually suggest two or three different products and will often point you towards independent reviews to back up their recommendations.
You can just about guarantee that anyone who anonymously touts one antivirus program is a shill, and that the program he's trying to ram up your nose is second rate or worse!
You can get good advice from newsgroups, but you'd be wise to watch quietly for a while until you find out who's who.
Always bear in mind that you're likely to be targeted by a professional shill with a vested interest in the program he recommends ... and beware of the Snake Oil !!!
"Editor's Choice" and "Best Buy" Snake Oil !!!
It has often been said that computer magazines only ever give their "Editor's choice" and "Best Buy" awards to the "Big Name" antivirus companies who spend the most money on advertising. (We'd hate to think that any ethical publisher would be a party to this sort of bribery!)
Although it often appears that the guy with the biggest ads always walks off with the awards, one Australian computer magazine stands a head and shoulders above the crowd with its "We don't do Snake Oil" style of publishing.
The May 2001 issue of Australian PC User featured its annual antivirus test comparison. Products tested were: Aladdin eSafe, Alwil Avast, Computer Associates InoculateIT, Computer Associates VET AntiVirus, Dialogue Science Dr Web, Frisk F-Prot, Symantec (Norton), NAI (McAfee) ViruScan, Grisoft AVG, Kaspersky AntiVirus (AVP / KAV), Norman Virus Control, Sophos AntiVirus, and Eset NOD32.
This test wasn't the work of some unknown scribbler with no virus knowledge at all ... it was conducted by Australia's most highly respected computer journalist ... Australian PC User's long-time Technical Editor, Jan Wikström.
Jan named NOD32 "Best Buy", with 100% detection, and we had no ads in the magazine ... in fact, we've never advertised NOD32 in Australian PC User! There's definitely no Snake Oil involved here ... Australian PC User gave NOD32 the #1 rating strictly on its superior performance !!!
We imagine it must take quite a lot of guts for a computer magazine's publisher to tell its big-spending advertisers that their high profile "Big Name" antivirus programs were blown away in virus detection by a virtually unknown antivirus program, and we certainly appreciate Australian PC User's honesty and integrity!
"Best Value" Snake Oil !!!
A subset of "Editor's Choice" Snake Oil, "Best value for money" magazine test ratings are invariably quoted by antivirus companies which don't score #1 in virus detection!
Many people regard "Best value for money" ratings as a sneaky trick used by magazine publishers to avoid upsetting big-spending advertisers whose programs were out-detected in their tests.
Fancy GUIs and bells and whistles might look nice, but the real value for money in an antivirus program lies in its ability to detect more viruses than its competitors ... and that's the bottom line !!!
"Free Lifetime Updates" Snake Oil !!!
Some antivirus ads scream "FREE LIFETIME UPDATES" in blazing headlines ... but what does the small print which reads "for the life of the product" really mean ?
It means "Buy our program now and you can update this version until we decide not to support it any more!"
It means "If we release a new version next month you'll have to pay for a program upgrade or keep using the old version with its outdated virus detection engine!"
It means "Hello, Sucker!"
There are no hidden charges when you license NOD32 !!!
We don't give you some shonky "free lifetime updates" deal which applies only to the version you purchased!
We guarantee free downloadable updates and program upgrades for the life of your license !!!
"100% Detection" Snake Oil !!!
Some antivirus companies claim "100% virus detection" for their programs.
We wouldn't dare to insult your intelligence with such a claim !!!
NOD32 is the only antivirus program in the world that has detected 100% of the "in the wild" viruses in every Virus Bulletin test for the past seven years, but we can't guarantee 100% detection 100% of the time ... and if we can't do it, neither can anyone else!
Forget the advertising hype! When it comes to detecting viruses, NOD32 takes a back seat to no-one!
Independent tests prove that NOD32 consistently provides better protection than any other antivirus program in the world!
We won't give you a shonky "100% detection" guarantee ... but we will put you on the cutting edge of antivirus technology ... and we'll guarantee to keep you there!
The NOD32 Antivirus System is guaranteed 100% Snake Oil free !!!