Rogues, Part 1

Is that the year 2010?  Nooooooo.  Believe it or not (and most novices DO believe it), the message says that my computer has . . . drum roll . . . 2,010 CRITICAL issues on a registry scan.

Do you actually think my computer WOULD EVEN BOOT if it had as many as . . . 2,010  CRITICAL issues in the registry?

And notice the urgency:  “immediate” cleaning, like if I don’t drop everything and do it right now, my world’s going to explode!

These marketers know their business.

This article is a three-part series about rogues . . . not about any specific one but rather how to identify them and then we’ll take a look at how these beasts are distributed, what some of the detections REALLY mean, and what to do if you’re duped by one of these things.

Throughout Part 1 here, I’m going to bombard you with screen shots of these ridiculous warnings, and by the time you read through this first part, you’ll be more than familiar with this scare tactic.  (These screen shots are of older versions ON PURPOSE . . . outdated versions disguise the title more . . . see “Legal Threats” below)

This one says I have 556 “High Damage” level “system related” errors, and it’s not even done the scan yet!  Wow!  I’d better reach for my wallet.

And, by the way, I know a lot of these things are much more sensitive than CCleaner and such, but calling tracking cookies and “missing entries” (more on that in another part) as “critical” or “severe” errors is a bit over the top, isn’t it?  I mean, c’mon, these are trivial errors at best and calling them critical only serves to get the novice to bring out the wallet to pay for these things to be removed (which is the whole purpose of this scheme. . . as I said, these marketers know their business) when FREE software does the job just fine anyway.

First, though, we need to establish a definition so that we are all on the same page.

It would be nice if everything in this world were black and white and there were no blurred lines.  The truth, in many cases, lies somewhere between the two extremes.

The term “rogue” is a good example.

Relative to the term “rogue” . . . there is a technical definition and a “common usage” definition. Very often the two are different. What is meaningful is what YOU take as the definition, which is often the “common usage” type.

While sticklers/computer nerds may insist that the technical definition is the “right” one, “rogue” in common usage is generally taken to be ANY piece of software that renders a detection result (most often on a scan of the windows registry, but things like “optimizers” supposedly scan other areas, like start up programs) that scares the bejesus out of novices with numbers like the message above displays and then offers to remove the nasties IF YOU PAY.

The terms “scareware”, “hostageware”, and “crapware” (there are a few others that I probably missed) are perhaps more descriptive, but the common usage term for all of these is “rogue”.

Time for another dose of scary numbers:

Notice the word “critical” again.  Wallet, please!

OK, I’ve beat this one to death.  If you don’t know by now, you SHOULD:  This article is directed more to novices, i.e. those people who speak plain English, rather than to geeks.

I want to point out here that DCT is NOT hiding anything.  Blocked out/blacked out areas cosmetically make it look like the document is the result of a Freedom of Information Act query or it is otherwise a cloak and dagger effort to hide information (my cloak is dirty and my dagger’s rusty.)  Clearly it’s not the case here that DCT is hiding pertinent information and acting fraudulently, and I don’t want anybody to get that impression.

My redactions are to protect DCT from any potential legal action . . . which is a very REAL possibility as you’ll see below.

And another display of those scary numbers:

This time we have a whopping 763 errors in the registry alone.  Plus my “PC Health” is deemed “Low”.  Excuse me?  Again, wallet please!


You may be wondering, “What in the heck does ‘Legal Threats’ have to do with identifying a rogue and what does it have to do with dealing with rogue scan results and why is he even bringing this up?”

Well, there’s two big reasons I bring it up here and mention it early on.

First, I myself have been threatened:

So, you might want to exercise caution before you name a specific title as a “rogue” in any comments you make to this article, and that’s the second big reason I bring this up early on.

Now on the letter itself, note that last paragraph.  That is the classic legal threat.

Coupla’ other things about this threatening letter too.

You’ll notice that in the second paragraph the mouthpieces claim their “client” is a “proud member of organizations such as . . . blah, blah, blah.”  “Microsoft” is one of the “organizations” . . . though curiously they don’t state WHICH Microsoft organization, leaving the reader to speculate that somehow these guys are endorsed by the 500 pound gorilla on the block.

This is a common scare tactic of rogues.  Frequently you’ll see this “seal” on the site:

That “Microsoft Certified Partner”  . . . seal . . . is nothing more than a marketing ploy to make noobs think Microsoft vouches for the product.  NOT SO.  All that means is that Microsoft has provided the vendor with access to a Microsoft coding/marketing database.  It does nothing for the end user, but it does mislead novices.

Now on this “legal threat”, I was prepared to articulate all my facts in an open court and meet these clowns head on.

So I didn’t respond, and essentially said “bring it on”.  And the blog owner didn’t respond either.  Haven’t heard from them since I received that threat (and that was three years ago) nor has the blog owner.

Was it a risk?  Yes.  Would I do it again?  Not sure . . . I dodged a bullet there and I called their bluff that time and got lucky, but I have since cooled down and a cooler mind prevails.  At the time I was a little too cocky, a little too big for my britches, and intoxicated by my “evidence”.  More on this “legal threat” stuff in Part 2.

About the Author

Bob Jamieson

Bob got his first computer in 1986. It had a whopping 512KB of RAM (yes, “K”, not “M), a 20MB (yes, “M”, not “G”) HDD, an 8MHz 8086 processor, and no mouse of course, because it had an early version of command line DOS. For almost 24 years now, Bob has been “into” computers, primarily focused on stability and security, with a particular emphasis now on “safe surfing”. For several years Bob was a moderator on the McAfee forums, but has “retired” as a “McAfee Maniac”. In his working days Bob was a chemist in the environmental arena. A primary hobby outside computers is cooking.

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