McAfee Sneakiness

By Deane Barker on February 9, 2004

I’m noticing some serious sneakiness on the part of McAfee.

I run SpamKiller, and I’m quite happy with it. However, I’m not thrilled with apps trying to check for updates all the time, so I’ve disabled the auto-update feature.

Recently, I installed Startup Monitor. Since then, I’ve been getting sporadic reports that an executable called MCUpdate.exe is trying to add a registry entry for itself to run on start-up. These would pop up at random intervals throughout the day.

At the same time, I’m noticing a Scheduled Task that refuses to stay deleted. It’s a McAfee update job that I delete daily, but that keeps reappearing. What does it run? MCUpdate.exe.

So SpamKiller must check for this task, and re-add it if it doesn’t find it in the Scheduled Tasks. Then this task must check for the start-up registry entry, then try to add it if it doesn’t find it.

Like I said, sneaky.



  1. If this were any other program, I would agree that this is crappy behavior. But for a virus scanner, it may not be such a bad idea.

    If I’ve written a new virus, the virus scanners of the world may not catch it for at least a few days. The only way they’ll start catching it is to receive updates with the signature of my virus in it. So, I’ll probably add code to my virus that ensures the virus scanner doesn’t try to get updates. Shutting the scanner down entirely would attract attention, but not many people will notice if it stops doing update checks.

    Therefore, if I’m the guy writing the antivirus software, I’m going to have code that makes absolutely sure that the scanner IS getting the updates.

  2. I will never use a McAfee spam or virus product, simply because McAfee sends me spam advertising their anti-spam tools. Ironic, but not funny, and worthy of losing my business.

  3. I will never use McAfee again! I ran the anti-virus software at one time–until it allowed a known worm to thoroughly wreck my OS and I had to format the hard drive and reload everything, including a lot of updates and a lot of expensive graphics software.

    McAfee was updated and its auto protect and e-mail scanning features were running at the time of the infection. I managed to get a copy of AVG onto the machine, which detected the worm right away. Once the worm was identified, I used a friend’s computer to download the killer tool for that worm from Symantec’s Web site.

    Since that nightmare, I have used AVG and Norton as my anti-virus software and ZoneAlarm Pro as my firewall. I also use two different spyware detectors. So far, between AVG and Norton, they have caught all viruses coming into my inbox or from hackers BEFORE they have a chance to do any system damage. ZoneAlarm has kept the hackers out. We once had an average of a dozen hack attempts daily, some brandishing WinNuke and other Trojans and nasties. Now, although the hackers still try, none have been able to get through (knock on wood).

    Forget McAfee and go with something more effective and less intrusive–if you can completely get rid of McAfee.

    McAfee sucks, and it does not surprise me at all that they make disguised malware and are next to impossible to get rid of.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve seen Finjan software before. Rather than trying to detect viruses using pattern-matching and heuristics, Finjan products run downloaded content (or any program, depending on the version) in a sandbox, and alerts the user when the running code takes a potentially malicious turn, shutting down the program activity until the user decides what to do.

    This is pretty useful for applications that do bad things (say, change your homepage without permission) but are otherwise useful. It also is potentially more effective, becuase the program has no window during which it does not have the latest virus definitions.

    I was put off by McAfee’s hubris when I first saw their product in a magazine, claiming 100% effectiveness. That’s simply not possible with a traditional virus scanner, because anyone could write a virus today that a scanner wouldn’t detect for a week.

  5. Uninstalled McAfee 9.0 due to the fact that auto update can’t be removed from the task scheduler. The next time you boot – it’s there! With no choice , it becomes a lousey product!

  6. Yes I know this is an old thread, I’m just so outraged by mcafee that I can’t help but post anyway. I’ve always believed mcafee was one of the best around. I went out and got the professional version because “obviously” a professional version of a product is going to give you a little more control, customisation and hopefully refrain from Nortonish “I own your system I’ll take it over now thank you” kind of behaviour

    But it installs where it wants, forces you to register to get updates, you have to have you machine connected to the internet to get updates (no postal or manual download updates possible). It installs itself to the run entries in the registry WHENEVER YOU RUN IT, theres no option to turn it off. And even installs some sucky software called easy clean or something that pops up when I least want it to.

    This was once a truly great product, efficient and totally configurable. I can’t believe they have ruined it like this.

    Forcing you to register so they can spam you with product adverts and keep your personal info in order to switch on updating is dislikeable although in the context of activation nowadays its hardly the worst. I don’t really see why more companies don’t just follow the Roxio idea, if you want updates, type in your serial and download them. Simple, no hassle, no big brotherism and no resentent.

    Installing utilities without your knowledge or approval is extremely annoying. But then no different from Norton etc.. although one of the reasons that used to exist to “go Mcafee” in the first place

    Adding several processes to your startup even when you have ticked “do not launch at startup” (especially in a world where we need to monitor changes to our registry) is unforgivable.

    Ah well I hope that the countless people I used to recommend Mcafee to never read this. I simply can’t believe I just had to uninstall it and kick the giant red “professional” cardboard box across the room.

    Downloaded sophos and mks_vir demos and both seem so excellent I’m starting to calm down now. Hopefully I won’t have to start stomping on the big red box until I find out how hard it is to buy them.

  7. I hate McAfee’s intrusiveness. The first thing I do when a new Dell comes in is to uninstall McAfee. I don’t even want their free trial. They’re second only to Real Player in annoyance level.

  8. McAfee is terrible and it has blocked off all of my instant messaging programs, and my e-mail. It also never allows me to go to google or sign on to hotmail. It was the worst decision that I’ve made with my computer, and I suggest not to use McAfee.

  9. disable task scheduler – easiest fix. for better fixes dig more. mcafee is crap. if they really think this is the best way to protect consumers why they don’t put up a page saying ” we belive that keeping your pc up-to-date is more importamt than giving you control over updates. sorry, but we know better, we are the experts and statistically we guarantee this is the best way to protect your pc” This is a very decent thing and I can’t understand why they can’t do this!?! The 5-10% of people who are savy enough to override this might buy their sneaky software even in this condition, perhaps just because the same people are people that value truth…

  10. After reading many “geek” forums, I decided to uninstall my McAfee 30 day trial and install Avast! Don’t regret it one bit. Seems to work better without as much involvement on my part. But, I’ve only had it less than thirty days, so take what I say as you will.

  11. Yeah but the bull fuck starts when to get the update you have to pay good money for a service that can be found else where. Fuckers didn’t even include an uninstall program

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