When White Hats Collide

Category: Security , Software

Has your security software suddenly disappeared? There's a nasty battle brewing among some popular anti-virus software vendors, and it's escalated to the point where they are classifying each others' products as malware, and deleting them on sight! Here's what you need to know...

(M)BAM! You're Dead!

The security professionals who develop anti-malware software are generally held in high esteem. They’re the good guys -- the so-called White Hats -- so of course they must be noble and honest, altruistic, and far above petty bickering. It’s called the halo effect - one good trait causes observers to assume that a person has all good traits.

But it isn’t true. The heroes who keep us (reasonably) safe from malware, ransomware, hackers, etc., are just as prone to petty human emotions as anyone else. They also have extraordinary means of exacting vengeance.

A few months ago, PC Matic, maker of PC Pitstop anti-malware, commissioned (paid) the nonprofit testing center AV Comparatives to conduct a rigorous comparison of fifteen antimalware programs. PC Pitstop was among the fifteen contenders.

MBAM versus PC Matic versus MBAM

You can read the detailed results here. PC Pitstop did quite well at stopping ransomware and other types of malware; in fact, it stopped 100% of both. However, five other programs also scored 100%. (see p. 4)

In last place was a surprise. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) stopped only 83% of ransomware attacks, and 95% of other malware attacks. MBAM has finished much higher in many other rankings of anti-malware software. Given PC Matic’s funding of the AV-Comparatives study, Malwarebytes decided that it had been unfairly targeted.

It wasn’t long before reports started coming in that MBAM was flagging PC Pitstop as a PUP - “potentially unwanted program” - similar to the annoying and often malicious browser toolbars and other programs that users may unintentionally acquire. Furthermore, MBAM was uninstalling PC Pitstop wherever the two met! (See my related article PUP ALERT: Potentially Unwanted Programs.)

Malwarebytes admitted that it is now classifying PC Pitstop as a “PUP.Optional” program, meaning it’s potentially unwanted but the user has the option to keep or remove it. So why are some users reporting that they don’t get that option?

In MBAM’s Settings, under “Detection and Protection,” is an option for specifying what should be done when a PUP is detected: ignore, warn the user, or “treat as malware.” The last option is the default. MBAM deletes detected malware by default. So by default, MBAM will delete PUPs, including PC Pitstop. Users who have changed this setting will not see PC Pitstop deleted automatically.

Malwarebytes, in a blog post, enumerated several reasons why it now classifies PC Pitstop as a PUP. I find their responses weak and debatable, at the least.

PC Matic quickly updated PC Pitstop so that it will delete MBAM when it is detected. PC Matic explains that this is simply a matter of self-defense.

Rumor has it that other anti-malware programs are falsely tagged as PUPs and may be deleted by MBAM, including Malware Hunter by Glary Utilities, Webroot SecureAnywhere, System Mechanic, and others.

Incompatibility with other security programs is a big deal for MBAM, which is designed to work with a comprehensive anti-malware suite. MBAM alone is not adequate online protection.

Overall, it seems that Malwarebytes is making enemies unnecessarily. The AV Comparatives test sponsored by PC Matic is not going to make or break MBAM, which has been highly rated by many test labs including AV Comparatives.

It certainly appears that Malwarebytes has classified PC Pitstop and other reputable products as PUPs just for spite, or to gain a competitive advantage. If that's true, it was a huge mistake. Retaliation and bad PR will hurt sales more than the unflattering AV Comparatives report ever could. I've always held MBAM in high regard, but I can no longer recommend their products until this situation is resolved.

Does this leave you with a bad impression of Malwarebytes? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 6 Jan 2017


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Most recent comments on "When White Hats Collide"

(See all 55 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

HowardL
07 Jan 2017

How come nobody has mentioned Norton 360 or Norton Security? I've found Norton honest and efficient.

When ransomware hit the press I phoned Norton and asked if the program was effective against that particular bit of evil. "Absolutely," I was told. "We make it our business to find every virus and update Norton to eliminate it."

I was skeptical about all that reassurance, but I haven't come across anything to disprove it.


Posted by:

Edvins Briedums
07 Jan 2017

Thank you for the warning.
It appears that the ISIS syndrome is even spreading to the net.
Ignore the colateral. Just eliminate everyone you feel is not worthy. That is, to you finantially.
Sad.


Posted by:

cal67
07 Jan 2017

I've never run PCMatic although I have used PC Pitstop's free scans for years. Malwarebytes has been a staple for me, but in their latest revision it is extremely difficult to find a link to the free version, so I would say they are focusing on making more money. As far as System Mechanic, I have run it and in my opinion it is worse than a PUP. You can run every scan and "improvement" they suggest, and their software tells you that your computer has sped up, but independent 3rd party programs I have run before and after show absolutely no difference. Then if you decide to remove it you have to jump through hoops and go into safe mode to get rid of all of it.


Posted by:

Neville Gordon - Australia
07 Jan 2017

I have been using Norton 360 for many years and have found it generally effective. But if I have some concern then I also use as a one-off the free Malwarebites software to do an additional check. I was recommended the latter several years ago after my PC got infected by a virus after I installed a downloader program that I thought was reliable but later learnt allowed malware to enter.
Occasionally I also now use Norton's Power Eraser as an additional precaution.


Posted by:

Gazza
07 Jan 2017

It pays to be very wary of who is sponsoring any site that does reviews and makes recommendations. You wonder where their loyalties lie.


Posted by:

KeithH
07 Jan 2017

Looks bad for Malwarebytes to me.


Posted by:

Humbug7
07 Jan 2017

I've tried a bunch of "free" AV, adware, and malware programs over the years, and have occasionally upgraded to the paid version. Too many times, with Norton being the biggest sellout in my opinion (PETER, how do you sleep at night?), a good product has gone down the road to profit over integrity. Each time, I've started the whole sad cycle over again with a new product, only to have it, too, sell out.

I really can't give a glowing recommendation to ANY of the widely available security software products. I currently use AVG, and they annoy the living **** out of me with their incessant pop-ups and forced reboots on update (Really, guys?!). That said, you have to use something, so you choose the one that seems to suit you best. But, anyone playing the sort of schoolyard games described here for MBAM and PCMatic (both of which I've used) definitely deserve to lose all their business.


Posted by:

Bantam
07 Jan 2017

This sort of behaviour isn't new and it isn't limited to MBAM and PCMATIC. For many years I have used one or two "freebies" as backstops to my primary protection and MBAM has always been one of them, and still is. BitDefender Total security, which I have great confidence in and have been using for several years now,has been playing games for a long time whereby if you look for support and allow them access to your system, the immediate response is no help unless you uninstall all other security programs (specifically MBAM) As far as I can tell BD started this childishness not MBAM. Just makes double work for us of course as we simply re-install when they finished their dummy-spit. When did customers stop being worthy of focus and attention???????


Posted by:

Sarah L
07 Jan 2017

PC Pitstop ought not to pay for a ranking! Smells bad from the start. I never used that, but I have long relied on Malware Bytes, free version, with good success. Both companies should stop their bickering and the rating group AV whatever ought not to rate the product of a company directly funding the evaluation--clearly meant to start trouble. Perhaps take a leaf from Consumer Reports book, even if it cannot follow their model completely.


Posted by:

Brian
07 Jan 2017

I have used both PC Matic and Malwarebytes as on demand virus checkers for my main protection Eset Smart Security for a while now. I found them both useful as backstops. However in this schoolyard spat, I note that it was Malware bytes that threw the first stone. Whatever PC Matic sponsored and the results of the survey, I would have thought Malwarebytes were mature enough to ignore the results. They had enough satisfied customers to weather that sort of comment, but alas, they resorted to childish behaviour and deliberately listed PC Matic as malware. Shame, shame.

Today I performed a full scan on both PC Matic and malwarebytes. PC Matic did not flag Malwarebytes as any kind of threat, but Malwarebytes Listed everything which included any reference to PC Matic as Malware.

As far as I'm concerned, this demonstrates an attitude that is childish and pathetic on behalf of Malwarebytes, therefore I feel I can no longer trust them to provide professional, quality protection. So I have consigned my Pro version of Malwarebytes to the trash can, and will no longer have any dealings with this company and it's pathetic lattitude.


Posted by:

FoxUK
07 Jan 2017

I would have supported PC Matic wholeheartedly, until a couple of days ago.

Around the 29th the PC Matic installation on my wife's laptop updated - No other updates or installations have been done around that time or since.

Her computer slowed down considerably and she attempted to do a scan. There was a 'registry error' which was preventing the program loading.

After the 'tool' on the website failed to work a help email was sent which was answered with a 'cut and paste' reply.

None of the 'cures' worked, all were tried except the two links that led to paid for (about $20 each) repair programs - more money to fix what we had paid PC Matic to fix in the first place. The final option given was a repair install which needed discs, again the link led to yet another paid for site.

I emailed PC matic as my wife had been reduced to tears of frustration and the reply suggested a system restore which worked (prior to this I did not know that PC Matic had been updated).

The more worrying fact was the statement that PC Matic would not be involved in a repair install.

So an update caused the problem, three different options for money are offered and the last ditch option given by PC Matic is something they would not be involved in.

Unfortunately it has just renewed itself or we would be going elsewhere for AV.

I judge companies by what happens when things go wrong, because they always do even with the best.

The level of service was disgusting and the denial of any responsibility was worse. The final insult was a blatant denial that any of their links led to software requiring additional payment - a bare-faced bullying Lie.

Up until this point, PC Matic has worked perfectly, for many years. We have recommended it to literally dozens of people many of whom have bought it. No more recommendations from us and it's bye bye in December 2017 or earlier if herself cannot trust it to do the job for that long.

Jon

P.S. A bit off topic but as the 'honesty' of the antagonists was being questioned.....

P.P.S. If Bob wants to check the accuracy of my account I will willingly forward to him the emails back and fall with PC Matic


Posted by:

Ms Moommist
07 Jan 2017

Well,thanks a lot, now I'm spending hours trying to get my system to work. Not only has PC Matic wiped out Malwarebytes, but Webshots, some of Microsoft's updates, and closed my Windows Mail program. Now, in order to do anything such as opening my mail program, I have to start in safe mode. Yes, I'm in safe mode right now. It has gotten so bad that now I get the "dreaded" black screen and Windows 7 will only shutdown by turning off the machine manually. Please fix it. I paid for Webshots and Malwarebytes, and PC Matic but wow, now you are stealing from me.


Posted by:

Ms Moommist
07 Jan 2017

So sorry, I didn't mean you, Bob, I just meant the protection companies!
PCMatic is the only thing running now as my security, but I'm so unhappy and so sad that these "educated" geeks could not have found a better way than to take it out on their customers.
Again, so sorry!


Posted by:

Larry Ray
07 Jan 2017

PC Matic? You are the only geek newsletter that I have ever heard mention it. I always thought it was adware/spyware! Malwarbytes? I don't give a rip if it is accused of throwing a pebble or a boulder...I know that the free program will remove lot of bad stuff on on senior citizen's pc's for whom I do volunteer pc help.


Posted by:

Nancy
08 Jan 2017

I ran PC Matic on my windows10 computer & it wanted to remove Malwarebytes. And it wouldn't let me do anything else so I didn't finish running it. PCMatic says you can whitelist it but doesn't tell you how except to contact support to find out how. Malwarebytes lists PC Matic as a potential unwanted program, but will let you uncheck those items so they are not uninstalled. I'm sticking with the program that most techs recommend, Malwarebytes.


Posted by:

k Spart
08 Jan 2017

I was running PC Matic and MBAM on my Win 10 computer and wondered why MBAM was removed..I thought it was Microsoft messing with me during an update. Thanks for the info Bob


Posted by:

Gilchrist
08 Jan 2017

Bitdefender is demanding to uninstall Spyware Blaster and Spyware Search and Destroy


Posted by:

Byron Bateman
09 Jan 2017

I have the paid version of MBAM on my computer and I've had trouble with something deleting my Google Earth program. I thought I had eliminated MBAM as a possible source of the deletion, but now, I'm uncertain. Has anyone had this problem of a disappearing Google Earth? I'm running Windows 8.1


Posted by:

Stephen FREESTAINTON
12 Jan 2017

Ostensibly the "first stone" was the probable* corruption of a comparative test report, allegedly sponsored by PC-matic, which claimed MBAM only found 83% of their seeded malware.
Though Malwarebytes indignation is understandable; their response is unnecessarily petulant.
I won't be using PC-P again; as I now consider their integrity "suspect". I will continue to run MBAM-free occasionally; but checking flagged-up "malware" more watchfully.
*(Based on the extemely low probability that MBAM could have suddenly become much less efficient than all of its rivals, including PC-pitstop.)


Posted by:

brian
14 Jan 2017

Only 2 tools required for Malware and or Virus removal Superantispyware and Hitman Pro in a Safe Mode environment. for tough and full cleaning an Avast Boot Scan will finish up the rest.

Malwarebytes as long been declining in any form of detection.


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