Norton Anti-Virus Sells Definitions - Protection Costs More

photo by harrysachz

photo by harrysachz

What are you paying for when you purchase an Anti-Virus software application? Maybe the correct way to phrase that question is “what do you think you are buying?”

My answer to that question would be protection from known virus’. We have to be fair here. If there is a new virus released this morning it may not be realistic for any application to protect you. But what about a virus that has been around for several years? At the very least your updated software application should provide you with your money’s worth.

Nearly a year and half ago we purchased and installed Norton 360. We assumed it was doing its job. All was well until this morning. 

My wife needed the PC and I wanted to get a little work done as well. I copied a file from our home PC onto a thumb drive so that I could finish a document for work on my company laptop. Within seconds of plugging the thumb drive into my laptop, and before copying the files, McAfee VirusScan detected a Generic!atr virus. A little internet searching taught me that this was a trojan file often named autorun.inf and may be used as a tool to download more sophisticated files that may collect usernames, passwords or other personal information.

Going back to our PC I began by making sure Norton was updated and then ran the full scan. Nothing was detected.

A quick view of the thumb drive validated my fear. On the thumb drive were two unknown files. autorun.inf and autorun.exe. hmmmm

For what it was worth I grabbed a brand new thumb drive and plugged it into the laptop. It was blank. I plugged it into the PC and guess what showed up within about 30 seconds? Yep, the same two files were being downloaded from my PC onto every thumb drive that was inserted!

What would you do in this situation?

I contacted Norton via their preferred Live Chat feature. To get started I had to give a description of the problem which was an abbreviated version of above (It was more like a tweet, they only allowed something like 240 characters!) They were prompt enough, I only waited about 5 minutes to be connected to an attendant. We had to go through the routine stuff like verification of my account and determining the operating system and other particulars. blah blah blah…

Finally we get to the nitty gritty. The Norton person asks the following 2 questions:

  • “Do you get any pop ups that prompt you to download antivirus or other protection software?”
  • “Are you getting any alert messages like “virus alert”, “your computer is infected”, “security alert etc?”

To both questions I confirmed that on the affected PC I did not get an alert but that on the laptop I did receive a notice. I even offered to send a screen shot. The response: “I am sorry, we do not have that option.” “Please do not worry at all. To take the diagnosis and potential removal any further we would need to engage a specialist technician to personally access your PC.  This specialist will directly investigate whether you have a virus or malware, identify the threat and the appropriate means to remove the threat, and remove the threat. There is a fee for this premium service.  Would you like to proceed?”

My response: “I have already paid Norton to protect me from these threats, why would I have to pay more for a system that has apparently failed to do what I have already paid for?”

Norton: “When you purchase the product, the cost of the product is for software, updates to the software and for virus definitions. There is an additional charge for value added services.”

It would appear my fundamental mistake was in the belief that the purchase of an anti-virus software would be for the purpose of actually protecting my system from a virus. However as it turns out, when you buy Norton you are only getting “definitions” not protection. 

So my first payment to this company bought me the “definitions”. Now I have to pay more for protection. Isn’t this how the mob use to work?

What would you do at this point? Would you pay for the “premium service” or take your business elsewhere?


Update: In the interest of giving credit where credit is due. My request for a refund was answsered in less that 24 hours. I am now expecting a credit from Norton.

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