Monday, March 22, 2010

Trust No One?

Just a little case study to show how being paranoid can pay off:

All this winter my screen saver was a lovable group of snowmen ice skating on a frozen pond.  The whole thing was 3D rendered and the younger kids loved it.

It is not, however, the best screen saver to have in March when the snow from our last big blizzard is still fresh in our minds and we can't wait for the unbearably hot global warming just because it means we don't have to shovel any more snow.


In any case, I got the snowmen screen saver from Apple's Downloads section, so I thought I'd head there to see if there was anything more Spring themed.

Apple's Downloads is a directory of both Freeware (no need to fork over cash for it ever) and Shareware (offered as a try-before-you-buy deal.  If you keep it you are expected to pay for it).  As a self-admitted cheapskate I'm specifically looking for freeware screen savers with a spring theme. Oh, this one looks good.

As you can see from the Download Details This particular screen saver is Freeware, so I won't have to purchase it to use it.

Also, the company name is not Apple. is providing a link here but the screen saver has been created and provided by ""

Oh well, that's not so bad, right?  After all, Apple is known for its ultra-strict policies on iPhone App approvals.  I'm certain they won't let any malicious company provide software on Apple's own domain ...

Wait, what's this?

Who in the world is Premier Opinion? Just looking through the user agreement that's popped up on my screen - before I've managed to install my screen saver, by the way - makes me cautious.  I really don't want anyone monitoring anything I do online, since that involves ... oh, you know ... banking, sending email to friends and family, student grades, and so on.

Let's see what a Google Search has to say about Premier Opinion:

Well, that's interesting.  The first link takes me directly to - no surprise there, but most of the links following that are claiming that the company's distributing spyware.

If you see multiple people asking for help to get a program off their computer because they can't do it themselves, then perhaps you might not want to install it yourself.

To wrap up:

  • I encountered this software trying to install itself on my Mac, which is historically a more secure platform.

  • I found the software linked to from Apple's web site, arguably a place that should only include safe software.

  • I still almost installed spyware on my system.

  • If this isn't a case study for paying attention and not blindly trusting any one thing to protect me online, I don't know what is.


Bee from Apple Discussions said...

Your post here was incredibly helpful to two posters over on Apple Discussions.
I wanted you to know that this was brought to Apple Discussions' Hosts, and
all of 7_Arts screen savers have now been removed from Apple's site.

I'm a volunteer over there,
and I wanted to let you know.

All the best --

theartguy said...

Addendum: Apparently I was used as an example in this forum thread and the offending screensavers were removed. Score one for the good guys. Maybe next time spyware won't become a staff pick in the downloads section of Apple's official web site.