Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why does legitimate anti-malware software interfere with my browsing?

I recently downloaded an Adobe update and a virus scan tool was offered with
it. I decided to check it out and checked the box. After everything was
finished, I went about my usual stuff and logged on to a website I’ve used many
times before with no problems; but this time, three different links on the site
could not be found. Naturally, I suspected the scan tool since it was the only
thing that had been changed and went back and removed from my programs. After I
did, I went back to the aforementioned site and it worked perfectly. Why would
a well-known scan tool do something like this?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #50
, I look at a machine that downloaded an extra software
package and then started behaving strangely.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Malware tool mistakes

The short answer is it happens.

The issue is that many of these anti-malware tools (various different
security suites) attempt to insert themselves into your internet conversation
when you’re using your browser. In other words:

  • They’re actually looking at what’s coming down into your browser;

  • And scanning it on the fly trying to protect you from malicious sites, bad
    links, who knows what.

In some cases, simply the act of doing that may render some things
inaccessible due to the software declaring something as say a false
positive.

  • They’ll think a link is malicious when in fact, it is not.

More commonly, however, (and this is what it sounds like is happening to you)
is that the software is installed into your browser in such a way that it just
doesn’t work quite right.

Real-time scanning

It’s one of those things. My blanket advice for anti-malware tools (almost
always) is to:

  • Turn off what I call “real-time scanning” of email;

  • And “real-time scanning” of internet web browsing.

That gets the software out of the conversation, out of the way, and prevents
it from doing this kind of thing.

Causes of failure

I know that it works. I mean obviously, the feature is there – and works for
a lot of people. But it is known to fail in some cases. And those cases depend
on all sorts of things like:

  • The speed of your machine,

  • The browsers,

  • The add-ons you have in your browsers,

  • The software that happens to be running at the time.

I mean, there’s a very complex equation that says whether or not this is going
to work or not-work for you. When it doesn’t work, I just say – turn that
feature off.

Uninstall questionable tools

Now, in your case, you uninstalled the program, which is fine. That’s a good
solution, assuming you’ve got a different anti-malware solution in place. In
other words, assuming you’ve got some kind of anti-virus or anti-spyware tool
that is successfully running and not interfering with your activities.

Careful what you download

Ultimately, I don’t want to call it a mistake, but I will say that it’s a
decision that I would not have made… and that is:

  • Checking that checkbox when you’re downloading another program.

So in your case, you took an update from Adobe and they offered you this
other thing. You know what? Never, ever take those! The reason I say that is
because in this particular case, you got lucky. The offering from Adobe (this
other software that came down with it) is apparently legitimate software:

  • It’s a well-known manufacturer and it uninstalled and worked fine.

  • All too often these, what I call “drive by downloads”… they don’t;

  • They are from less than reputable companies;

  • They install things that you don’t want;

  • And they can be incredibly difficult to uninstall.

So if there’s anything I would have changed about the scenario that you’ve
described, it’s that when you’re downloading a product (be it an update or a
new product that you’re getting, or just some other kind of download), take only
what you’re there for:

  • Say no to all of the other things that are offered with it that don’t
    relate to what it is you actually are there for.

I see too many people get their machines messed up by some of this
additional software that seems to come down that way. So, in your case, you got
lucky. It uninstalled and that’s great. Avoid doing that kind of thing in the
future.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

1 thought on “Why does legitimate anti-malware software interfere with my browsing?”

  1. i`m the one who asked the question and i just want to thank you for clearing that up and from here on out that advise will be heeded just as any other advise you`ve given. this is a great newsletter.

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.