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Registry / File Error Scare Spam



January 18th, 2009 03:36 am | by Ed |

I've been noticing something in my spam lately that I'd previously only seen pushed in popup ads on websites desperate enough to run 'em and in UseNet news group spam postings. It's something that I've taken to calling "scare mail"

These messages are crafted to look like some anonymous person is oh so concerned about the possibility probability that you have critical errors in your registry and other areas of your system. They follow that with some scary looking numbers and the "generous" offer to scan your PC for free.

Now I'm not naive, I'm fully aware that the Windows registry tends to collect errors and outdated information the way some high schools and universities collect basketball trophies, however I also know that the big scare that this kind of spam is trying to encourage in readers is entirely unwarranted.

Here's one such email I got recently:

File Error Notification Follow-up:

We contacted you last week, and we noticed that you hadn't run the diagnostics test to check for any potentially harmful file errors located in your registry.

Press below to launch the Diagnostics Test download:

Press HERE to begin:

Here they had a link to http://manyna.com/tr.php?#####+{my email address}, which served the purpose of confirming that my email address was "live" and then redirecting me to http://www.errornuker.com/ which offers me a free download to scan my system.

The spam continues:

Please read carefully to learn how to locate these potentially harmful file errors located on your PC, and how to fix them.

Are you aware that over 95% of ALL PC's have file errors in Windows that could cause your PC to crash, lose important memory, and cause other software on your PC to fail or uninstall without your knowledge.

Protect Your PC From Annoying and Harmful File Errors and Major System Problems today with a --FREE-- PC Diagnostics Test and Report which will hunt out & rectify even the smallest Windows problems on your PC.

First up, I have to address that last statement. A Diagnostic, free or otherwise, isn't going to FIX anything. All that's going to do is diagnose the problem. Anyone who actually reads the statement will see the flaw in what they're saying.

Of course, by the time you get to that line, you're supposed to be convince that you almost certainly have a critical problem and that these "oh so wonderful people" are here (entirely unsolicited even) to help you.

So, what you're supposed to do at this point is use the link they provide you and download "Error Nuker" and let it scan your system. Naturally it's probably going to find registry errors, invalid keys and such that I've learned over the years tend to crop up quite frequently in Windows.

That's when they finally drop the other shoe. You see, "Error Nuker" (and many others of the same ilk), are quite happy to SCAN for errors completely free. However when it presents you with a report that there are errors, It's not going to FIX anything until you register the program. That registration is NOT going to be free. The unsuspecting inexperienced (or just not technically inclined) computer user is then faced with a choice of fork over $39.95 or not get their errors fixed.

The thing is, there are perfectly good, 100% FREE programs available that can do the job very nicely and not cost you a cent. They also won't hit you up with scare tactics to get you to use 'em either.

Here's a list of some very good utilities that I use on a regular basis and won't cost a cent.

1.) RegSeeker not only has a very effective and thorough "Clean Registry" function, it can also be used to tweak a number of system settings.

2.) Spybot Search & Destroy is one of the best tools around for finding spyware and adware. It also identifies tracking cookies and more. The only part of the program that I refuse to use is their "Tea Timer" utility because it's quite a resource hog. That part of Spybot I always keep disabled.

3.) Ad Aware 2008 Free This one scans the system looking for Adware in many forms. There is a paid version, however I only use the free version for personal use.

4.) Crap Cleaner Officially known as "CCleaner", this is a hard hitting utility that I have no doubt will pick up anything that the others miss. It also has another feature I like that allows it to find and delete the outdated and unneeded temporary files that tend to pile up on any Windows system. Crap Cleaner also features several options that can help insure privacy, such as removing old entries from the "most recently used files" lists in many programs and more.

Now somebody will no doubt wonder why it is that I use all of these when you might think that one of them would be enough. That's easy, as good as these programs are, in my experience no such program will catch everything. The good news is that because of their differences, they each miss different things. By using all of them, you've got a high degree of certainty that your system is cleaned of registry errors, spyware and adware.

My recommendation is to have all of these programs and have each one update it's database as needed and then do a scan once a week. If you were to set aside one day to do all of them, that would be a good time to set a fresh system restore point.

[edited to add: I'm going to follow this post up in the next few days with a video tutorial showing how to use the tools I recommended here.]

Technorati Tags: crap cleaner, critical errors, regseeker, windows problems, free software, adaware, ad aware, diagnostics test, windows registry, free pc diagnostics, spybot, free registry utilities, scare tactics, file error

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