Technology frustrations . . . and dangers

The past two weeks have reminded me that I sometimes struggle with technology, and often let myself get very frustrated.

While I was away at a yoga training, Seth created a video to teach our customers how to use the SOS ICD-10 Prep Utility we have created for our software, SOS Office Manager. We decided that I would record a voice track and then determine which to use.

I cranked up the software I have used to create videos in the past and spent two days getting the audio recorded and the video edited to my satisfaction. Then I tried to produce the video. It kept inserting green or black screens in places I had made edits. After another day of working with it, I realized I was not going to be able to get a clean video with my software.

Seth suggested I use YouTube’s editing tools but I could not figure out how to do so.

This is the point at which I made my biggest mistake. I searched for free video editing software and downloaded a product to my computer. I spent another two days trying to get the video edited properly and finally gave up, turning the project back over to Seth.

When I re-focused on my other tasks, I started to notice some changes to Chrome, my preferred browser. My usual search engine and new tab page were no longer Google. Instead, Yahoo kept showing up every time I opened a new page. I also found that I could not attach a document to an email. I do not know what other problems might have appeared if I had not realized that something was wrong.

I then spent part of the day on Monday, part of Tuesday, and all day Wednesday searching the web for solutions to my problems. At first, I did not connect them with the download of VSDC , the video editor. When I looked at the history in Chrome and traced back the appearance of the Yahoo! page, I was able to correlate it with this download. Like many other free and low cost products, this software installs Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) on your computer when you install it. I was even careful to uncheck boxes accepting other software, to no avail. This is how these software companies make money: they get paid by other vendors to install software on your computer, often without your knowledge.

This method has also become the most common way serious exploits are installed on your machine. And most virus software does not search for such programs to prevent their installation. Malware products do, but most of us do not have those on our computers.

I was lucky this time that only my browser search choices were hijacked. I hope to avoid a next time!

Lessons Learned:

  1. Do not download free software.
  2. In the event that a free product is the only reasonable way to accomplish a goal, download it only from the company’s site directly. Do not use sites that aggregate free products.
  3. Learn how to find reviews on free and inexpensive software products and determine if anyone has reported malware problems related to the software. Avoid any that have even a single such mention.
  4. Especially, do not download free software when in a time crunch. Deadlines make for poor judgment!

 

Okay, now that I have ‘fessed up, please share your own experiences in the comments below!

 

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