A lot of Mac users will proudly proclaim that their machines will never catch a virus. While this does have some truth to it, there are still plenty of security vulnerabilities in Macs (take the “Shellshock bug” from last month for example). There are a number of software security packages available, some of them free but most of them aren’t. The most familiar ones is MacKeeper, due to its aggressive advertising campaign and controversial reviews. So, what is MacKeeper really and which side holds their water?
Mackeeper is a collection of security and antivirus utilities exclusively for Macs. There are four components that make up the suite:
- Security: Includes anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-theft. The anti-malware scanning engine refers to a database of known malicious websites and automatically blocks them. The anti-theft features uses iSight photos and detailed reports to the registered user so the laptop can be tracked down.
- Data control: Includes data control for file encryption, file recovery, backup software and data erasure that permanently deletes files that can not be recovered.
- Cleaning: Includes a disk cleaner, duplicate finder, files finder filter, disk usage report, and smart uninstaller, which allows the utility to completely uninstall applications or plugins that have been moved to the trash but still remain on the hard drive.
- System optimization: Includes update tracker, login items, and default apps.
A very big criticism of this software is that most these utilities are natively built into Mac OSX; the rest of the utilities are not really required and don’t improve performance with the MacKeeper bundle, unlike their claims. Including features such as:
- Mac automatically removes “junk files” in the background (without any software assistance or user action);
- the Gatekeeper feature keeps untrusted applications from being installed removing the need for a separate “anti-virus” application;
- iCloud has anti-theft features built in;
- there is no need to have another utility to notify you that there are updates for apps to be installed–this is done automatically through the apps themselves and the App Store.
- Disk Utility enables the user to encrypt files;
- Time machine can be used to create and manage back-ups
One of the few utilities that might be somewhat useful, such as the “shredding” tool, however this is only relevant to magnetic hard drives. If a user needs that kind of utility, it is much easier to search the App Store for a single use, free utility that does not come bundled with other processes that slow down your computer. MacKeeper, not only has a reputation for bloating your system, is also known to be notoriously difficult to remove, which makes it very inefficient for a single need. Guides like this can assist the users through the process, but quickly becomes convoluted.
MacKeeper’s advertising tactics have not benefitted them in their reputation. They use tactics such as pop-up and pop-under ads that bypass safari’s default ad-blocker, though this isn’t the dirtiest of their tactics. TheSafeMac.com has reported ZeoBit buying a domain name very close to one the name of one of their competitors. What ZeoBit did then was write a fake review on the page and plastered a big giant “download” bottom of the page, which redirected the users to download MacKeeper and not the software they made a fake page about. After backlash, ZeoBit removed the download links.
ZeoBit has responded to a lot of the negative feedback they’ve received. They claim that the negative PR campaign is run by one of their competitors (a competitor that they will not name). Also, ZeoBit allegedly has only 3% of their purchases request refunds (which they have 365 days to do so), providing evidence for customer satisfaction. They also claim that the uninstallation is as simple as dragging and dropping the icon into the trash, even providing step by step instructions on how to get rid of the software. Lastly, ZeoBit defends its use of pop-ups and pop-unders as spreading the good word about MacKeeper. They claim a lot of users are happy with MacKeeper, and how to inform the public about their product is through advertising.
Regardless, their claims and questionable software has gotten the company into trouble. At the beginning of the year, a woman filed a class action lawsuit against ZeoBit for false advertising. The software, as described in the lawsuit, claims that all computers are in “critical condition” after the software scans the machine, even brand new machines, and requires a repair by purchasing the software. After purchasing, the woman filing the lawsuit says that MacKeeper “provides limited antivirus and firewall protection, and deletes some temporary files, but does not meet other promises.”
So what is the final word on MacKeeper? As it stands right now, the software doesn’t provide enough benefit to deal with the cost and headaches associated with it–it is a lot simpler to find single, one use utilities to get the job done that isn’t already a feature of Mac OS X. As for the court case, it was only filed at the beginning of this year, so a decision has not been made yet, although it is eagerly awaited.
3 http://www.applegazette.com/feature/exclusive-mackeeper-says-unethical-competitor-trying-to-tarnish-our-reputation4 http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/05/06/Pennsylvania-woman-sues-company-that-promises-computer-security/stories/201405060191