Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monkeys & Macs & The Hazards of Free

I've been working on some new things in my studio - part of which required that I download some apps from the internet. If you're like me and own a Mac you probably feel pretty secure about downloading apps in terms of viruses. They just aren't there. Not viruses. Not for Macs. But there are mischievous little programs we tend to forget about...

I'm not sure which app had the spyware in it, but it arrived all bundled up with the cute little name "Elf". Oh, and a folder that was 35 MB of blank images. Nice.

How did I discover the spyware? First, my Safari starting acting up. It took hours to download webpages, including my homepage, Beadweaver. No longer could I move in and out of files on my desktop and text began to disappear into thin air. How strange. I thought Macs were impervious to viruses... It was then that I noticed a tiny Elf, sitting on my toolbar at the top of my desktop screen. When I clicked on it and took a look at the info icon - it redirected me to a no-name website about the Elf 1 Community Toolbar. And something about how they discriminately track my online browsing.

What?!!! Spyware?!!!! Go Away!!!  I got out my big guns and promptly hunted down Elf on my hard drive. I deleted everything I could find related to this dubious spy. Including the huge blank folder. Think that made him go away? Guess again. Nothing I did made a difference.

After spending 4 hours on the computer trying to find a solution (try googling Elf 1 - ha! ) I finally stumbled upon the owners. It's a company called "Conduit" and they track your every move online. They create little apps for other companies to bundle into their software under the guise of improved communication...

When I finally found an Elf 1 Toolbar page, an option read "Can't remove our software?" "Try downloading the application which includes an uninstaller".

Now why would I want a second copy of a program I can't get rid of?

Back to square one. "Where is this little Elf hiding?"  I did everything Safari, Finder, and Apple told me to do with no luck. I could "turn off" the Elf, but there it sat in my toolbar. There is no uninstaller with this monkey nor does Conduit come right out and tell you how to remove it. In fact you have to dig - and dig I did. And kept digging and digging. Still not there. I did find some wrong instructions on removing the spyware that just might mess up your computer, however.

Since I had no other option, I clicked on their CONTACT page and began typing a question: "Your info on removing ELF 1 on Safari does not work"...when suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared instructions on how to remove ELF 1.  What - Me Mad?

Suffice to say, I took a picture of the instructions to share with everyone out there who has this problem. Maybe Macs don't get viruses, but no one is immune to disguised malware (click on that link to learn more or on the image below to enlarge!)