Office Depot halts PC Health Checks amid bogus infection claims

US chain accused of flagging malware false positives to flog expensive disinfection tool


Office Depot has suspended PC Health Check – its malware-scanning service – after it was accused of lying about infections to push antivirus software.

Former Office Depot technician Shane Barnett told Seattle TV station KIRO 7 that the PC Health Check service would lie to customers that their otherwise-clean PCs were infected with malware, and that this was used to flog expensive disinfection tools. He claimed he was let go from his job because he refused to run the allegedly dodgy scanner on people's machines.

"The program itself is mandatory," said Barnett. "It's not an option to not run the program. You have to run it on every machine that comes in the building. Period.

"I knew I was going to be replaced when I started to see that stuff happening because I refused to do it. They're like, you have to hit these numbers. I'm like, I'm not going to make things up so you can hit your numbers. I'm not going to do it."

The station decided to investigate his claims and took six virgin PCs along to Office Depot stores in Oregon and Washington State, US. In four stores, their researchers were told there was a malware infection on the clean computers and were given a hard sell for cleanup services costing up to $180 to clean the "problems."

They then took the PCs to computer security company IOActive. "We found no symptoms of malware when we operated them," Will Longman, the firm's VP of security said. "Nor did we find any actual malware."

Now Office Depot has suspended the PC Health Check service nationwide while an investigation is ongoing. "Office Depot in no way condones any of the conduct that has been alleged in media reports," a spokesperson for the chain told The Register on Monday.

"We have commenced a full review of the assertions and will take appropriate action. Office Depot is committed to providing the best possible service to our customers, and we are suspending the PC tune-up services throughout our retail chain pending our review."

Now the politicians have swooped in to bayonet the wounded. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has asked the FTC to investigate allegations that Office Depot broke American trading standards laws. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • It's the flu season – FluBot, that is: Surge of info-stealing Android malware detected

    And a bunch of bank-account-raiding trojans also identified

    FluBot, a family of Android malware, is circulating again via SMS messaging, according to authorities in Finland.

    The Nordic country's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC-FI) lately warned that scam messages written in Finnish are being sent in the hope that recipients will click the included link to a website that requests permission to install an application that's malicious.

    "The messages are written in Finnish," the NCSC-FI explained. "They are written without Scandinavian letters (å, ä and ö) and include, for example, the characters +, /, &, % and @ in illogical places in the text to make it more difficult for telecommunications operators to filter the messages. The theme of the text may be that the recipient has received a voicemail message or a message from their mobile operator."

    Continue reading
  • AsmREPL: Wing your way through x86-64 assembly language

    Assemblers unite

    Ruby developer and internet japester Aaron Patterson has published a REPL for 64-bit x86 assembly language, enabling interactive coding in the lowest-level language of all.

    REPL stands for "read-evaluate-print loop", and REPLs were first seen in Lisp development environments such as Lisp Machines. They allow incremental development: programmers can write code on the fly, entering expressions or blocks of code, having them evaluated – executed – immediately, and the results printed out. This was viable because of the way Lisp blurred the lines between interpreted and compiled languages; these days, they're a standard feature of most scripting languages.

    Patterson has previously offered ground-breaking developer productivity enhancements such as an analogue terminal bell and performance-enhancing firmware for the Stack Overflow keyboard. This only has Ctrl, C, and V keys for extra-easy copy-pasting, but Patterson's firmware removes the tedious need to hold control.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft adds Buy Now, Pay Later financing option to Edge – and everyone hates it

    There's always Use Another Browser

    As the festive season approaches, Microsoft has decided to add "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing options to its Edge browser in the US.

    The feature turned up in recent weeks, first in beta and canary before it was made available "by default" to all users of Microsoft Edge version 96.

    The Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) option pops up at the browser level (rather than on checkout at an ecommerce site) and permits users to split any purchase between $35 and $1,000 made via Edge into four instalments spread over six weeks.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021