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Reviews For Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware version 1.34
Average Rating: 2 Based On 1 Reviews

Date: March 02, 2009, 4:14:53pm

user: gepley
computer: Intel Celeron D, 3.33GHZ, 2 GB RAM & AMD Turion 64 Mobile, 1.58GHZ, 1 GB RAM
operating system: Windows XP Media Center & XP Pro
screen reader: JAWS 10
rating: 2
comments: Having heard many good things about Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware, I was anxious not only to see if the software found any malware (spyware) on my systems I tested it on, but also to see what the accessibility of the software was like, since most software of this utility class always seems to have some sort of third-party, custom user interface that offers poor to lousy accessibility

I have a BIG problem with companies or individuals who can write good to great software, but slap a poor, only partially accessible, to lousy, totally inaccessible, user interface on top of it. In either case, a user interface the blind or visually impaired have to fight with in order to accomplish what would be a simple task with normal eyesight.

I have this problem for a reason, and it's because I've been a programmer myself for over 26 years, 8 of them blind, and by only using standard Microsoft controls, I've been able to write software that's 100% accessible, with no screen reader scripts or other kludges... and while I'll just pat myself on the back here and say I'm a very brilliant programmer... I confess that I don't think other programmers couldn't figure out how to write software for the blind or visually impaired. If they can't, then I'm even more brilliant than I already think I am. I'm being a bit sarcastic there, by the way, just so that's clear. If I felt I could develop an effective anti-malware solution, I would, but I know I can't, so I expect other programmers who can... to at least offer me a 100% accessible user interface on their solution. Unfortunately, I rarely find them.

I gave Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware a 2 rating as of the version 1.34 I'm reviewing here because I didn't think it quite deserved a 3 rating. It just wasn't quite in the "middle of the road", in other words, in terms of accessibility.

Installation goes well, and at the end of the setup process, options to update the software and to launch it are selected by default. Updates seem to go well, JAWS telling me everything that's going on. The updates are so fast on my internet connection that I really didn't have a chance to explore, to see what things JAWS might not be telling me.

By default, when you start the software, you're on a Scanner tab, though you won't be told this, because the tab control is this third-party, non-Microsoft standard tab control, developed by VbAccelerator, as it appears all the controls are classed with the prefix ThunderRT6.

In fairness, the command buttons seem to be accessible, the option (sometimes called radio) buttons, to some degree. Everything else you'll need to access using the JAWS cursor, and in the spots where there are list views, with items to select or de-select, you won't have any foggy clue whether they're selected or not, other than trial and lots of error, which can be a real pain in the butt. Personally, I despise having to use the JAWS cursor on ANY software, but that's beside the point. I REALLY despise software that forces me to use it just to access controls which are only inaccessible due to the fact that the stupid programmers used some third-party control instead of the Microsoft standard control.

As you start to tab around the Scanner tab, you'll first hear an option button item which tells you that the quick scan option is selected. Based on what I could glean by running both the quick and full scans, the only difference is the fact that the full scan scans every file on the selected hard drive(s), whereas the quick scan only scans certain critical areas, like the Windows folder. One oddity I noticed about the accessibility of the option buttons here is that once you switch to the JAWS cursor and click on the option button to switch to perform a full scan, you can use the left and right arrow keys to switch back and forth between the two types of scans. But if you up arrow too much, focus gets all fouled up, and you're back to having to use the JAWS cursor in order to try to get back into the normal control focus cycle. My suggestion is to use the JAWS cursor to select full scan, if that's what you want, and only use the left and right arrow keys while on that control in case you change your mind, or switch back to the JAWS cursor and select the quick scan option again.

Once you tab past the scan type option buttons, you should reach the Scan button, which you activate with the usual, expected spacebar press. If you chose the quick scan option, your scan begins immediately, and you'll need to switch to the JAWS cursor to read through the status information. If you chose the full scan option, you'll need to switch to the JAWS cursor again to select which drives you want to scan. I only clicked on the C drive in this list. I'm not sure how easy it is to tell which drives are selected in multiple drive situations, other than by the graphic labels, which you'd need to sort out and label yourself. Perhaps some enterprising JAWS scriptor will produce a work-around, but I wouldn't be that person. I'm not a big fan of JAWS scripts. They're a kludge, a crutch, a work-around for software companies or programmers who are lazy and ignorant of the blind or visually impaired and how they access computers. In my experience, few companies or individuals, even when made aware, in a nice but firm way, of the accessibility of their software, tend to ignore such complaints, or say they'll work on it and one never sees much, if any, improvement. There are exceptions, but they're far too few.

But back to the review... once you select the drive(s) to scan, you'll need to tab back to a scan selected button to actually get the full scan going. Strange user interface, pressing a scan button on a full scan, then selecting drives, then pressing a scan button again... when the more logical interface would be to make a multiselect list of drives available in the control cycle focus if the full scan option was chosen, with the C drive selected by default, leaving us with ONE press of a scan button, which makes more sense.

A quick scan on several different computers I tested on revealed that a quick scan took about ten minutes, while a full scan took more like around fifty minutes. A dialog box appears at the end of the scan, basically telling you whether there were or weren't any problems found, advising you on what button to hit next once you okay out of the dialog box. If problems were found, you'll be directed to press the "Show Results" button. Again, kind of stupid. Why not just SHOW me the damn scan results list after I click that OK button? Why WOULDN'T I want to SEE the results if there are PROBLEMS found? Stupid, just stupid, for such otherwise smart people. I think perhaps some very smart programmers wrote the code that actually finds and fixes the malware problems, and some other bunch of yahoo's designed the flow of the user interface. This, or some corporate yahoo, who probably doesn't know the first thing about writing software, directed some changes and, of course, they were just made, because corporate ma'am or sir said so, and not because it actually makes sense to do what they said. Sorry... writing this review seems to keep getting me on my soapbox!

Very important you stay with me now. If problems are found, once you've clicked that "Show Results" button, you'll need to use the JAWS cursor to begin reading the list of problems found. The name of the threat, it's type, whether it's a file, folder, registry key or memory related, along with some status about whether any action has already been taken on the problem, are shown in the list. Be VERY careful about where you click on an item, as it appears that all items in the list are selected by default, for action (removal), and clicking in the wrong place could result in de-selecting an item you'd prefer stay selected. I found this out the hard way trying to figure out whether the items were selected or not by default, and trying to figure out how to select or de-select them, which I'm still not quite sure of. If you mess up at this point, then tab to the button to remove the problems, and fail to have everything selected, you won't have a second chance to return to this screen during this session to select the accidentally de-selected items, which I think is another stupid interface flow problem. You'll instead need to run ANOTHER scan in order to reach the results screen and just remove the problems.

Once you tab to the Remove button and press it, you'll be warned to shut down all other open applications before continuing. Don't freak out once you proceed past this point, if your system seems to hang for a moment. It should return just fine after a minute or so.

After any problems are removed, a dialog with an OK button appears to tell you this, and a log file should open in your default text file editor (usually Notepad). The action here's a bit stupid too, because the dialog's telling me about viewing this log, and before I have a chance to stay focused on the dialog and press the OK button, the log file's sitting there, open in Notepad, covering up the dialog box. What? We can't WAIT for us to press the OK button and THEN open the log for me in Notepad? Anyway, the log file's informative, especially in letting you read the full path and name of everything which you CAN'T see in the results window list, as it's truncated there with the famous ellipses.

When you return to the program and have responded to any stray OK dialog, you can explore the other tabs. You'll be back on the Scanner tab, but the available tabs, copied and pasted from the Help file, are:

Scanner: The scanner tab allows you to run a quick scan or a full scan. This will reveal any malware on your system.

Protection: The protection tab allows you to configure and start the Protection Module. (requires registration)

Update: The update tab allows you to update the program and database to the latest versions. Please check at least weekly for updates.

Quarantine: The quarantine tab allows you to manage your removed threats. If you deleted something you did not want to, check here!

Logs: The logs tab allows you to manage your saved log files.

Ignore List: The ignore list tab allows you to manage your ignored items. Accidently ignored a threat? Check here!

Settings: The settings tab allows you to configure Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware to work just how you want it.

More Tools: The more tools tab allows you to run extra tools that we have included with Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware.

About: The about tab allows you to view information about Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware.

Back to the review... using the JAWS cursor to select the Protection tab will tell us about the real-time protection feature we can gain by purchasing a license, currently $24.95. Fine, fix the accessibility problems, so I don't need to use the JAWS cursor so much, and I'll think about it. Until then, I'll spend my $24.95 elsewhere. I did, after some clunking around with Malwarebytes support, seeing no other means to contact them, finally manage to get an email off to their corporate people to ask them to please improve the accessibility of this software, telling them all about JAWS, pointing them to the Freedom Scientific web site, telling them about the free, forty minute, fully functional JAWS evaluation they could download and use for as many re-booted forty minute sessions as they desired, described a bit about the controls that weren't accessible, and how they should normally work. I expect to get some email back telling me things like how they'll work on it... or some marketing crap about how wonderful the software is... or how they tested it for accessibility and how wonderful it is (I get that last one a LOT). Yes, and the blind they must have used apparently don't know much about computers, or accessibility, or were perhaps disabled monkeys, instead of human beings. Funny how I never get to be one of these blind testers.

Another benefit I understand you gain in the paid product are automatic updates, though I can't confirm this since I refuse to pay for it at this time. You're also supposed to gain the ability to schedule scans. With the free product, you must manually click a "Check for Updates" button on the Update tab, and while there is a command line option dealing with scheduling a scan, I didn't test it to see if it worked in the free version of the software. There are two command line options dealing with performing updates, one that will show the dialogs to tell you what's going on, another that shows nothing. There are also command line options for running quick or full scans with automatic exit of the software if no problems are found. I was a little disappointed at yet another stupid thing the company did. I keep saying the programmers did something stupid, and it's more likely a corporate ma'am or sir's fault. Anyway, I had the bright idea of altering the startup icon's Target property, adding the /updateshowdialog command line parameter, so that hopefully, each time I manually launched the software, it would automatically check for updates. No dice on that. The stupid software exits afterwards, rather than dropping me off on the Scanner tab. I guess they must REALLY want that $24.95 VERY badly, huh?

The Quarantine, Logs and Ignore List tabs all have buttons and lists in them to deal with the information displayed in those tabs, the lists inaccessible without a visit to the JAWS cursor first. A few things about the Settings tab. First of all, one of the settings somewhat helps deal with that log file display, letting you choose to not save and display the log file after removal. I don't mind it being saved and displayed to me. I just question the wisdom of it butting in the way of a dialog I'm supposed to respond to. I despise software that watches me, and an option I found checked by default in settings disturbs me... anonymously report statistics to Malwarebytes' Threat Center. I'm not quite sure what to make of this, so I unchecked it. I don't know if they're just trying to stay abreast of possible threats, to help build the database, or if they're just trying to be nosy. The bad thing is, if I hadn't gone looking at the settings, I wouldn't have even known this was checked, which I don't think's right. They ought to at least tell me up front they're doing this activity by default. Since they chose to be so covert about it, thank you Malwarebytes, I've at least unchecked your little box, preferring NOT to report myself to your Malwarebytes Nosiness Center.

The More Tools tab currently has buttons for reporting bugs and false positives, and a button to access a feature to help you remove locked files, none of which I tried, because I had no need to. The About tab, of course, tells you about the software, what version it is, what build the database is, and seems to have a copy of the software license there, just in case you missed it during installation. Why not just leave me a copy of the license in a text file in the program folder, or better yet, plop a "License..." button on the About tab? In what I suppose is the final bit of stupid to report on this software, normally, if a software has a help file, one can press the F1 key, and the help file opens. No dice with this software, at least not that I could get to work. There's a Help button on the About tab, and there's also a shortcut in the software's Start menu > Programs location, to access the Help file, but Microsoft Windows STANDARD programming practices are to provide access to Help via the F1 key, with other access through a Help menu or Help button or all of these. I wonder... hmm... I wonder... if I pay that $24.95... if it'll suddenly unlock F1 Help file access?

Sorry, being sarcastic again there (grin). You're probably wondering... did the software actually FIND any threats? Yes it did. On my laptop system, it found a rogue installer key in the registry, which it had no problems taking care of. I don't think it was a severe threat, as I've noticed nothing odd going on with my laptop. On my wife's laptop, it found a few apparently insignificant remnants of the Rapid Anti-Virus Rogue... and I say insignificant, because the three items were a folder, a registry key, and an INI file. Some research on this threat revealed that there should have been more files there. My wife's not complained of her laptop harassing her about buying Rapid Antivirus, which is said to be what it does, so AVG or cCleaner must've at least partially taken care of the threat. However, this was all I found. My desktop system was clean.

Is this software worth using, despite everything I said about its accessibility? I'd say it at least warrants running periodically, perhaps once a month or once a quarter, in addition to other tools like a good anti-virus, anti-spyware alternative, such as AVG 8, or the like. Where spyware, malware, or whatever catchy name you want to give it are concerned, it never hurts to use more than one product to scan your system at least once a month. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is supposed to be one of the few tools that can detect and remove the very nasty Antivirus XP (or Antivirus XP 2009 or 2010) or its variants. Too bad this solution wasn't around before this nasty infected a lot of users. Because there were no removal instructions at the time, a lot of users, including one relative of mine, ended up having to clean install his whole computer in order to get rid of the thing, and as it's basically impossible for a blind person to enter Safe Mode on Windows, it's nice to know that apparently Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware can blow away such threats, apparently with no need to enter Safe Mode. It's probably best to run tools like this in Safe Mode, but until Microsoft offers blind users an ACCESSIBLE Safe Mode, there's little we can do about it.

I'll update this review as soon as I receive a reply from Malwarebytes on my email concerning accessibility.

UPDATE: To see a web page I composed, showing my original email to Malwarebytes' Corporate, to which support had directed me, along with a copy of their reply, my response to their reply, and some final remarks as of 03-07-2009, see the following link:

accesswatch review system custom -designed  by Tyson Treasure