Beware Of User Reviews On Software Sites

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 16, 2010
Updated • Mar 19, 2012
Software, Windows

User reviews can be a fine thing, they add value to program descriptions and new perspectives to reviews. Many software sites use them, Betanews, Softpedia or Giveaway of the Day give their users options to vote and comment on software reviewed or hosted on their sites.

There is nothing wrong with user comments and ratings as long as they do not influence a software's visibility on a website.

Softpedia for instance allows users to vote for software, but does not use the overall rating to determine where and how a software is presented on their site, as this is solely determined by the number of downloads.

That's not so with Betanews. If you take a look at the software listing you notice that ratings play an important role on the site. They are displayed prominently and trigger the popularity listing as well.


That alone would not be a problem, but the system could be used by individuals or companies to increase the ratings and reviews of their products, with the purpose to gain visibility on the site.

Remove It Pro SE for instance currently has a rating of 4.2 (of 5) with 213 votes. That's a lot of votes for a program that is not well known. It has for instance roughly the same amount of votes as PC Wizard, PHPmyAdmin or Audacity and at least twice as many as MemTest 86+, Gspot or HashTab.

remote it pro review
remote it pro review

The amount of ratings is an indicator, but not proof that something is wrong with the program's listing. If you take a closer look at the reviews you notice huge differences. Some users have rated it with 1 or 2 stars, with the following comments:

Took Removeit for at test run, found 16 files and tagged them as dangerous, only problem, every single file are good file, and if I'd had quarantine the files I would have crippled my system.


This is Crapware, almost bordering on Rogue (IMHO)
Got a handful of false positives from this one.
Best was when it detected my PPPoE protocol driver (RasPPPoE) as a Trojan.
I know people say prevention is the best protection, but not letting me on the internet (had I deleted PPPoE) is just too much for me.
Too bad the lowest rating is 1. I would rate it 0 if I could.

I find it suspicious how it ALWAYS finds something on your system the first run, probably a false positive too. Seems mainly designed to scare people into getting their 'paid' support product.

I gave it a 2 for effort....but still too many false positives.
On my system were three (supposedly dangerous) files identified (2 were part of Tune Up Utilities 2007 and one belongs to BoClean 4.25/Comodo Firewall)
After uploading these files to Virus Total where they were scanned with 31 AV engines everything came back clean. So I recommend you get a second opinion before becoming all panicky and trust the findings of this scanner too much.

The majority of voters on the other hand rated the program with five stars, the maximum available. Let's see what they have to say:

I have tried just about every Antivirus Antimalware program on the market. But RemoveIT Pro has always proven to be more efficient in removal of Virus attacks....Fantastic Program

After using adaware, malwarebytes and avg, only RemoveIT Pro fixed malware problem. Great tool! :-)

It is the best malware removal tool ever, works well and fast!

Light, user friendly and very effective in removing malware.

The trend is obvious. The low rating commenters mentioned false positives, the high rating commenters how fast, efficient and great the tool is.

Let's give the program a test ride, shall we? First problem, the program only starts if it is executed with administrative rights.

Scanning of the system started and it quickly found the first trojans and malware on it. First up was googleupdate.exe, identified as Win32.Unknown.Random.X, then several system32 folder files, heck, even the Windows Screensaver that ships with the operating system was detected as a virus.

RemoveIT Pro SE detected 27 threats on the computer system, that Kaspersky missed, apparently.

remote it pro
remote it pro

Next step was the verification of the findings. Opened and submitted every single file for inspection. All 27 files were clean, according to Virustotal and the 41 different malware scanning engines it uses.

false positives
false positives

The confirmation that RemoveIT Pro detected false positives added weight to the user comments who stated that, and all who did rated the program with 1 or 2 stars.

The positive ratings, especially those stating that the program removed malware that no other program was able to find could be attributed to those false positives in some cases. RemoteIT Pro does actually detect malware that no other program detects, problem is, they are all false positives.

The amount of five star ratings on the other hand could also indicate a campaign to artificially increase the program's rating on the site, and likely on other software sites as well.

How do you handle user ratings on software download sites? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. giantslor said on June 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Thank you for this article. I tried this program and it found 58 “infected” files on my clean system. I hadn’t seen the negative reviews. This “company” is totally rogue.

  2. dvdtoipadconverter said on December 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

    i know some of the software reviews are fake, which were written by some who employed by the seller,so every one should have his own judgement.

  3. King said on July 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    This may be related more to the author or distributor than to a specific site. The same phenomenon appears to be happening on cnet, too:

    The program appears on several such sites, but it usually has no comments or ratings. It looks like they only sent their comment spammers (er, I mean marketing people!) to certain sites.

    1. Transcontinental said on July 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      Just had a look on cnet. One person wrote,

      “Pros: Fast download and scan. great product, great features…love it!!!
      Cons: I like everything”

      This sort of humor is in my opinion relevant of rubbish thoughts. Now, this is what I’ve experienced quite often, I could, I may be wrong :)

  4. Transcontinental said on July 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Well, be it on above mentioned sites, be it for this software or for another, be it that oddity is the sake of both revelation and perfidy, one thing is sure: when are we entitled nowadays to be confident. Because we may be aware that smarter people can induce falsification in a smarter way than having a colony spread the good word on a software forum, for instance fewer posts with sophisticated arguments…. oops, that could also be the lot of a true fantastic application: gosh.

    As Martin stated, don’t avoid the software but don’t get interested in it for other reasons than personal testing, which is finally the only possible attitude between swallowing eyes-closed and closing one’s mouth, blind.

  5. Anonymous said on July 16, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    First of all, I would assume anyone actually using RemoveIT is a fairly novice user and would not give much credit to anything they say in their review. Secondly, I would assume that the authors of RemoveIT have an organized program for SPAMming such sites with glowing, positive comments and reviews to counteract the negative reviews and comments. You can hardly take any of those reviews seriously. The credible reviews are usually pretty apparent from their detail and balance.

  6. justaguest said on July 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Online reviews are indeed not trustable and so-called “big ,reputable review sites (pcmag, etc)” as given in the previous reply aren’t much better. Those sites and their magazines/papers are made possible due to marketing and advertising. Guess who pays for the ads??? Right, the companies being reviewed. So a bad review means less money….
    It’s not always like that but often it is.

    1. giedrius majauskas said on July 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      Bigger editorial review sites are not so susceptible to small money bad tools can provide. So they will not promote BAD tools, even if some of their reviews are paid. Maybe first place will not be the best, but it will be good enough. They have their name to keep.
      Smaller sites might be completely in pocket of specific group of products, thus having heavy preference in what products are promoted. There is nothing worser of site that allows single opinion only… The worst are ones that belong to contractors, there is very little way to tell if the opinion is real or they are in the pocket.
      Additionally, I do not believe in or similar tests as well. Because of the way the infections are picked, it might favor one product or another. Although it is better than many others.

      1. Transcontinental said on July 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

        Evidence of a deal between a website and a software promoter is not required to have the promoter promote his product by means of mass intoxication or by any other means of guided comments. I recall many years ago, as an enthusiast user of a software called ‘PestPatrol’, and as I had had the opportunity to establish (for other reasons) a contact with a member of the software staff, I had been asked to leave a word on a given forum of what I thought of the product. Now I was sincere, yet guided. Sometimes things are not so obvious, but some other times they are, that is when there is a dedicated policy of intoxicating a website forum with alleged comments.
        Money is still another thing.

  7. smaragdus said on July 16, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Many developers, especially of newer and worse products rely extremely on false ratings. This is utterly obvious at Betanews, where one cannot write a review without having a registered account. Such false posts are usually easily detected because they teem with cliches and exaggerations. Many times I have been absolutely sure that most of these “users’ reviews” are just adds written by the developers of the reviewed product, and when I have checked their profiles at Betanews, I have discovered that these “users” have written reviews only of one product or only of products of one and the same developer. Once I added a post quoting such a “user’s” comments, providing a link to their profile and review history, and soon all their reviews were removed by the moderator. Most of the five star comments are false, and one does need to check the users’ profiles to assure themselves, it is the language that betrays such posters, it seems they are not clever enough to avoid trite phrases, platituides and overstatements. So, beware of eulogistic starements, they are usually false, true advertisements written by dishonourable and greedy software developers.

  8. giedrius majauskas said on July 16, 2010 at 11:11 am

    That is quite popular strategy with all security product vendors, legitimate or not: product bashing and claiming to be the best. This is especially true for registry cleaners, where it is easier to enter market than with antimalware or antivirus. And every contractor or affiliate points at each other as rogues :)

    Mass download sites can not be trusted at all about security rating. They do not test for quality that much. They would scan the downloads with some antivirus, and might upload to virustotal, but thats it. Also, all larger security forums can not be trusted as well, because they might belong to single security company, or be deeply related to one. This is not always disclosed, but other opinions are not accepted in such forums.

    Single malware researcher sites can be trusted with a grain of salt – they will always claim that their company is the best, but they will provide more or less trustful information in some cases. Also, if they disclose their relationship, their company can be sued for false claims if there are any. This forces some to think before

    The best is big, reputable review sites (pcmag, etc) that test the software for real. Maybe the software they test are not the best at the moment (noone can guarantee that), but it will be good, and will do the job.

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