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.
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.
Nothing but FALSE POSITIVES.
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.
Next step was the verification of the findings. Opened Virustotal.com and submitted every single file for inspection. All 27 files were clean, according to Virustotal and the 41 different malware scanning engines it uses.
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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.