Watch out, AOL users. If you see this in your inbox – like I did tonight – then you’ve got Phish. Symptoms of Phish are as follows:
- You have an irrepressible urge to click on real-looking links to AOL
- You think this phisher’s email is so convincing
- You can’t understand why the fine folks at AOL, a multi-billion dollar company, misspell words, mangle grammar and forget to punctuate
After I got done today responding to Joe Manna on this issue, I started answering my email for the first time in weeks, and one of my reader’s questions about AOL’s email storage policies brought me to Wikipedia’s page on AOL. That wouldn’t normally reveal the answer to something going on at AOL that it seems nobody has the answer for, but lo and behold the page was updated recently (run-on paragraphs abound; the italicized swath was italicized by me):
Haven’t had time to delve too deeply into this but throughout December I continued to receive tips that AOL is canceling any free AOL account created “overseas”. Here’s the most recent tip (end of December-ish):
My (free webmail) AOL account has been cancelled. I don’t know why, there was no warning or explanation. I have lodged queries with Yedda.com and see that several other people (who all appear to be in Australia) have the same problem. No response has been received at Yedda.com.
“Invasive AOL updates!”
A young lady from Los Angeles emailed me this week asking, “Are you familiar with these invasive AOL updates? Can you help me???”
I test AOL’s software for my blog, so the answer is, “Yes and yes”.
One nearly fool-proof method to make AOL’s forced updates stop is to delete the stick.dll file.
You can also delete the entire folder mentioned below – either method works on AOL 10.0 Desktop but not on AOL 9.0 VR, which I need to play around with a bit more. The full path to the file on a Windows PC should look something like this:
C:Program FilesCommon FilesAOL1144194954eeservicessoftwareUpdateve r1_13_8_3
On older versions of AOL like 9.0 VR you can try deleting anotify.exe, which might stop the white auto-update nag above the system tray but will not stop AOL from notifying you the old fashioned way that it wants to update – by covering your AOL window with a huge “now or later” nag with some buttons on it to click for “now” or “later”.
My reader goes on to tell me that she can’t stop using AOL dial-up because:
From: Daniel @
Dear MMarah (of Anti-AOL),
I am not an AOL subscriber…I managed to dodge that particular bullet. But I do have a complaint that might interest you.
I have a large non-profit website (about 850 web pages and roughly 3 million hits per month). I also send out a quarterly e-mail talking about updates to the website. On my last attempt, virtually all of the AOL addresses bounced. This was roughly 150 e-mail addresses out of 1,533 messages sent.
Now, my list is derived entirely from visitors to the website who first write me — at which point I add their addresses to the list on the basis that they’re interested in the website. I also have a strict policy that whenever anyone asks for their address to be removed, I do so immediately — no questions asked. The updates are a service; not a benefit to me.
Now…my questions are:
Sunbelt, the people who make CounterSpy and other software security products, reported on their blog yesterday that at least 450 free AOL sites are infected with the Trojan-Downloader.Zlob.Media-Codec, more commonly known as the zlob-fake-codec.
How this works is you click a search engine result that takes you to an infected AOL account (user.aol.com is shown in the screen shot of an infected result page on Sunbelt’s blog), then you’re prompted to download an ActiveX component to view the web page. If you click Continue to download it, your computer is infected with up to two hundred trojans and unsafe ActiveX components.
I check my stats all the time for search terms used to find my site and sometimes you people scare me. Case in point:
“remove aol email advertising software.” What a mouthful!
Yes, my site shows up at least twice on the first page of results, but so do a bunch of other sites that are no more relevant to the topic than mine is.
If you want to disable those ads find another email provider, then cancel AOL and uninstall their software.
It’s a different plot but the story has the same ending: No matter how AOL dresses it up, they can’t make the donkey that their washed-up business is look a horse. The only thing that’s changed is their approach. Rather than siphon money right out of your checking or credit card account for their “ISP service” (a non-Internet protocol complaint proxy server that sends their browser straight to AOL content and ads) they’re betting you’ll visit aol.com on your own or install their free software so you’ll stay on their site clicking ads, which is how they plan on making their next fortune.
Members of AOL fight a constant battle with spam, especially if they don’t know how to fiddle with the “Spam Control” buttons on their inboxes. The printed version of the spam they’re mercilessly bombarded with each year would have to be measured in tons. This article from ZWire (page no longer exists) outlines how the author deleted 51 spam messages from his ad-strewn AOL inbox in just one hour and the funny thing is, he makes it sound like that’s just a typical day for him over in AOHell, which I escaped perdition from myself not too long ago. Think about it. He gets 51 spams in one hour. I use EarthLink and I don’t get 51 spams in one year.
08-30-2006: AOL’s free 9.0 software fell into the bad graces of stopbadware.org, according to this report, which lists every complaint I had with it. Will these issues stop new users, even at the newbie level, from using it? Yes, if they have any sense at all. It stopped me. I have more planned on this topic soon.
Free domain names? Think again.
08-08-2006: Starting in September AOL is giving out free domain names with free storage space and up to 100 email addresses compatible with Outlook Express and other clients. The only catch is you won’t own the domain name; it’s AOL’s forever. I’ll update as details become clearer.