Finding Accurate Software Reviews: Harder Than It Looks

Preface: I recently received an email from one of my closest friends, and also one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to Apple computers and Apple security. The email Matt Jacobs (@pnwbeard) sent me a short message followed by a link. His email was to the point, and I immediately knew I was going to do it. His email was as follows:

You should do an article about s***ty “review” sites that just link you to malware while running ads for malware.

https://www.soft32[dot]com/mac/?rel=menu
— Matt Jacobs

I followed the link on my iPhone, and the second the website popped up, I knew it was going to be a great article, so thanks to Matt's assistance and link to a jump-off point, here it is.


 MacKeeper ad on the bottom of the Soft32 website.

MacKeeper ad on the bottom of the Soft32 website.

There are many "review" sites out there that "review software," at least that is their claim. Soft32 is one of them. They claim to review software and give you download links to software that is for PCs, Macs, and iOS/Android. It took one scroll before I crossed the first and most glaring red flag. An advertisement for...you guessed it, MACKEEPER! Clicking the link takes you directly to the MacKeeper webpage - no surprise.

 

Soft32 is just one of many terrible "review" sites. These sites provide links to free software, which is laced with malware. They also run ads for companies like MacKeeper, which are considered PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). They aren't necessarily considered "malware" by anti-virus engines, but they are programs that you'd best avoid. There was even a tweet put out by Apple Support, saying that you should avoid MacKeeper. It's probably one of my all-time favorite tweets.

However, I must digress, before I dive down the rabbit hole that MacKeeper typically makes me do.

Let's get back to the review sites. There are many, and they are persistent. I think one of the other most reviled "review" sites is the one that is commonly reference by MacKeeper. It is called ShopperApproved[dot]com. It is a nightmare of a site, that seems the most jaded review site I've run across. Although this one doesn't give you free downloads of malware-infested software, it is another one you best avoid.

Another very popular site is called CNet. CNet, which used to be a somewhat trustworthy site when it comes to software and product reviews, has deteriorated immensely. While on the other side, a site like Softonic[dot]com is just pure garbage, pushing horrendous software that has no business on your machine. It is plagued by malware and advertisements that link to software that is poorly made and slows down your computer. Those pieces of software typically come bundled with malware as well, so either way, it's going to put malware on your machine.

 It's unfortunate that you have to tip-toe across the internet in order avoid stepping in a steaming pile of malware, but it is the state of the internet today. This isn't just an Apple-specific issue, but also occurs across all platforms.

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You see, these reviews occur on sites everywhere, and they are actually the most popular sites when consumers go out looking for reviews. This is due, in part, to the fact that these sites give away "free software." Sites like Softonic, along with the aforementioned Soft32, are all sites that utilize this "free" tactic in order to get you to click on their advertisements or download malicious content. Just remember that with software, as with phone calls, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

I'm sure you may be thinking, "Well then what is a reputable review site?" Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of good ones out there, and there are a ton of bad ones.

The best, publicly acclaimed review sites begin with Tom's Guide. Although I disagree with some of their content, overall, their reviews are, if nothing else, honest. They don't try to sell you additional software or offer free downloads. Another relatively good alternative for Mac users is the Apple Discussion boards. As a reminder, this is a user-to-user to discussion board, so the opinion your are getting is just another Apple user's opinion, however, many of the most common replies on this site are avid users who have a plethora of Mac knowledge. I am very often perusing the Apple Discussion boards in an attempt to provide insight to others who may need it. Another reputable site is 9to5Mac.com, Macworld.com(NOT Macworld[dot]co[dot]uk -- that site is a nightmare), and iMore.com.

With everything listed, I would recommend them in that order, but with one exception. . .ASK ME! Just send an email to stuart@crashsecurity.com or text/call me at (541) 714-5880, and I would be more than happy to let you know if the software in question is good or bad.

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A special thank you to my good friend and fellow Mac user Matt Jacobs (@pnwbeard) for the idea for this post. Matt is a Table Top Game designer and developer, and he does a fantastic job. He is currently working on a game called XO. Check it out and support him on Patreon.