McAfee 3G bill shock nightmare

13 Feb 2010
Posted by Laptop Junction

3G roaming nightmare with McAfee Security Center

Picture this, you’re on a postpaid contract roaming the 3G internet landscape with a laptop in a foreign country.

You've done everything to prevent McAfee to automatically download updates.

Suddenly McAfee comes to life with the re-assuring pop-up message it wants to download a new update.

Nothing wrong, virus scan database updates are usually in the 100 Kb range. So let’s have it.

Strangely the download takes a few minutes more than expected on a 3G connection. Strange….

Checking the progress in the system tray : 70% completed - 42Mb downloaded!

Vodafone charges € 2,50 per Mb while roaming in the Eurozone – The download took 65 Mb over 20 minutes. 

That's a € 162,50 update…..(US$ 211)

Luckily this event was on a 3G flat-fee prepaid contract – so no harm done - but there's more to the story.

McAfee’s 3G annihilation of prepaid bandwidth

Now wait a minute – the 65 Mb update probably was a program update. Wrong! It’s a virus definition database update. Ok, then it’s a freak occurrence. Wrong again! In 2010 McAfee already released three 65 Mb updates over 40 days.

McAfee`Security Center - 3G billshock in roaming mode - 65 Mb update for Virus definition file
McAfee Security center -  65 Mb virus data file update on a 3G connection

The 65 Mb download results in the installation on the files AVVSCAN.DAT, AVVNAMES.DAT and AVVCLEAN.DAT. The AVVSCAN.DAT file only is 78.2 Mb in size.

McAfee SecurityCenter update - 3G bill shock in roaming mode - AVVSCAN.DAT download
McAfee Security center -  installation on the files AVVSCAN.DAT, AVVNAMES.DAT and AVVCLEAN.DAT

McAfee SecurityCenter ruthlessly annihilates prepaid 3G bandwidth with 195 Mb of updates in just 40 days.
Not to mention the costs when the update happens on a postpaid contract in roaming mode.

McAfee SecurityCenter options to control updates

Now there’s 1 control switch to prevent McAfee SecurityCenter to auto-update it self. It’s here:

McAfee`Security Center - Updates are switched off
McAfee Security center -  Security updates are switched off.

Pressing the advanced button, results in this screen;

McAfee`Security Center - Updates are on manual
McAfee Security center -  Security updates are on manual.

Amazing but that doesn’t stop warnings popping up from the Windows System tray if the last McAfee SecurityCenter update check was more than 5 days ago.

This message can NOT be stopped – it pops-up at every new internet session. Guess what how the message looks like?

McAfee`Security Center - Security notification after 5 days
McAfee SecurityCenter -  Security update notification after 5 days

The McAfee update check is set to ON by default – one wrong click and the McAfee update process starts automatically. It's impossible to stop it unless harshly terminated using the Windows Process Manager.

So let’s terminate the 3G connection immediately and hope McAfee SecurityCenter ‘forgets’ I ever clicked on the update dialog. Wrong! Even after a reboot McAfee remembered that one click and re-starts the update at each new internet session.

The last resort is to disable McAfee Security Center to prevent expensive 3G sessions. How's that for Internet security?

McAfee SecurityCenter Improvements for 3G connections

To prevent 3G bill shock or annihilation of prepaid 3G bandwidth budgets, McAfee Security Center can be improved by:

  1. State the size of the update when updates are set on manual.
  2. When updates are on manual, make the default action non-destructive, defaulting to no action taken.
  3. Add a "update check alert" ignore option - preventing the message that pops-up after 5 days.
  4. Add a "New update alert" ignore option - preventing
  5. Allow the user to cancel a pending update
  6. Add the possibility to only download small virus database updates.


This McAfee SecurityCenter behavior is seen with the following McAfee SecurityCenter versions on 3 separate Windows XP installations:

McAfee SecurityCenter : V9.15
McAfee VirusScan : V13.15 Build 13.15.113
DAT Version: 5888.0000 and 5871.0000