Internet Insecurity, courtesy of Trend Micro

I had a rather startling – and worrying – surprise waiting for me this morning. When I woke up and came downstairs to check my computer, I found out that the subscription to my internet security software – Trend Micro – had expired. Well, I knew that was coming, actually, but what I hadn’t expected was that when the subscription expired, Trend Micro would completely shut down all of the software and not allow me to use it until I purchased another subscription.. That’s right – for 6 or 7 hours, all of my computer’s protection was GONE because this software decided that end of subscription = end of software.

When I went in this morning and tried to at least turn the software back on, I found that my only choice was to buy a new subscription or buy their new software via their site – at about a 40% premium versus what I had already paid when ordering it from Amazon (which, unfortunately, will not be arriving until Friday).

To put it mildly, I was pissed. I’ve never had software of any sort with a subscription service — other than music services, that is — that turned off my software simply because I wasn’t paying a monthly fee. In fact, that is precisely why I don’t use those music services – I don’t want to rent my music. So, I didn’t want to RENT the software either – except that I didn’t know that I was until it was gone. Yes, I had seen the prompts that it was expiring, but those prompts never said that my protection would disappear the instant that it did. Instead, I thought it would work like every other software out there – including every version of Trend Micro before this one – and continue to function but deny me any future updates until I purchased a new subscription.

When I went to their customer service, the self-help was useless, so I used their live chat function. I have to admit that it was pretty convenient with a couple of small caveats: 1) the rep sounded like one of those voice-prompt systems (“I think you said that you are having a problem with your subscription. Is that right?”); and 2) you had to put in your serial number – which I couldn’t get because I couldn’t get into the software. Luckily, I was able to find the disc hidden deep in the closet, otherwise I would have been S.O.L.

To be honest, this really pisses me off. I really DON’T like the idea of renting my software and then losing it when I don’t pay for an extension of the subscription – I think that’s a model that has been shown to fail in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. But worse is that without warning, this software left me completely exposed and unprotected like a small nerdy freshman walking naked into his first day of high school. I think that’s a really shitty thing for a company to do, and I really am having a hard time justifying staying with them. If it weren’t for the well-known problems with switching internet security suites and the fact that I am completely unprotected and the fact that I detest Norton even more than this, I would switch from this software. As it is, I might still do it just because I’m so peeved.

So peeved, in fact, that I actually searched out the email addresses of 3 of the executives of the company and sent them the letter below. We’ll see if it has any effect, or if I’ll be asking for recommendations of what to buy next when Trend Micro goes back to the store.

Dear Ms. Chen, Mr. Negi and Mr. Chang,

I am writing because a recent experience with you product has severely affected my opinion of your product.  I discovered Trend Micro many years ago while fleeing the well-known anti-virus/Internet safety applications.  I was immediately impressed with your product and have been a loyal user since – my wife and I have ordered at least 8 editions of your software for our computers and the computers of relatives, as well as recommending it to numerous other people.  You can find several reviews I wrote of your product on Epinions.com under the username “martytdx” – including one that had over 5,000 views (http://www0.epinions.com/content_162006208132).  In fact, I had just ordered my copy of Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2009 and was waiting for it to arrive when my current subscription expired.

Imagine my surprise when I sat at my computer and discovered that not only had my subscription expired, but that the software had stopped working!!  When I went to discover what the problem was, I found that I was cut off from all functionality of the software – and was also suddenly left open to all manner of attacks, as it had expired overnight, turning off both my firewall AND my anti-virus while I slept.  When I tried to open the software to find out my options, I unfortunately found that they were extremely limited – I couldn’t do anything other than CANCEL or go to your site to renew my subscription.  However, I didn’t want to renew through your site, as the cost was about 40% higher than the retail cost – AND I ALREADY HAD A COPY EN ROUTE.  I hadn’t ordered the product until recently because a) I hadn’t known the new edition was out; and b) I thought that I still had some time — I hadn’t expected this.  So, for the delay of a few days in purchasing, your programming practices had left my system suddenly and completely unprotected until I turned on Windows’ mediocre firewall protection.

I was surprised and rather disappointed to find out that the expiration of my subscription did NOT do what most similar applications do – that is, suspend any further updates but allow the user to continue using the product … at least for a period of time.  I have never used another product – yours included, which took an action to prevent the user from even continuing even a minimum of protection upon expiration.  Worse, I looked at the documentation and to my knowledge received no notification at all that this would be the case.  Worse was that the software had unexpectedly left my entire system completely vulnerable to any number of attacks, all without my knowing that it would happen – in fact, expecting the very opposite.  To have my legs cut out from out of me, in a sense, was both unexpected and unwelcome – suddenly, my computer is unprotected by the software I trusted, and I find that deplorable.

Contacting your customer support rep, Paula Torres, via online chat was helpful but not satisfying.  He was of limited help, mostly because there was little he could do but apologize and offer platitudes about my situation.  He did recommend that I download and install your trial edition of the 2009 software.  While this gives a practical solution, it does little to assuage my apprehension about continuing my use of your products.  I find myself disinclined in renting your software for another year, forced into a subscription service to merely use the product that I have already purchased.  Ironically, I was already willing to buy the full-install of your new product – I had already done so, in fact, based on the positive reviews I had found on your latest version.  Now, I really doubt that I will keep this latest product and will instead look at your competitors who will give me more flexibility in the use of the license I buy – not holding me hostage like the pay-music services to maintain a subscription to use a rightfully-purchased program.  And I will be sure that I inform those who I have directed toward Trend Micro to likewise reconsider their options as well.

I will obviously have 30 days to make my decision – based on your trial software – and I hope that your response to this letter can change my mind about your products.  I sincerely hope to resolve this matter to everyone’s satisfaction.

Sincerely,
Marty DeAngelo
Haddonfield, NJ

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5 Responses to “Internet Insecurity, courtesy of Trend Micro

  • That is highly disappointing. They really left you high and dry! Your letter was well-reasoned. I’m curious what their response will be.

  • oh jeez, that sucks.

  • Actually, when I installed the trial version of 2009, I discovered something very interesting. I found NO indication that the service would stop when the subscription expires. Granted, I’ll have to go back and try to find the Terms of Use for the 2008 version, but here is what the newest version says (emphasis is mine):

    1. APPLICABLE AGREEMENT AND TERMS. This Agreement applies to Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware, and Trend Micro Internet Security and Trend Micro Internet Security Pro (also known as PC-cillin or PC-cillin Pro, respectively) (“Software”). When installing the Software, you may be prompted to accept the same or another version of Trend Micro’s license terms; the terms of the first agreement you accept will apply to your use of the Software. All rights in this Agreement are subject to your acceptance of this Agreement. Paid licenses: If you have purchased a license to the Software, Sections 1, 2 and 4 through 26 of this Agreement apply to you. Trial license: If you have not purchased a license to the Software and are installing the Software for trial or evaluation purposes, you are a “trial user” and Sections 1, 3 through 19 and 22 through 26 of this Agreement apply to you.

    Okay, so I have to listen to THIS paragraph, as well as #2, and #4-26.

    2. PAID USE LICENSE. For each license purchased, Trend Micro grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-assignable right to install and use the Software on no more than the maximum number of client, personal or handheld computers (each a “Computer”) for which license fees have been paid as specified on your invoice, receipt, order confirmation, or other purchase documentation. Product licenses for home use must be used by end users in the same household. License fees must be paid for each Computer on which the Software is installed, provided that it may only be installed on one operating system per Computer.

    Still nothing about software expiring at end of subscription.

    4. UPDATES. The Software requires Updates to work effectively. “Updates” are new patterns, definitions or rules for the Software’s security components and minor enhancements to the Software and accompanying documentation. Updates are only available for download and use during your Subscription Term as defined in Section 7 below. Upon download, Updates become “Software” for the purposes of this Agreement. Updates may require additional or different license terms that must be accepted before download. Updates will replace previously licensed parts of the Software, but will not increase the authorized number of Computers or registered users.

    5. SOFTWARE ACTIVATION/REGISTRATION. To receive Updates and other available “Subscription Services” set forth in Section 8, you must activate the Software and/or register with Trend Micro. These controls help ensure that the Software operates only on validly licensed Computers and that validly licensed end users receive applicable Subscription Services. Registration requires a valid product serial number and a valid email address for renewal and other legal notices.

    Okay, so updates require a valid subscription – that makes total sense. And I need to register the software. Again, that makes sense. Section 6 only covers Information Collection and doesn’t really apply…

    7. SUBSCRIPTION TERM. For paid licenses: The “Subscription Term” for paid licenses starts on the date you receive the product serial number and ends 12, 24 or 36 months later, depending on the number of subscription months purchased. Note that secondary licenses expire on the same date as the primary license regardless of the date of activation of the secondary license. You must purchase a Software upgrade or renew the Subscription Term for your product serial number to continue receiving applicable Subscription Services after the Subscription Term. Software upgrades and Subscription Term renewals may require additional or different license terms. For trial use: The “Subscription Term” for trial use starts on the date you receive the product serial number and ends 30, 60 or 90 days later, depending on the stated or authorized trial period.

    8. SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES.
    A. Updates. During the Subscription Term, registered and trial users are entitled to Updates for use with the Software on each licensed Computer.

    There, in all of its glory, is what I thought was the case – I need to have a valid subscription in order to get updates to the software. NO WHERE does it state that the software will stop functioning when the subscription expires.

    The rest of the terms cover the technical support, additional software related to the program, liability, that they can take you to court and/or jail if you change, edit, update, sell or try to otherwise mess up the software.

    NO – none, nil, nada – mention of the software ceasing to operate when your subscription ends. I think I might have a case if I can find the same language in the 2008 version’s TOU.

  • tonyk007
    13 years ago

    Hi Marty,
    I’m new to all this forum stuff. Please forgive if I’m doing the wrong thing here.

    I found your site by Googling “stops working” when I too was stunned by Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2008 refusing to work past the expired subscription.

    Like you, I have used Trend for years and bought new copies or upgrades when I felt like doing so. Never before had I come across the program refusing to continue after expiry of subscription.

    And the offered solution (to purchase a new subscription or cancel) reminded me of a choice I had years ago when a box opened on my screen asking if I wanted to reformat the HDD..with a choice of “YES” and nothing else! Scary.

    Is there a follow up to your emails to Trends higher echolon of power? Or did they not even bother to reply?

    Regards
    TonyK

  • TonyK,

    No, I never heard back at all from TrendMicro, which tells me that they just don’t care. It turns out that it was a moot point because TrendMicro doesn’t work with Windows 7 and they aren’t planning on releasing a Windows 7-compatible version until Windows 7 actually releases – so I had to go with another program.

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