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14 August 2010

McAfee's Anti-Spam failiure with Thunderbird 3

I've had my PC for about 18 months now and it came with a 3 year subscription to McAfee Security suite which was brilliant.  My mail client is Thunderbird and at the time I was using Thunderbird v2x and McAfee had a plug-in that worked with it that would filter out spam.  It was extremely good as I have a business e-mail account that is linked to my web site so I was getting tons of spam.  McAfee seemed to get 99% of it and if any did get missed there was a useful little feature that allowed you to mark any missed spam mails as spam and then report it to McAfee for evaluation.  Great, I was really impressed and happy. 

Last March I upgraded my version of Tbird to version 3.  The new version of this mail client was brilliant but I quickly realised that my spam was not being filtered any more by McAfee.  Not to worry, I just need to highlight the spam mails and click on the McAfee Anti-Spam button and they will be dealt with...or not as the case turned out.  The McAfee anti spam plug-in was not working at all.

Now you might think this is a bit irrelevant considering that Thunderbird comes with it's own junk filter but if you are a thunderbird user who gets flooded with spam as I do you will know that the Tbird junk filter is not really that good.  It only gets about 80% which still leaves me with 30 or more spam mails to manually weed out each day.  Added to that, marking mails as spam only effects how you filter your mails where as the McAfee system would take this data and if the mails were indeed found to be spam they would place a block on the server sending them out, thus helping to combat the problem at source.

My first thought was to un-install McAfee and re-install it as I knew that is what their support guys would get me to do.  I didn't work so on 31st March 2010 I contacted McAfee support to report the problem.  Straight away they asked me to un-install it and re-install it again.  They insisted on this even though I had told them I had already done that.  I did it again but it still didn't work.  They checked all my settings and then told me the problem would be escalated and I'd get a call back.

I was called back by McAfee a few days later by the Tier 2 support team who promised they would be able to fix this issue there and then.  The guy got me to un-install McAfee and re-install it again and guess what?  It didn't work.

This went on for several weeks and I lost count of the amount of times the product was re-installed and my PC re-booted but needless to say there was no change.  Eventually I was told that a new version of McAfee was being rolled out and that when it eventually got to me and I had installed it the problem would be fixed once and for all...promise.

Last Wednesday 11th August 2010 I got the new version of McAfee and it was installed straight away.  I checked thunderbird - no change, the McAfee Anti-Spam was still not working.  I closed down Tbird and restarted it again but still no change.  I contacted McAfee support.  They sent me a link to their uninstall application that was supposed to remove all traces of McAfee from my system which I followed.  I rebooted my PC.  Re-installed McAfee. Re-booted my PC and started Tbird and guess what?...It still didn't work.  The support guy said he would 'Escalate' the problem and I would get a call back.  (Strong feeling of de ja vu).  I got a call back on Friday and once again the guy told me he would fix this problem.  He took control of my screen but didn't seem to do anything much other than aimlessly click on a few things now and then.  He set up a filter to filter out e-mails containing a specific word in the title and then sent me a mail with that word and proved to himself that the filter really wasn't working.  He then guessed need to un-install the produce and re-install it again.  I protested this time saying that it would not work as the previous support agent had already got me to do just that.  This guy simply told me that it would work and I must do it again.  Hey ho!  so I un-installed it and re-installed it and re-booted as requested and the support guy comes back on line and tell me the problem is fixed even without checking Thunderbird.  I tell him he can't possibly know that and open Thunderbird up and prove to him that nothing has changed and McAfee anti-spam was still not doing anything.  There is a long pause then...a very long pause.  By this time I had been in conversation with him for 1 hour and 40 minutes and it was getting late.  Hence I told him I had to start getting the dinner ready and he agreed to call me back on Monday 14th. 

I won't be holding my breath for a result but i really do think McAfee need to get this issue sorted.  I have run a search on Google and it seems I'm not alone with this problem.  I am getting particularly frustrated with their support service as they are simply wasting my time and theirs by constantly going over the same ground.  They need to spend their time working out a fix for the problem rather than simply asking their clients to keep doing something that doesn't have any effect.

I will let you know what happens from here on but I suspect I'll be asked to re-install McAfee again, and again, and ag...

Monday 16th Aug

No calls received between 8am and 10am as arranged.  I  did get a call at 11am from someone but as I was driving at the time I could not answer it.  There was no number listed so i could not phone back so it might have been them.

Tuesday 17th Aug

Got called at precisely 8am but this was not a day I had arranged for a call back.  Tuesdays are always busy days for me and I was getting ready to go out.  They apologised for not contacting my on Monday and said it was due to technical reasons.  The guy arranged to call me back at 5.30pm that day.

I did not get called until 6.20pm.  The guy asked me if the problem was still there?  (As if it might just go away by itself after all this time!)  I told him, No.  He asked if it was convenient to take control of my computer now.  I said I could give him half an hour.  He told me he would need at least an hour to sort this matter out we arranged for him to call me back in the morning between 8am and 10am.  This is really a bit of a nuisance as if he doesn't call until just before 10am I going to run out of time again if he really does need an hour but I do need to get to the bottom of this.  Although, to be honest, I can't see as this new guy will do anything different from the technicians that have said they would sort the problem out before.  Still, I might be wrong.  I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday 18th Aug - 10.37am

No phone call received.  Have to go out now anyway.

Saturday 21st august - 8.25am

Finally got a call from McAfee.  The guy said they had technical problems so could he please arrange a time for a call back!  I won't be available now until the 1st Sept so a call back has been arranged for then between 8 and 10am.  I told him that there is no point if all they are going to do is un-install McAfee and then re-install it.  He wouldn't comment.

Wednesday 1st Sept

McAfee called me at 08.30pm!  I was eating a late dinner so there was no way I was going to take that call then.  They arranged to ring back on Monday morning between 8 and 10 am.

Monday 6th Sept

McAfee rang at 10.05 am just as I had given up on them and was in my car taking my dog to the vet.  Having stayed in waiting for them to ring again I was not too impressed.  They have arranged to ring back between 8 & 10 am on Thursday.  Umm, I wonder.

Thursday 9th Sept

No call came despite waiting in.  At lunchtime I got an e-mail from them saying they called but didn't get a reply.  Well I don't know who they called because all calls on the number I gave them are logged even if I don't answer and there were no calls at all.  I've now told them they will have to take pot luck in calling me as I simply can't keep waiting in for them.

Wednesday 17th Sept

McAfee called me at 12 noon but I was out riding.  I arranged for them to call me back at 14.30 which the caller accepted.  I waited in by my PC from 14.15 to 15.45 before finally giving up.  No further calls came at all that day so I was quite annoyed when they sent me another e-mail to say they had tried but been unable to get in touch with me by phone.  My reply was quite curt.  I reminded them my phone is with me and switched on 24/7 and all calls are logged.  I have also informed them that I will be unlikely to renew my subscription once it expires.  They have not responded.

Thurdsday 16th Sept 

Got a call from McAfee at 17:30 today.  I was home so was able to let the agent take control of my computer remotely while I watched.  He initially did not seem up to speed with my problem as asked me to explain it again.  I told him there was no point un-installing the product and re-installing it again as it had been tried countless times before.  He tested the Anti-spam feature on an e-mail and discovered for himself that it was not working.  He said he would need some time to research the problem and asked me if it was OK to be placed on hold which I accepted.  After about 10 minutes he came back and tried the anti-spam feature again.  Still not working.  He then looked at the Thunderbird version information and then seemed to do nothing for quite some time.  Eventually he said he would need to seek further advice and call me back.  I arranged for him to call me back before 9:30 am on Monday and told him I had an appointment at 10:30 so would need to go out before then.  He agreed and the call ended after 45 minutes.  

Monday 20th Sept

No call came in the morning - now there's a surprise.   Finally got a call at 7pm just as I was in the middle of cooking my dinner.  Arranged for him to call back before 09:30 hrs on Wednesday.  He promised the call would be made. Ha!

Wednesday 22nd Sept

No call came in the morning.  Got a call at 22:30 hrs after I had gone to bed!  Didn't answer it and no message was left.  

Thursday 23rd Sept 

Got an e-mail from McAfee Support  to say that they had been unable to contact me and would I please provide them with a convenient time for them to call!  Told them it was a waste of effort providing them with a convenient time as they never stick to it anyway.
14:00 hrs I got a phone call from McAfee while I was having lunch with a friend in a pup.  Clearly I couldn't give them control of my PC then.  The guy insisted I provide a convenient time for him to call back so I told him it was pointless as they never stuck to it.  He apologised yet again and once again promised to call at the allotted time.  I suggested they called BEFORE 09:30 bst on Wednesday next (29th).  We shall see.

Wednesday 29th Sept

No phone call.  That afternoon I got another e-mail to say they had been unable to contact me. Yeh, right! they wanted me to provide another time for them to call back...again.  I suggested between 0800 and 0930 am on Friday 1st Oct.  

Thursday 30th Sept 08:04 am

It's our wedding anniversary and I'm manhandling (or should I say woman handling) a very large bouquet of flowers into a vase.  My mobile rings, I can't take it.  I later see there was no number recorded so probably McAfee.  An hour or so later I get another e-mail from McAfee to say they had been unable to contact me.  Well there's a surprise.  I told them in bold letters they should read my previous reply and stick to the time arranged.  Still, at least this time they were telling the truth about making the call.
10:00 am - obtained a UK phone number from their web site that I thought might be for their head office.  Rang it but got put through to the Philippines!  Oh well, at least it wasn't India so I'm probably speaking to a different team.  I explained the problem that I was having with the Indian tech support team and was advised that if the phone call didn't come through tomorrow morning I should call the Philippines team back and they would deal with it. 

Friday 1st October 08:10 am

Got a call from BinuS from McAfee.  I mention his name because this guy was particularly useless.  I gave him full access to my PC and he looked at the McAfee settings, changed the security level from Balanced to Aggressive, closed down Thunderbird and them told me it was all fixed and I should have no further problems.  He was ready to sign off saying I should just monitor the situation so I replied by telling him he had made no difference at all and promptly proved it.   I told him that if there was no fix for this problem at present then fine, they should just say so, as long as they promise to get back to me once a fix is found. He didn't respond to this but instead turned off the anti-spam spam toolbar for all e-mail clients and rebooted my PC.  When my PC booted up again I got a message to say the session had ended.  Initially I thought he would restart it or phone me back to restart the session with me but no, nothing happened, not even an e-mail.  I opened Thunderbird and the Anti-spam toolbar was still there and not working.  I sent McAfee support and e-mail asking what happened.

09:26 got a phone call from BinuS asking to reconnect the session.  He checked Thunderbird and the McAfee settings and saw it was still not working.  There was then a long pause of about 7 minutes so I asked what was happening.  He didn't say but went to my browser, Firefox, and closed it down without saving my tabs that I had open or even giving me a chance to do so.  I was not happy as one of the web sites I had been viewing contained details of a monitor and printer calibrator that was being sold cheaper than anywhere else and I had spent ages hunting for for it.  Who knows, maybe he saved me from spending £390 or maybe he cost me an extra £50 which would have been my saving.  Anyway, he apologised and then started trying to hunt for it again but i had to stop him as I really wanted him to fix the McAfee problem.  He told me he would have to ask the advice of a higher team and get back to me.  Another phone back has been arranged for Monday between 0800 & 0930.  Heyho!

Monday 4th October

No phone call this morning.  Got a call at 12.11pm from McAfee while I was out walking my dog.  The guy said he had been unable to access my file this morning as they had had a server problem.  I do not have a clear schedule this week so I was unable to make a call back appointment with any certainty.  I provisionally told them they could call me between 0800 and 0930 on Wednesday morning but that I could not guarantee being in when they did.

Wednesday 6th October
No phone call came in the morning but I got called in the afternoon while I was once again walking my dog.  Arrangement made for them to phone me back between )800 & 9.30am next Wednesday 13th.

Thursday 7th october
3pm.  Got a call from McAfee while I was driving (on the hands free).  Told them this was certainly not a convenient time to call me and suggested they stuck to the prearranged time.

Wednesday 13th October
Well it would be the 13th!  McAfee rang just before 9am but my phone decided to develope a fault and would not allow me to answer it.  Phone now been sent to Nokia for repair and sim card placed in a spare phone.  E-mail received from McAfee to say they had been unable to contact me.  Apology sent.

Thursday 14th October
08.42am, call received from McAfee to say a supervisor would now be dealing with this case and asking me to arrange a call back time.  Call arranged for Monday morning between 08.00 and 09.30am.

Monday 18th October
09:30am - Got a call from McAfee but not from the supervisor as promised.  This was another agent wanting to ask me for a convenient time for a supervisor to call me back!  I told him the convenient time 'as arranged' was now but he said no supervisor was available and I would have to make another time available.  I told him I was getting extremely fed up with all this and that they clearly had no idea when 'convenient' meant.  I gave him the url of this blog so he could read for himself just how fed up with all this I am.  New 'convenient time' arranged for Thursday 21st between 0800 and 0930am.

10.00am - Sods law,  a meeting I had planned for Wednesday morning has just been changed to Thursday when McAfee are due to call.  I have now sent McAffee an e-mail asking for their call to be made to me on Wednesday morning (same time as before) instead.  I have asked them to acknowledge the e-mail so I know to expect the call.

Wednesday 20th October
0717am - got a call from McAfee - I wasn't even fully dressed and hadn't had any breakfast!  I asked the guy if he could phone back at 8 but he said it would be 12pm.  I told him 12pm was no good as I would be out so he said he needed to arrange a convenient time for a call back tomorrow.  I told him the convenient time was this morning between 0800 and 0930 as arranged and I'm afraid I lost my temper at this point.  He insisted it could not be dealt with then and I would have to make another appointment as the situation was complicated and would have to be escalated to a higher level.  I told him there was no convenient time and hung up. Let's face it, they never wanted to fix this problem, they were simply trying to get me to this stage where I told them not to bother.  But, I'm not done, I still have plan 'B' so I shall take it higher myself although to be honest, it would be far simpler to just ditch McAfee and get some decent software.

0855am - Further call received from McAfee to apologise.  They had just read this blog and were very sorry for the inconvenience caused and offered me a 3 months extension on my McAfee service by way of compensation.  The guy explained that only their researchers would be able to deal with this problem with Thunderbird 3  so the case needed to be escalated.  I was persuaded once again to provide a 'convenient time' for a call back from the researchers.  Call arranged for between 0800 and 0930 on Monday 25th Oct.  (Not sure when the clocks go back, think it might be this weekend but I explained that to them.)

Monday 25th October (Day of temporary closure)
0935 - Got a call from McAfee to say the problem had been escalated to the team of research engineers.  I was informed the problem was with the Thunderbird update (I knew that) and that as yet they did not have a fix for it (I had been waiting for them to confirm that).  I was assured that they were working on a patch to resolve the issue and that once it was ready for release I would be notified.  He also said this case would remain open in the mean time so I would not be forgotten.  
This is what I was hoping they would have told me months ago.  It was pretty clear to me that they didn't have a fix for it right from the start so why they had to keep stringing me on is beyond me.  It has cost me a fortune in lost time and seriously dented my faith in the company.  Hopefully now they will get this patch working and eventually fix the problem but at least in the mean time I don't have to keep hanging and waiting in for phone calls.

Saturday 18th Decenber 2010  (Result!)
I have just noticed that McAfee anti-spam is now working in Thunderbird!  Probably as a result of an update that came through last night.  Wow, finally.  I'm sure McAfee will contact me soon just to make sure it's all OK but even if they don't I'm just pleased it's finally resolved.

Monday 20th December 2010 - spoke too soon :-( 
Seems like it's only partially fixed as it is only working on one account.  I have two set up in thunderbird; one is a standard pop3 account and the other is an imap account.  McAfee anti spam is not working with the imap account for some reason.  I just keep getting a warning message which states "You cannot perform this action in the current Thunderbird folder"  Oh well, at least there is some progress.

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