So, this is how Norton’s pulling off the scam. Their browser extension is free, and it came recommended when I purchased their antivirus protection. Here’s a screen shot of what I agreed to, in order to install the extension:
So, it can read and change all your data on the websites you visit, replace the page you see when opening a new tab, display notifications, change your search settings to nortonsafe.search.ask.com, and manage your downloads. I blithely agreed to it in the name of internet security, under the stupid assumption that it was included in my antivirus protection. In reality, it’s a free extension they offer to everyone.
I’m disillusioned. I know it’s hard to trust people on the internet, but I trusted Norton. And now I think they’ve gone bad. [Shrug.] At any rate, I printed my chat transcripts with them. Here they are, for your reading pleasure! I spoke with three different people via chat. I’ll indicate when the speaker changes. Other edits are minor and are meant to improve reading flow, not to make things look better for me or them.
My initial question: [I linked my latest blog post for them here.] I hope you enjoy the free publicity!
Support: Welcome to Norton Support, my name is [Jane Doe]. Please give me a minute to go through the information you have provided. Welcome to Norton Support Meg. My name is [still Jane Doe]. I will certainly help you with the issue. While I am reading through your case details, could you please provide your active email address and phone number? I apologize for asking it again.
Meg: email@example.com [my phone number]
Support: It’s really important to us to help you with this query. I will do everything I can to resolve it for you. Let me check the website ratings from Norton.
Support: The website you are trying to access is not marked as safe from Norton which is the reason you are facing issue accessing this website. May I know if you are the owner of this website?
Meg: Yes, I am!!
Support: Okay, you have to submit your website for evaluation to Norton.
Meg: No. I’m going to sue you. There is no good reason why my site would seem unsafe. IT’S A BLOG.
Support: I am sorry for the experience. Norton Safe Web blocks a website when a malicious content is found in website certification. Which is the reason you have to submit the website in Safe Mode in order to evaluate it. Once it is whitelisted then you will not face the same issue.
Meg: It’s wordpress!! They’re a major blogging site!!
Support: I do understand that. Please be assured evaluating the website will not change anything in the website. I am providing you a link to do the same.
Meg: No, I’m saying that wordpress is a reputable site. I KNOW you won’t change anything. Then I’d really sue you. Um, no, I’m not going to jump through hoops for YOU. I’ll see you in court.
[At that point, I got angry and stormed away. Then I got back on chat with person #2.]
Support: Welcome to Norton Support, Meg. My name is [John Smith]. I will certainly help you with the issue. While I am reading through your case details, could you please provide your active email address and phone number? I apologize for asking it again.
Meg: firstname.lastname@example.org [my phone number]
Support: It’s really important to us to help you with this query. I will do everything I can to resolve it for you.
Meg: Great. I want to know why you somehow infested my computer when I installed the add-ons to Chrome, enabling you to blacklist my web site.
Support: I apologize but I am unable to locate an active subscription in your Norton account with the email address email@example.com.
Meg: Oh well. Answer the question.
Support: I would like to tell you that it may be possible that you have installed the Norton Safe web extension on your browser that blocks a website that it detects as suspicious. Norton Safe Web analyzes and rates websites to see how they affect your device. When you see the gray icon next to the search results, it indicates that Norton Safe Web has not analyzed that website. If you are a site owner, you can submit your website for evaluation. If your website is already evaluated by Norton Safe Web and you want to dispute the site rating, submit the website for reevaluation. May I know if you are the owner of the website that has been blocked by the extension?
Meg: No. You used my extension to target my web site. That’s criminal. Yes, I am the owner of the web site. I downloaded the extension thinking it wouldn’t scam me. I trusted your company. What do you want, money?
Support: I would like to tell you that Norton Safe web is a free extension and it is quite simple to resolve the issue you are facing. You can visit the link: http://safewebnorton.com/ and sign in from the top right corner of the page.
Meg: Supervisor. I want to know what you get out of it. Money? Personal info about me? Let me in on the scam! I’m curious. Fill me in. What’s in it for you?
Support: I would like to inform you that we do not make money from Norton extensions. Norton extensions are for you only to protect from unsafe and dangerous website so you can surf Internet without being worried about any hack or phishing.
Meg: So, how do you get money from this deal? Do I have to pay to get my site cleared That would give you money. See? Are you in bed with Google?
Support: You do not have to pay anything to get your site cleared. I am sending you an instruction email to submit your website to Norton Safe Web Portal and our senior team will evaluate your website and whitelist it for free. We do not charge anything for this service.
Meg: I’m not going to follow your instructions. You’re going to clear my web site. I’m not a trained seal. If you want to harass website owners like this, that should be your problem, not mine. Merry Christmas. You blacklist me, you whitelist me. Do you have an issue with that?
Support: I apologize, Meg as it is a complex process and I cannot verify your website from my end. It can only be verified by our developer team in back-end. Instructions are very easy to submit the website to Norton Safe Web and it will only take a few minutes.
Meg: Nice try. No. You’re going to fix it, or you can get a supervisor. The fact that it’s a complex process is your problem, not mine. I didn’t wake up one day deciding to cause problems like this.
Support: It looks like your website has some security issues due to which Norton is detecting threat. If you do not want the notification from Norton Safe Web then you may simply disable the Norton extension on your browser.
Meg: Nope, nice try. Whitelist my web site. Now.
Support: I am sorry, Meg as website cannot be whitelisted instantly as it is a long process. Your website already had some security issues, when you installed Norton Safe Web, it showed you that your website is not safe. I have sent you an instruction email. Please go through that email and submit the website from your end then our team will whitelist it.
Meg: No. I’m not your trained animal. And you’re not sorry. You’re sadistic. There’s a difference. Supervisor. Now.
Support: Please stay connected while I transfer you to my supervisor.
Support: [Connected with Bob Adams. John Smith has left this session!] Hello, Meg. This is Bob, supervisor to John.
Support: I have gone through your chat session and I can see that you want to whitelist your website.
Meg: Look. Whatever your scam is involving blacklisting people’s websites, it’s illegal, and I’m not going to fall victim to it. No, I don’t want to whitelist my website. I want YOU to whitelist my website. It’s not my problem.
Support: I would like to inform you that your website is not blacklisted. Norton has detected some kind of threat in your website that is the reason you are unable to open your website when Norton Safe Web is enabled. There is a standard procedure to submit a website and you need to follow it if you want to verify your website from Norton.
Meg: No, I don’t. Whitelist it.
Support: If you do not want to submit a website then you may simply disable Norton extension on your browser which is blocking the website.
Meg: Whitelist it. You are slandering me by implying that my web site is dangerous. My dad is a slander lawyer. There is NOTHING dangerous about my blog. (Although you already know that.) If you don’t believe me, google him. [Dad’s name] atty Louisville, KY. He lives downstairs.
Support: I am not saying that your website is dangerous. It is Norton that has detected a threat in your website. If Norton Safe Web extension is installed on your browser, it scans every website you open and block it when it finds any security hole in the website. Your website has some security issue that is the reason Norton has blocked the website. You may try other reputed website like facebook, Youtube, etc which Norton does not block as these websites are safe. Once you submit your website on safe web, it will be verified and Norton will not block it anymore.
Meg: Tell Norton my web site is safe. My web site has NO security issues whatsoever. It’s from wordpress. Speaking of reputed, I thought Norton was reputed. Now I think you all are scammers.
Support: What best I can do for you is escalate your case to our senior team so they could investigate it further and help you with this issue. You will get a call back within 24-48 hours from our senior team.
Meg: That’s great. I appreciate it.
Support: Could you please send me the URL of your website?
Meg: [Lists this web site]
Support: May I know the category of your website? Is it an educational website?
Meg: It’s a blog.
Support: May I know the error you get from Norton when you open the website?
Meg: It has a red page and says my site is a known dangerous web site. Dangerous Web Page Blocked. It is highly recommended that you NOT visit this page. (Just a tip to your higher-ups–it’s best not to offend people before you scam them. For whatever that’s worth.)
Support: Thank you for the information. Do you have any description of website that you want to provide in order to whitelist your website?
Meg: My website is not known as being dangerous. My web site is not dangerous in any way, shape, or form, unless its content offends you. It’s G-rated. I don’t scam people. I’m not a phisher. I don’t like being called one.
Support: I understand it and that is the reason we require a description to get your website whitelisted from Norton.
Meg: I see.
Support: We are not claiming that it is a scam website.
Meg: It looks that way on the error page. “Dangerous Web Page Blocked!”
Support: It is just that as it is not tested by Norton so it comes up with the error that it might be a dangerous page.
Meg: Uh-huh. As much as I appreciate your backpedaling, I’ve got the error page on the screen in front of me. “This is a known dangerous web page.”
Support: So please provide me a description for your website e.g. what category it is related to like shopping or blogging and what kind of blog do you post on the website.
Meg: Why not just put a photo of me up at the post office? It’s a blog. I shouldn’t have to justify my web site to you. I blog, therefore I am.
Support: Please provide me these details and your website will be white listed from Norton in next 48-72 hours.
Meg: If you’re interested, you can read it. Details? There’s nude sex, fetishes, chains, sadomasochism, and whippings. Just your average blog.
Support: Thank you for the details.
Meg: You’re welcome!!
Support: I have escalated your case to our senior level team to get it whitelisted and you will receive an email confirming the same in next 48-72 hours.
Meg: Thank you so much!!
Ugh. What a headache!! Sigh. I also reported them to Chrome when I disabled the extension. So, there you have it. Norton antivirus is no longer legit. It’s a sad day.