Pando, Malware & My $500 Excess Data Bill

Imagine my horror when I received an email alert from Bigpond that my Business Wireless Broadband plan had gone over my 8GB monthly allowance by a whopping 1.8GB (with 4 days to go in the billing cycle…)

So that’s last Saturday night (yeah… don’t ask why I am checking emails then.)

And then 12 hours later on Sunday morning my usage is sitting at 12.97GB!

I’m staring down the barrel of an excess data charge of at around $500!!! (See RED bits in image below)

Telstra Excess Data Usage

Telstra Excess Data Usage

Considering that just a couple of days ago (on 3rd May), my total usage was only around 3.5GB for the whole month.

Apart from the obligatory “WTF?” moment… the questions are

  • What caused this to happen?
  • What can I do about the “excess” bill – if anything?

Well… “something” was chewing up the bandwidth on my laptop at an alarming rate. So much so, that the small wireless modem I have was over heating bigtime… and shutting down often (see GREEN entries in image above)

Eventually, it was found that Pando Media Booster was the culprit. So it… and possibly something else called “Windows Media Finder”… were removed from the PC, and network traffic returned to zero.

But what IS this software? How did it get on the computer?

Pando Media Booster “comes” with the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) DEFAULT download.

It is designed to “accellerate” the download of such large media files by “sharing” it across multiple locations – i.e. the computers of all the silly buggers who downloaded LOTR and similar games etc., who did NOT realise what was happening!!!

And I reckon that makes it Malware (defined by Wikipedia) which is:

“software or code specifically designed to exploit a computer, or the data it contains, without consent. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software… Sometimes, malware is disguised as genuine software, and may come from an official company website.

There’s a pretty good case that Pando IS a prime example of this type of software, because NOWHERE does the main/default download link on the LOTR home page mention Pando… you just click to download, and then “next, next, next” etc to install – as you would normally do!

Maybe “somewhere” in there is a “next” button which they could argue you ticked to “allow” Pando to be installed… But there is NO OBVIOUS WARNING of the dangers of using it, or leaving it activated… even if you go digging into the support forums.

Well…

Here’s MY WARNING!!!

By leaving Pando active on your computer AFTER installing LOTR (or any other game publishers or media distributors that use it)… you make your computer and internet connection available to “share” those files with other people wanting to download the same game.

I’ve seen some online reports that Pando was chewing upwards of 10GB of data a day without anyone’s explicit consent being provided.

So a big “Thank You” to Warner Bros, LOTR, Pando and whomever else is involved in that for allowing such a thing to happen!!!

Good onya blokes! NOT!

Telstra’s Reaction?

Now the fun starts…

At their current excess rate for my “business” plan of 10c per MB – or $100+ per GB – I am facing a bill of around $500.

When I asked this weekend if there was anything I could do about it, because as far as I am concerned, Pando is “malware” and was something that was going on behind the scenes so it was NOT MY FAULT 🙂 i.e. I did NOT deliberately go out and download heaps of stuff for me and then whinge because I went over my limit.

I was promptly reminded that it is my PC and that I am responsible for ensuring that it remains clear of malware etc infections, and if I don’t then, well… stiff! (my words – not theirs… but that’s essentially the reaction of the billing lady I spoke to… who only wanted to convert me to a bigher plan).

They said I should have email notifications turned on (I do) so that I receive earlier “warnings” at 80% usage. But I never did receive that one, presumably because the whole thing went over 100% within the time frame their system allows for such notices to go out.

It Begs The Questions…

  1. Why are we in Australia STILL in the dark ages with regards to excess data charges at ridiculously high rates? Surely we should be past that in 2012?

  2. I am vigilant at protecting my PC from 99.9% of malware etc infections… however in this case where one so-called “legitimate” program caused the problem… why do I have to pay for the damage it caused?

  3. What action can I take against LOTR, Pando or whoever else is involved, for providing this software without due warning of the effects it may have on your computer and internet connection? Answer? There is basically NONE other than to warn people about it through this post and social media etc.

I will be appealing this charge, so will keep you updated on any progress related to it. If Telstra are not forthcoming, it will end up with the TIO.

Obviously I’m not a happy boy today…

But what would I have felt like discovering this on a MONDAY morning, when Pando could have run rampant the whole weekend?

I can only imagine the excess data charges with another potential 15GB added.

For those that can’t do the math – that’s only a $2,000 bill 🙁

Yikes!

Comments

2 Responses to “Pando, Malware & My $500 Excess Data Bill”

  1. admin on May 8th, 2012 4:18 am

    Probably would’t hurt to clarify that the actual LOTR download was done on another totally different ADSL connection PRIOR to the 3rd May, so NO data is counted here for that. The “nasty” stuff started AFTER LOTR was installed and we plugged back into my connection from the 4th May.

  2. Jonathan on May 20th, 2012 11:34 am

    I feel for you Steve I really do.

    Had a staff member’s gf put $1k on a wireless device one month last year … but these things happen about once a quarter I find – in one form or another.

    I think in this day and age the solution is the unlimited phone and data plan mate!

    But yes, the fury the fury … eventually subsides.

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