Sunday, 16 October 2011

Trusteer Rapport Problems

Over the past month or so I have had half-a-dozen PCs in with serious problems which turned out to be caused by Trusteer Rapport. Now, fixing PCs is what I do for a living so I guess I shouldn't complain that all the online banks who promote Rapport are generating work for me. Nevertheless, it just seems wrong that a product which is supposed to protect people ends up stopping them using their computers. Anyway, a lot of my customers I have known for years and I hate to see their time and money wasted.

Half of the crippled PCs simply wouldn't start at all: windows was just giving a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) and promptly rebooting. The other half started okay but Internet Explorer wouldn't run. These are, of course, typical virus symptoms, so I wasted time (and money) running thorough virus checks.

The BSOD machines would start in Safe Mode so, once viruses were ruled out, I was able to load a tool I use which tells me which drivers have crashed the system. Once I had identified that the drivers causing problems had names like 'rapportxx' I was able to rename all Rapport drivers and so start Windows properly. After that I restored the driver names and (without rebooting) uninstalled Rapport. Problem solved, and I simply added a note to the invoice to tell the customer what the problem was and suggesting that, if they believe Rapport to be useful protection, they should talk to their bank to download a fresh copy from scratch.

In the cases where Internet Explorer wouldn't run, once I had eliminated the thousand and one other causes of IE problems, I was able to find a FAQ entry on the Trusteer website telling me what to do in that situation - quite how anyone is meant to find that FAQ when their internet browser isn't working is another matter. The FAQ tells us to start Rapport Console (a program in the Start/All Programs list), to burrow deep into its settings to find the one which is about protecting Rapport from tampering, and to turn it off. Hey presto, the internet is back. The fact that there is a FAQ entry there implies that this is not an uncommon problem; the fact that Rapport fails to give any error messages as it disables Internet Explorer implies that people are unlikely to look at the Trusteer website for their FAQ because they wouldn't know they need to.

If Rapport was just another piece of Internet Security software, chosen and installed by the users themselves, these problems wouldn't be so bad - all software has its issues and antivirus programs in particular are inclined to go wrong, because they are always on the frontline of the battle against the bad guys trying to use our PCs to steal money. But Trusteer Rapport is not just another security program: it is very heavily pushed by the internet banks onto users who are not technologically savvy and who believe what their banks tell them. Those banks should not be promoting software which doesn't have the quality control in place to avoid breaking users' PCs and/or disabling their internet access, particularly when it does not even give clues that it is Rapport doing the breaking.

The first couple of Trusteer Rapport problems I encountered, I just assumed that they had released a duff update and it was a one-off. Now I am suggesting to customers that they might want to have a word with their bank to find out just why they are promoting software which is costing said customers time and money by breaking their computers.