Interview With Michael Maltsev, Creator of Unchecky

Reason Software has just announced the incorporation of the popular Unchecky program that protects computers from potentially unwanted software offers that often come with software downloads, into the Reason Core Security suite.
I sat down with the creator of the program, Michael Maltsev, to get the story behind Unchecky. The first impression I get is one of humility and sincerity. You can almost imagine that he might be more comfortable without the fanfare that has come to this modest 23 year old. When I tell him that I have been watching the development of Unchecky for a while now and have recommended it to friends, he just utters a quiet “Wow, thank you, that means a lot to me”, not without a touch of wonderment in his voice.
Rebecca S.(Reason Software Staff Author): Thanks for letting me interview you Michael, I know you’re really busy between developing Unchecky and being in university. So tell me a bit about yourself.
Michael Maltsev: Well, I’m from Russia, Novosibirsk, to be exact, but I live abroad now. I work on the development of Unchecky and run the Unchecky Blog as RaMMicHaeL. I’m also a junior in university and I take Judo classes in my “spare time”
RS: Wow, you have your hands full! I guess I shouldn’t expect less from the person who developed the program that Georgiana Arghire at Softpedia gave a 5/5 rating to and called “A reliable application that aims to protect your computer against third-party components.” That’s pretty cool. What compelled you to create Unchecky?
MM: Basically, I was always interested in computers and programming. I saw that there are a lot of people who use computers but aren’t necessarily “tech-savvy”. Your typical “tech geek” knows certain things when it comes to software – to do custom installs, to never download from third party sites. But regular non-geeks aren’t always aware of such things. Meanwhile, the problem of bundleware being installed with free downloads has been getting pretty bad and I started to feel really awful that people were being bombarded with garbage just because they are less technically inclined. People like my mother. Why should she get tons of adware, and bundleware foisted onto her computer just because it’s not her point of interest? I started to think about how I could fix this problem and came up with a completely rough draft idea for a program that would target problematic installers. I figured it would be a constructive use for my knowledge and I could help people at the same time.
RS: So that’s when Unchecky was born?
MM: There was a bit more to it than just that. I had the idea going in my head but never got to implement it. Then, one day I had lots of free time so I decided to play around with it. I downloaded a couple of installers, and started to code a prototype. After a week or so, I came to the conclusion that it could never work because there are too many different installers out there. I gave up the idea, and scrapped the entire project. The following week, I couldn’t help but think of different ways that I could approach the development. By the end of the week, I had enough fresh ideas that I opened the recycle bin to restore the code. Thankfully, it was still there.
RS: Good thing you stuck with it. And that you didn’t empty your recycle bin before you decided to take it out!
MM: Yup. I’m just happy people that like it. Honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the positive feelings it’s generated. I really just wanted to help regular users beat bundleware that can lead to much bigger computer issues.
RS: So public reaction has been positive. What happened after that?
MM: Shortly after Unchecky was released, I had built up traction and had some pretty good press and then I started to get offers from software companies to buy the rights to the program. Almost all the companies who wanted it were interested in making it a subscription-based program. But I wasn’t really interested in my product being locked behind a paywall. I built it to be free and I wanted it to remain free to protect the end-users, so I didn’t bite.
RS: But now you sold the rights to Reason, to be incorporated in the Reason Core Security Suite. If you weren’t interested in selling your baby, what happened?
MM: Well, Reason approached me about buying the rights to Unchecky and incorporating it into RCS, the free version as well as the paid version, and leaving it as a stand-alone product, too. That way everyone always has access to it, for free. That was just up my alley. I was already familiar with Reason’s other products, Boost and Should I Remove It and I was quite impressed by the real desire to help the end-user fight not only viruses and malware, but also adware and bundleware, which can be just as harmful to computers but get way less press than their counterparts.
RS: So would you say that you and Reason have the same goal?
MM: Exactly. At core, we both want to help less tech-savvy people stay safe online. Again, people like my mother. I don’t want her to get slowed down and worse yet, compromised by bundleware and malware. So we have the same vision, that of beating adware, bundleware and malware in general. Most AV products don’t touch adware and bundleware even though these are often the entry point for malware.
I also really like that Reason takes its users very seriously and invites everyone to be part of the conversation in the campaign against all the dangerous “wares”. I find that listening to my users has helped me build Unchecky into the user-friendly, helpful product it is today and I like that Reason holds the same philosophy to be true as well.
RS: What has been your most rewarding experience with Unchecky so far?
MM: It’s probably the positive email feedback letters I get from users. When I receive a letter that says “Thank you for developing Unchecky, it’s very helpful”, it makes me happy that my little program has a positive impact and that it’s useful for people.
RS; Wow, it’s great to know your work is appreciated! Well, I for one am happy that Unchecky has joined RCS. Thanks for your time and best of luck!
MM: Thanks, good luck to you too!