Everybody gets them. Most of the time we don’t want them–PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs)–not the cute furry barking kind. I’m talking about the computer malware type that comes with downloading software.
PUPs is an acronym for Potentially Unwanted Programs which you likely don’t want but are downloaded alongside software you do. They slow down your computer, display ads, add toolbars that steal space on your browser, and some even collect your private information.
They are often bundled in software that you actually did want to download. When you quickly click through the installation, it is easy to miss the fine print and “agree” to these extra applications.
They include: spyware, adware and dialers. They are also referred to as bundleware, bloatware, junkware or PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications).
Just to complicate things more Potential Unwanted Modifications (PUMs) are made by these programs to your computer’s default settings. PUMs can be made by legitimate applications and Malware, though the Malware changes are more likely to cause problems. Often you won’t even know what took place.
The creators of these programs think that since they included all the information necessary about them in the consent to download agreement, they shouldn’t be lumped in with spyware or other forms of malware. But it is what it is. Bad for your computer.
To determine if a program is a PUP, security engineers examine a list of bad behaviors. Some applications are classified as PUPs for having multiple infractions while others have one serious violation.
Ad infractions include: obtrusive or out-of-context advertising; pop-ups or pop-unders, ad insertion overlays or replacement ads with no clearly identified attributes, ads not clearly defined as ads, and the redirection to a competitive site.
Download infractions include: excessive shortcuts on desktop; bundling; pre-populated check boxes; liberal use of “recommended” next to an option; no or difficult to uninstall location; nonstandard install location; browser add ons that don’t show up in the add-on manager.
Web Infractions include: altered search results, toolbars with no value, hijacked search engines on home pages, and bookmark insertions.
Blacklisted Programs include: registry cleaners, optimizers or defragmenters, driver optimizers or updaters.
Some Tips On How to Avoid PUPs
Lookout for pre-populated checkboxes (software programs such as “Unchecky” scan third party software agreements and uncheck options that result in PUPs but they may not catch everything).
Learn to recognize Dark Patterns (these are user interfaces designed to deliberately trick the user).
Be aware of those programs that add an unofficial “seal” as a credibility factor.
Watch out for grayed out “skip” button and the use of bright colors for the “next” button.
Be wary of misdirection: Companies may try to hide free or cheaper options.
Read through the End User License Agreement (EULA) carefully: Don’t accept terms that are: bundled programs; read the title above the fine print to be sure EULA you accept is only for the original program you download. If it isn’t you can decline and still move forward in the install process.
Read through the Install Wizard instructions carefully. Read the information on the top navigational bar of Install Wizard to catch names of unwanted programs. Don’t accept standard, express, default or other settings that are recommended and always choose to custom install.
Lastly, install an ad blocker/Popup blocker as well as anti spyware and anti malware products. At WynWay we use AdBlock Plus which is a Google Chrome and Firefox extension.
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