Keep Potentially Unwanted Programs Off Your Computer

Potentially Unwanted Programs PUPsWhen you’re downloading free programs onto your computer, chances are you’re also installing PUPs, or Potentially Unwanted Programs. Here’s how they get on your computer, what they do, and how to remove them.

If you’re thinking baskets of doe-eyed baby dogs, then you’re sadly mistaken. PUPs is the acronym that stands for Potentially Unwanted Programs. Also called bundleware, junkware, or PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications), PUPs are software programs that you likely didn’t want installed on your computer. Why not? Here are a few things that PUPs can do:

– slow your computer down
– display numerous annoying ads
– add toolbars that steal space on the browser
– some collect private information

PUPs often come bundled with software that you did, in fact, want to download. By swiftly clicking through an installation, it’s easy to miss the fine print and “agree” to these extra applications.

So why aren’t PUPs simply called malware? The makers of PUPs felt that since they included the information necessary for consent in the download agreement, they shouldn’t be lumped in with other malicious programs. (‘Cause everyone reads download agreements, right?) So cybersecurity company McAfee came up with the softer, less mal-sounding term “Potentially Unwanted Programs.”

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Unwanted Programs Bundled With Downloaded Programs

pupsPotentially unwanted programs, also known as PUPs, are a real threat. A July 2014, blog post on CERT.org shows the pervasiveness of such programs on search engine results, software portals, popups, ads, etc.

 

 

Hi, it’s Will. We are all probably annoyed by software that bundles other applications that we didn’t ask for. You want a specific application, but depending on what the application is, where you downloaded it from, and how carefully you paid attention to the installation process, you could have some extra goodies that came along for the ride. You might have components referred to as adware, foistware, scareware, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), or worse. Sure, these may be annoyances, but there’s an even more important security aspect to these types of applications: attack surface.

Recently I was working in a virtual machine, and I needed to extract an archive. 7-Zip seemed like a reasonable choice, so I used the default search engine in the default browser in the virtual machine.

I encountered quite the minefield, and I hadn’t even gotten to the point of downloading anything yet! It’s not that any of the sites outlined in red are necessarily malicious, but rather, if 7-zip is installed from any of those sites, I will likely end up with additional unwanted software. This got me wondering about what sort of software other folks might be downloading.

There are sites that are known for bundling installers for the purpose of generating advertising revenue, such as Download.com, Softonic.com, or Winstally.com. Let’s look at a single download from one of the many sites where you can download software, in particular, KMPlayer from CNET Download.com. I chose this application from the list of popular downloads that Download.com provides. In any given week, this application is downloaded approximately half a million times.

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Call Ace Computer Guy to remove potentially unwanted programs from your computer.

Computer Spyware Defined

Computer SpywareSpyware is defined as any program that secretly gathers information about you (or your computer use) through your Internet connection. Once installed, spyware programs monitor your activity on the Internet and give this information to interested parties, such as marketing firms. Spyware can also cause problems with your computer’s performance. A computer infected with spyware may slow to a crawl or even a complete halt, unable to perform the simplest of functions.

Spyware can come in many different forms:

Adware

Adware displays pop-up advertisements whenever an associated program is running. Let’s say, for example, that you download and install a free program. If the program came with adware embedded within the software, every time you use that program, you could see pop-up windows. As well as producing unwelcome pop-up windows, adware may also be tracking other information about you such as Web browsing habits, user names, passwords, and more.

System Monitors

These malicious programs are particularly dangerous, and can record almost everything you do on your computer, including email messages, chat room conversations, Web sites visited, and programs you run. They can even keep track of each individual key you press, which can help thieves snare your passwords and allow them to steal personal and financial information.

Trojan Horses

Trojan horses are malicious programs that pretend to be harmless or desirable. Their purpose is to steal or damage your computer data. Some Trojan horses allow an attacker to gain unrestricted access to your computer whenever you are online.

It is important to remember that not all programs that sound like spyware are harmful. Many are legitimate that help your Internet surfing by allowing a web site to keep track of the needs of its customers. Additionally, browser “cookies” can store personalized information for Web sites that you use frequently. The myYahoo start page is a good example of one such site. You can sign in to your myYahoo page, personalize the content, and your browser will store these settings in a “cookie” for the next time you visit the page.

A majority of spyware comes in through downloading software off the Internet. It’s always a good idea to take extra care to read the information that comes with the program before you download so that you can ensure that you know exactly what you are downloading. This information will often be included in the Terms and Conditions you need to accept before the program can install onto your system.

Avira, Best Anti Spyware Protection.