What everyone should know about Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP)
Ever wonder how Ask.com is suddenly your search engine default? Even though you did not “ask” for a change to your browsing options by physically going to your settings and making the change. Thanks to potentially unwanted programs, or PUPs, it is likely that, at some point during your internet browsing experience, you did, in fact, ask for the change.
Some PUPs are quite useful, and under different circumstances might even be a good addition for your system; however, it is the underhanded manner in which they are introduced that is the unwanted part of the equation. Unfortunately, software developers are using more and more sophisticated ways to dupe even computer savvy users into accepting PUPs.
Here are the top five methods used to introduce PUPs to your system and how to avoid those “potentially” unwanted changes.
Top Five methods of introducing PUPS to your System
1. The preferred method unscrupulous software companies use to introduce PUPs to your computer is through download portals. PUP programmers might place an ad on a site with a legitimate, useful download. They make the ad flashy, with a big green “download now” button in hopes that users will click this button rather than downloading what they came for.
Here is an example. Skype is popular video chat software, available for free to its users. Many people will Google “Skype free download” to find and download the software. “CNET free download portal” is one of the choices on the search engine result page (SERP) which brings users to a page showing two or three green download buttons. Without paying much attention, the logical choice is the biggest green button, which states beside of it: Free Download Manager. What is about to download is not Skype at all, but a download manager. This can be a good feature if desired, but it can change a systems performance in undesirable ways as well.
The safest way to avoid this error is to skip download portals altogether and go directly to the source. Google “Skype” and go directly to their home page. If there is a free download available, and of course there is for Skype, there will be a download page or button.
2. The second most popular method is through an express installation of software or updates. Choosing the express download is the quickest way to get the desired software with a few not necessarily desirable add-ons. The express install is always recommended, at least by those providing the extras, such as changes to your home page, search engine, and other PUPs. A lot of non-savvy computer users will automatically choose the express install thinking that is the quickest and simplest method, but don’t believe it. Avoid express installs and use the custom install instead.
Installation Check Boxes
3. Even with the custom install recommended above, programmers will try to introduce PUPs. There are a series of boxes which are already checked with many program installations. Some examples include “change my home page to Yahoo!” or “change my search engine to Bing”. To avoid more PUPs, simply click off those check marks. Some may also be added at the end of the End User License Agreement (EULA), which most users do not take time to read, yet click “yes” anyway to finish the installation process.
4. The fourth PUP installation method is by far the worst and at first glance seems unavoidable. When you begin the install, there are two or three choices to change your home page or search engine, but the boxes are not checked. Click next, and the problem appears. There is a dialogue box that states, “To continue with the install you must choose at least one option.” This is what is known as a forced install. It is very clever, but avoidable. To avoid this bit of trickery, click cancel and get your software somewhere else. It isn’t worth proceeding.
Sharing Your System
5. Others may not be as computer savvy and visits to chat, online gaming, and streaming sites with your computer could produce automatic changes to browser settings and shell the system with ads. Even forcing others to use a separate login is not effective, as changes to the system will affect computer performance. The only real way to avoid this is to deny shared usage.
If all else fails and unwanted software begins to plague your system, there are a few tips that can clean up most damage and get the machine back to peak performance in no time.
Top Five Tips to avoid Potentially Unwanted Programs
- > Always use quality anti-virus software with malware filters
- > Never use express installs and click off unwanted add-ons
- > Install a Free Emsisoft Emergency Kit and use it to scan your system frequently
- > Take your time with all installs, “know before you go!”
- > Go to the source for downloads whenever possible
If an install looks suspicious, even if it is what you want installed, get the software somewhere else. There are lots of reputable downloads available, particularly from the source!
5 Signs That Your Computer Is Malware Infected
It seems that every other day some major company has been hacked, leaking massive amounts of supposedly secure, sensitive data. Hackers do not only target large companies. Some hackers prefer smaller targets to gain access to your personal information. Additionally, hackers can use personal computers to reach those larger data stores! This puts you at risk for malware.
What is malware? Malware is intentionally harmful software, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs. Because malware can run silently in the background, there is no sure-fire way to tell if your computer has been infected with Malware other than running a virus scan. However, sometimes malware can create performance issues on your computer. Here are 5 reasons to suspect Malware on your computer.
1. Your machine is running slower than usual
Malware slows your computer because the questionable program is using your system’s resources to complete a task. You might notice that it takes longer than normal for your operating system or programs to start. First be sure that you are not using any resource-heavy programs or applications. Be sure that you have enough RAM memory and hard drive space. You should also check your hardware. If everything checks out, your computer could be slow because of malware.
2. You notice suspicious or excessive hard drive activity
If you notice that your hard drive continues running when you are not using it any more, your computer might be infected. Another clue would be running out of hard drive space. However, you should make sure that nothing is running or downloading at the time of the activity. You should again check your hardware.
3. Unusual messages appear or programs start automatically
Malware can cause unusual messages that might include strange windows opening, popups, or your friends notifying you that you’re sending strange emails.
Strange windows opening while booting may be accompanied by programs opening and closing automatically or Windows shutting down without reason.
Popups are annoying! They are also a fairly sure sign that your computer is infected with spyware, a type of malware. It can be difficult to remove from your system, and they can be packaged together with other, more destructive threats that you cannot see.
If you are sending strange emails to your contact list, it does not automatically mean that your system is infected with malware. You should first check that your email account was not compromised by checking your sent mail folder. If you do not notice suspicious activity, suspect malware.
4. Your security solution is disabled
If you have installed and regularly use antivirus software on your computer, you’re one step ahead. However, it is important to realize that some malware programs can disable your antivirus software! If you notice that your program is no longer running or cannot install updates, your computer may be infected with malware.
5. You have a blacklisted IP address
If you cannot get onto certain websites that were working fine before, you might have a blacklisted IP address. This is a security feature provided by website hosting companies to prevent malicious activity on their servers. Malware programs can use your IP address to attach a host server, perhaps trying to get to sensitive information stored there. The host’s server sees that your computer is attacking, therefore banning your computer from even reaching the server.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should probably run Malwarebytes. This free anti-malware and internet security software can tell you whether or not your computer has been compromised. If you find malware, it is a good idea to let a local technician look at your machine. Malware can be tricky to remove. If your virus scan comes back clean, but the problem persists, you should probably let a technician look at the machine as well. If the malware on your computer has disabled updates to your security software, it might be unable to detect the problem.
Please note that we do not accept any liability for the use of these instructions and they are provided for informational purposes only. Any viral software the removes programs from your computer has the potential to harm your computer. Use these instructions at your own risk.
Download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, or MBAM, from the following location and save it to your desktop:
You can use the free version, however, that version will scan your computer “on demand.” It will not keep you protected on an ongoing basis. For real time protection we strongly recommend the premium version. It is only a few dollars for a lifetime license and we have found it to be a superior malware detection, prevention and cleaning tool.
Once downloaded, close all programs and Windows on your computer, including this one.
Double-click on the icon on your desktop named mbam-setup.exe. This will start the installation of MBAM onto your computer.
When the installation begins, keep following the prompts in order to continue with the installation process. Do not make any changes to default settings and when the program has finished installing, make sure you leave both the Update Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Launch Malwarebytes Anti-Malware checked. Then click on the Finish button.
MBAM will now automatically start and you will see a message stating that you should update the program before performing a scan. As MBAM will automatically update itself after the install, you can press the OK button to close that box and you will now be at the main program screen.
On the Scanner tab, make sure the the Perform full scan option is selected and then click on the Scan button to start scanning your computer for infections.
MBAM will now start scanning your computer for malware. This process can take quite a while. When the scan is finished a message box will appear. You should click on the OK button to close the message box and continue with the removal process.
You will now be back at the main Scanner screen. At this point you should click on the Show Results button.
A screen displaying all the malware that the program found will be shown as seen in the image below. Please note that the infections found may be different than what is shown in the image. If the program actually finds infections, we suggest that you do not delete them unless you know what you are doing. Instead, contacting a qualified computer technician to help you with the infection may be a better course of action.
You should now click on the Remove Selected button to remove all the listed malware. MBAM will now delete all of the files and registry keys and add them to the programs quarantine. When removing the files, MBAM may require a reboot in order to remove some of them. If it displays a message stating that it needs to reboot, please allow it to do so. Once your computer has rebooted, and you are logged in, please continue with the rest of the steps.
You can now exit the MBAM program.
Hopefully your computer should now be clean of any infections that may have been present.