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There is Nothing Cute About PUPs

News > There is Nothing Cute About PUPs

There is Nothing Cute About PUPs


In 2014, Lenovo quietly packed adware into some of its computers. As Ars Technica later reported: "Lenovo is selling computers that come preinstalled with adware that hijacks encrypted Web sessions and may make users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks that are trivial for attackers to carry out, security researchers said."

Lenovo claimed that the adware, called Superfish, was intended "to supplement the shopping experience." Superfish "alters search results, including those from Google, so when a user moves the mouse over a product, it shows additional information such as similar listings at lower prices." Why did Lenovo add this "feature"? Because Superfish's developer paid Lenovo for access to its customer.Such arrangements are far more common than you might think.

Pre-installed software packages - also called bloatware, crapware and Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) - are a growing menace. Google says it's a bigger problem than malware.

"According to Google, it issues three times as many unwanted software warnings than malware warnings, much of which relates to adware and browser-hijacking software that's been sneakily bundled with legitimate software. Ad affiliate networks know that people rarely read terms and conditions and exploit this failing by burying details about bundled software in the text of their consent form. Consumers may not want the additional software, but their consent allows the affiliate marketer to operate legally. Meanwhile, every new install nets participants up to $1.50, providing plenty of incentive to continue dubious online marketing strategies that at best warp a user's online experience and at worse infect machines with malware."

After removing "approximately 500 million traces of PUPs per month!", Malwarebytes recently broadened its criteria for identifying PUPs (and immediately faced threats of legal action from the developers). Malwarebytes' AdwCleaner tool is recommended for use in these step-by-step instructions for removing PUPs from Windows.

To avoid loading PUPs in the first place, you'll need to exercise some "care and attention," advises TechRadar. "Always read each step of the installer carefully and uncheck any necessary boxes (PUPs are almost always opt-out rather than opt-in). If you're offered a choice between Recommended and Custom installations, always opt for Custom - it's usually hiding some unwanted browser add-ons." A free program called Unchecky can save some time in this process.

"When faced with the program's terms of use it's tempting to just click 'Next,' but it's worth taking the time to read them in case the program is going to bring some unwanted friends to the party. In that situation, the best course of action is to simply close the installer and look for another program that won't foist such programs on you."

If you suspect that PUPs are affecting your PC or device, or would like to make sure you avoid them in your next hardware purchase, contact Concord Technology Group at 440-210-3200.