Has The Antivirus Industry Gone Mad?!

We have seen a concerning trend that is about to spiral out of control: Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) are further on the rise. What’s even more concerning is how they are spreading. After big vendors as Oracle (Java) and Microsoft (Bing and Skype) started bundling, now antivirus vendors have joined the game. We did research on some of the most popular PUP practices among the freeware antivirus vendors, and the results are quite disturbing.

PUPs want to get on your computer to make money off of you

First, lets quickly recap what PUPs are and why they’re spreading like wildfire. PUPs are programs in the form of toolbars, adware, plugins or other downloads that sneak onto your computer. PUPs are not classified as malware (yet?), since they’re not always harmful but pretty much always annoying, hence the name “potentially” unwanted. But, PUPs are getting more and more unwanted than ever: just the fact that you don’t know what you’re installing is undesired. If you notice a sudden change in your computer’s speed, notice your search engine changed, experience annoying pop-up ads, notice new toolbars in your browser menu bar or any other sudden change in your computer’s behavior or layout, chances are high that your computer has one or more PUPs installed.

pup-toolbars

PUPs come in many shapes and forms, but they all have a few things in common:

  • PUPs want to make money off of you. PUPs want to be on your computer for a reason, to make money off of you. The most common form is by hijacking your browser: they can then show you ads, monetize or sell your search and/or browser behavior or redirect your homepage.
  • PUPs use aggressive distribution methods to get on your computer: we specifically used the word “sneak” onto your computer, because in the large majority of the cases, the user is not aware that he/she is installing a PUP.
  • Most PUPs don’t have any significant value or advantages, so PUP producers have to get around this by paying other software vendors or distributors such as download portals $$$ per new installation that they get them.
  • PUPs are often brought to you by freeware vendors: they frequently get on your computer bundled with a freeware program. While you’re installing program A, you also install one or more PUPs, often without knowing you did. The freeware vendor gets money from the PUP producer to do this, up to $2 per install.

Danger! Do not try this at home: download the top 10 apps on Download.com

11248853_sPUPs are not new. But its a very alarming trend that more and more large freeware vendors and distributors, such as download portals, are distributing PUPs in high volume – all in exchange for quick cash. Even Sourceforge, a hosting platform for open source projects, started to add PUPs to their downloads, without the consent of the developers who run their projects there. Tech website HowtoGeek recently showed what happens when you download the top 10 listed apps at Download.com ranked by download volume:

“We installed the top 10 apps from Download.com, and you’ll never believe what happened! Well… I guess maybe you might have a good guess. Awful things. Awful things are what happens. We’ve been railing against freeware download recommendations for years, so we thought, why not have some fun and see what really happens if you download software like a regular clueless user might?”

The result of this test: ALL the top 10 apps on Download.com come with bundles or PUPs, some loaded with them. HowtoGeek even recommends users to not do this at home on your primary PC, unless you want to make your computer a “smoking pile of useless.”

Antivirus programs have joined this nasty game too

Now, here is the top 10 Download.com list that HowtoGeek used for their test:

Capture

Download.com top 10 downloads January 2015

Does anything stand out to you on this list? There are two antivirus programs on there! Ethics in the software industry seem to be lost completely when even antivirus vendors bundle PUPs with their software. Now look at the download amounts in the above screenshot: up to one million downloads a week. Add to that downloads from other sources, and the fact that PUP producers are willing to pay anything from a few pennies to USD$2 per install, and it can give a rough idea how much money there is involved in this business: thousands if not millions of $$$. We learned that before as well when Emsisoft got approached for a similar PUP bundle deal.

Fact: 7 out of 8 tested free antivirus suites bundle with PUPs

We decided to further look into this and test other free, full antivirus suites. For reference, we downloaded the products in the test directly from the source (vendor website) and not from a download portal. The results are pretty shocking:

All tested free Antivirus programs come with toolbars or PUPs of some sort – except Bitdefender Free. A lot of them have a “rebranded” Ask toolbar that generates considerable pay per install (PPI) revenues while they’re labeled as part of the vendors own security solution. Some disclose they use Ask (for example Avira), others like AVG go as far as adding pops with coupon deals.

Antivirus programs are supposed to protect your computer from viruses, yet many of them give you a questionable program during installation, without clear disclosure. Below is the list of 8 free antivirus programs and the type of PUPs they give you during installation at the time of posting. Please note that we only included full antivirus suites, not scanner-only products.

pro-icon Bitdefender Free: as mentioned before, Bitdefender Free is one of the only clean antivirus vendors that does not come with any PUPs.

contra-icon Comodo AV Free: changes home page and search engine provider to Yahoo during the installation process, unless the user unchecks the box.

Comodo-yahoo[1]

 

contra-icon Avast Free: offers Dropbox during installation by default, unless you uncheck the box. No toolbars are installed.

avast-dropbox[1]

contra-icon Panda AV free: installs Panda Security toolbar, yahoo search takeover and MyStart (powered by Yahoo) home page takeover. No product rebrands, at least the installer is clear that both are Yahoo products.

panda-yahoomystart[1]

contra-icon AdAware free: installs WebCompanion by default unless user unchecks the box. Also installs Bing Homepage takeover and Bing search takeover by default, unless opted out. Discloses that AdAware offers these programs to keep the software free.

AdAware-wcomp-bing[1]

contra-icon Avira free: offers Dropbox after installation. Takes over search with Avira Safe Search, which is a a white-labeled version of the Ask toolbar. Avira does disclose that it partners with Ask, and states that it “chose Ask.com to be our partner in bringing you the SearchFree Toolbar because Ask.com is one of many vendors whose products offer functionality which we believe our users will value”.

Avira-safesearchext[1]Avira-safesearchhome[1]

contra-icon ZoneAlarm free AV + Firewall: with Custom Install: Zonealarm homepage and search takeover.This is a rebranded Ask toolbar, which is not mentioned on ZoneAlarm’s website.

ZoneAlarm-search[1]

contra-icon AVG free: installs Web Tuneup, including AVG SafeGuard. Sets AVG Secure Search as homepage, new tab page and defaults search engine. Toolbar is Ask powered, although this is not explicitly stated. Also offers AVG Rewards, which displays popup advertisements with coupons and deals.

AVG-safeguard[1]
AVG-safeguardChrome[1]

Popular ways for free Antivirus programs to make money with PUPs

Looking at the above screenshots, we can see that the antivirus vendors have a few popular methods to make money with PUPs:

  • Search Engine Takeover: you now set your default search engine to the software vendor’s choice, there’s big money to make there. Just look at this company called Google.
  • Ask Toolbar: do a quick search on Google for the Ask toolbar, and you’ll learn quickly why the first results page is full of “How to remove the Ask toolbar” and “How to get rid of the Ask toolbar”.Ask_toolbar
  • Rebranded Ask Toolbar: even worse than the Ask toolbar, the rebranded version is a white-labeled Ask toolbar where the software vendor gives it a different name and look, while it’s just the Ask toolbar in disguise.
  • Homepage take-over or new tab: “free” guaranteed traffic to a website anyone?
  • Your data, search and browser behavior: it is not known what antivirus vendors do with your data. It is known that they are watching you and track you. Do you trust whether they do anything with this data? Tracking and selling browser data and other personal information has been a big business for years in the internet industry, so who knows.

What’s disturbing about all the methods these antivirus vendors use is that in the majority of the cases, the PUPs are included in the default intallation, unless a user opts out or reads the small fine print. Sometimes the PUP install is not disclosed at all, or hidden. It’s rarely explained what the installed PUP actually does, if anything. Questionable tactics to get onto computers of unknowing users. 

When the product is free the real product is YOU

As HowtoGeek states as well, it doesn’t matter what download site you use. The people that make the freeware are the ones bundling. Some download sites bundle on top of that but it’s not the root of the issue. They’re a player in the game. As HowtoGeek states it in their article: 

“There are also no safe freeware download sites… because as you can clearly see in the screenshots in this article, it isn’t just CNET Downloads that is doing the bundling… it’s EVERYBODY. The freeware authors are bundling crapware, and then lousy download sources are bundling even more on top of it. It’s a cavalcade of crapware. Each time we ran through this experiment over the last few months, different software would end up being bundled in a rotation, but every single software that bundles itself ends up bundling the same culprits: browser hijackers that redirect your search engine, home page, and put extra ads everywhere. Because when the product is free the real product is YOU.”

Do freeware users “enable” the PUP business?

Let’s clearly point out that not all freeware is bad and relies on PUPs, but the good ones have unfortunately become an exception to the rule. The few examples of good freeware are:

  1. Trimmed down versions of full products. where the free version gives an idea of the product and provides basic functionality while the vendor tries to sell a higher edition of the same software.
  2. The open source community. where people create software for fun or to help make the world a better place. Although this is a tricky one: sometimes others use open source projects to add PUPs by fake imitations.
  3. Projects that live off donations, although these have become rare.

alert_pupThe rest of the freeware vendors need to resort to software bundles to make money. Are people enabling the growth and distribution of PUPs by continuing to download this freeware? In a way yes, but you can’t blame them really. Most of them just think a free piece of software sounds like a sweet deal, but have no clue what it may come with. At most you can blame them for the fact for not looking into why a piece of software is offered at no cost.

PUP producers know that what they do is misleading, freeware vendors know PUPs are highly questionable and antivirus vendors for sure know that it’s unethical. Therefore, all these players will go great lengths to hide the fact that they are bundling PUPs. They will make sure that they fulfill the legal requirements sharp, but use any possible way to increase the spread of those unwanted programs. The fact that vendors are willing to put their ethics aside and their reputation at risk for quick cash, says a lot. PUP distributors are taking advantage of the average “unknowing” computer user. 

Conclusion: be careful with freeware, paid software usually doesn’t come with PUPs or bundles

The amount of PUPs will spread further and they will become nastier and sneakier in form if people don’t take action. The only way to make a change is collectively. Even if you are a PUP-free antivirus user, you are affected by the rapid growth of PUPs. You will hear about them more, see them blocked more, see more and more signatures updated to your antivirus program to detect all the different types of them. For example, Emsisoft’s malware analysis team now spends half of their overall analysis time on PUPs, while we could spend this time towards other resources and other types of malware to protect you from other internet threats. At least, users need to demand full disclosure so that they are given a chance to make a conscious choice whether they want to download a piece of software or not, and so that they know what they are downloading. Bottom line is, be careful with freeware, paid software usually doesn’t come with any PUPs or software bundles.

Did you ever find PUPs on your computer? Are you surprised by these PUP practices and the fact that freeware and antivirus vendors participate? Share your opinion and leave a comment below.

Have a great (PUP-free) day!

  • Flavia Auditore da Firenze

    Not on my computer, but on my classmate’s computer – it was infested with PUPs.
    I understand that free AV vendors have to make money to feed their army somehow – but at least disclose the information!
    (at least I can still trust Emsisoft in the fight against PUPs)

    • Bob The Misanthrope

      “I understand that free AV vendors have to make money to feed their army somehow”

      This is not a good excuse. Too many people have this attitude. “Gee, they have to make money.” To which I say BS. These scummy companies are not entitled to a damn thing. If their business model is based on tricking users into installing crap, then they don’t deserve to be in business. Whatever happened to making a good product and selling it on its own merits? If they can’t compete honestly and ethically by selling a product without taking advantage of their users, then good riddence, let them fail.

      Disclose or not, their business model is based on trickery. Do you want to use and/or support a scummy, unethical company like that?

      • Flavia Auditore da Firenze

        Last I looked, these companies aren’t running out of business any time soon mate.

        Personally I don’t use free products, so I’m not defending them either.

  • Ola

    Tanks for this info. Its about time someone bring this up, even if it mean bashing on other vendors. And they need to know that data privacy is also worth protecting.

  • Antreas Arkoudi

    ty for the info guys

  • Victor Cristy

    Has anyone even mentioned Emsisoft Internet Security or ESET NOD32 as having any PUPS attached to their programs?

    • Christian

      They both don’t. But they are both not freeware either.

      • Victor Cristy

        Wow that was a quick response so thanks for clearing that up.

      • JBeemac

        As a longtime subscriber to and strong fan of “A squared” and now “Emsisoft,” I was stunned recently, when reporting to the tech desk that “another” software checker had found several pups on my system, protected for years by my favourites (A2 and Emsisoft) that pup detection is not activated by default on installation ! Surely this is a missed opportunity to help the subscriber from the start?

        • Monika (Emsisoft)

          Unfortunately, PUPs are not officially considered malware (yet), so we kind of had to give the user the option to “opt-in” on the detection rather than remove another vendor’s software from the system. Trust me, we’d love nothing more than to kill ’em all right from the start…

          • JBeemac

            Excellent reply Monika – thank you. B

          • Glenn McGrew II

            Another thing to keep in mind is that each antivirus product works slightly/somewhat differently than the others, and it is rare that any product will always catch every type of infection every time. Some infections are more difficult to detect and remove, as well, especially if they have very high privileges (such as rootkits) or have played with the partition table, used ADS or other more sophisticated vectors.

            Further, there is a definite difference between active and passive infections. Active ones are running on your system, while passive ones wait for a specific trigger (such as being run or viewed, being scanned by an antimalware product, being opened by the program it targets or is somehow associated with, particular dates, visiting certain websites, etc.).

            Some PUPs are not actually a problem, thus the word “potentially”, while others pose a definite risk. If you’re unsure, you should consult experts here or elsewhere to find out if the PUP that your AV/AM found is actually risky to keep. In addition, for a variety of reasons (including affiliation with the maker), some companies will not identify specific programs as PUPs.

          • Lance Pittman

            So where would you edit this after you have installed, if you missed “opting-in” on set-up??

    • Cat Tilley

      I’ve never seen Emsisoft Anti Malware, Online Armor (Emsisoft Firewall), nor ESET NOD32/Smart Security/Endpoint Security install any junk PUP’s on computers, that’s where “you get what you pay for” comes into play.

      Free software, including security, does this to make extra cash to support their free offerings. Avast has gone to all time lows as of recent, suggesting software to keep software updated.

      • Glenn McGrew II

        What do you mean? Their software updater advises you when high-risk (because they are often targeted by the bad guys because they’re on millions to billions of computers) programs (including Flash, Shockwave, Acrobat Reader, and Java) are out of date. What software does Avast recommend to keep software updated? Avast! Free AV certainly doesn’t recommend any third party software updater programs for my computer, and it attacks attempts by Secunia PSI (a popular software updater) to do its job (which I personally find irritating because it SEEMS to me this is motivated by competition rather than risk).

      • I saw a post on the eset forum with someone wanting safe search and stuff because other antivirus vendors do this.

        There are too my antivirus and other software companies just copying the competition and often putting as much into their product as they can which sometimes means too much and leads to resource hogging.

        It’s like security suites that have extra stuff such as disc cleaning, startup managers etc. they might be handy but it’s not a security issue and should probably be left to the cleaning products themselves

  • NJB

    I thought this was going to be about PUPs that are installed without your permission, where as all those programs give you the option to, or not to install. It comes down to educating those idiots not to just click everything without any concern over anything as long as it gets what they want done.
    My 15 year old sister knows better than my 20 year old friend, I’ve tried educating him, but he’s a somewhat of a carefree dumbass.. lol anyway…. Good article.

  • Philip

    Control PanelAll Control Panel ItemsAdministrative Tools system configuration. Startup. Auto startup (no).

    Is Microsoft, a nosy NSA PUP? I purchased a new HP server microserver and it wanted to put on “McAfee saas endpoint protection”. even though it had no operating system on it. In tiny print it says “to register your 30 day free trial printed in the Czech republic”. Even McAfee, the creator of the products says “it is crap an extremely poor product”. Is that a typical bundled unwanted product? it assumed I would want a Windows system and I would want McAfee. It took me four days to set up a server tor, torrent, and an encrypted samba. I used to be good with computers I seem to be getting Intel dementia and becoming totally useless! what is “VID hp.vid Linux dir software dir $WinPEDriver$ dir”. Which appears as directions I assume that I must have mounted iLO4 ROM?

    I receive the invoice malware every day to my domain e-mail spam box telling me to download and open my PDF invoice. Yesterday was a new one it took you almost 10 minutes to update and recognise it.

    OK the blah blah blah sweet talk out of the way. Now what I really wanted to say: If I setup Emsisoft, anti-malware paid for version to scan through a network of ( 5 ) Windows systems, would you expect me to pay for 5 licenses? even though I am scanning through a network from my paid for version. Do you have a off switch through a registration number? we are not talking about scanning from different IP addresses we are talking about a home network and a server. I think the word is legit, personal use only paid for version.

  • JBeemac

    Timely warning. I’ve long been annoyed that some of the top PC mags recommend free software programs – but don’t warn they usually come with strings (ho ho !) attached.

    • Mariska

      Good point – not all PC mags and websites are unbiased, money plays a role there as well (advertising revenue, affiliate revenue etc). Your best bet is a forum like malwaretips, bleepingcomputer or majorgeeks with user experiences from different perspectives.

      • JBeemac

        Useful advice – thank you. I’ve been using the geek site for a while but not lately…will check back. B

      • fairportfan

        Gizmo’s Freeware.

  • iso9660

    I can only say one more thing. MOVE TO LINUX.

    • DaveC.

      If you believe that by just using a Linux OS that you’ll be safe from virus or any other malware, you’re sorely mistaken and just as gullible as the Apple fanbois are concerning this. The bad guys just LOVE people like you…

      • iso9660

        Interesting opinion if it weren’t by the fact that all my home computers have been running linux during the last 6 years and in that time I haven’t had any problem with stupid software or virus or unnecesary system updates. No headaches, no pain, ….

        On the other hand when I had Windows installed I had to reinstall my computers once a year and the antivirus software was the bottleneck in my computers making them to take too long for boot, for example.

        Of course, Windows is still nice to play computer games. :)

        • DaveC.

          While I will agree that Unix based OS’s are not as vulnerable as Windoze, most “known” vulnerabilities have been patched and the kernel is memory resident which restricts what a virus privilege may be, at any time there can be a 0-day for Linux that can be just as bad as anything in Windows. Or, a previous threat can be re-written to be not so much fun for all us Linux users.

          You just can’t say “I run Linux, I’m fine” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_malware

  • Aggravatorx

    I have always said that nothing is free there is always a catch I always laughed at free anti virus software and people that all believe this especially when it comes to protection you all know the paid customer will be protected first .and then the free by that time your already infected and that helps them get the virus sample from you so the can get there database updated that’s right for the paying customer. just something to think about

  • Once in a while a PUP will slip in during an install, but it really isn’t all that difficult to uncheck a few boxes. And I’ve found that a daily Malwarebytes scan will generally locate any PUP within plenty of time to stop it doing real harm. There’s enough real nastyware out there without going all over paranoid about PUPs.

    On the positive side, think about all those PUPs attached to the files that NSA has copied from all of us and is archiving out there in the desert. There, they can escape and have the run of the whole archive! Arf!

    • Mariska

      Thanks for your feedback.You probably know what to look for and will uncheck those boxes, but if you account for the majority of the people who do not know about these opt-out installations, it becomes a matter of control and trust. What do you install and what terms of conditions and privacy policy of the extra program do you agree with? Why not make bundles opt-in instead of opt-out by default to start with?

      Plus, if really everyone is going to bundle with PUPs all over, then companies like Malwarebytes need to spend more and more resources towards detecting PUPs instead of putting resources towards the really bad stuff like ransomware, trojans etc.

      • lazarus

        I just downloaded Malwarebytes – the free version. There was no PUPs. When I get some money I will go to the paid version.

        • Monika (Emsisoft)

          Hi lazarus,
          Keep in mind though, that it is not a full protection but rather an on demand cleaning utility. “There are many infections that Malwarebytes Anti-Malware does not detect or remove which any antivirus software will” as pointed out in the official helpdesk here:
          https://helpdesk.malwarebytes.org/hc/en-us/articles/201861736-Does-Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware-replace-antivirus-software-

          So you might want to consider saving up for a different security solution, that does not only clean _some_ things, but all of it AND one that also prevents new threats to enter your system in the first place, like Emsisoft does.

  • Michael Bartoszek

    I think you raise some good points. Perhaps the lesson is not necessarily that freeware is bad, but rather that there is no free lunch. Further, users should not simply blindly click “ok” with install wizards, but should take a few seconds to ensure that want everything that is installed. I don’t think that is a huge price to pay for free software.

    I have used Avast free for some time and been happy with it. I already use Dropbox, so it was not an inconvenience to have that app installed. Truthfully, even for those that do not use Dropbox, is having the Droobox app installed in exchange for free antivirus software a big deal?

    • Mariska

      If you’re Edward Snowden or listen to him, then yes it might be: http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/11/edward-snowden-new-yorker-festival/

    • Mariska

      The answer to that question depends on who you ask it to I think. I’d like to see them offering it on an opt-in (not opt-out) basis though at least. Dropbox has come in the news after Snowden raised issues regarding its privacy, whether people pay attention to that is up to them (see: http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/04/dropboxs-drew-houston-responds-to-snowdens-privacy-criticism-its-a-trade-off/)

    • Glenn McGrew II

      I am not interested in Dropbox or other online storage “solutions”. I view “cloud computing” very dimly, and with the amount of “oversight” by spy organizations and hackers, I think I prefer to keep my stuff offline so, at least when the computer isn’t online, no one can go sneaking around inside my stuff…
      If they can hack giant companies and government offices, they can hack Dropbox, and will.

  • A real recordsman here is KMPlayer… Installing this… OK, sayin, this program is like walking on the minefield. When i tried to install this thing, i counted 8 or 9 crapware elements, and i don’t say here about «Pandora TV» service installed with KMPlayer.

    • stevels_smith

      I loved that player when it first came out, used it exclusively for a few years. I kept the older installer (2.9.3.1428) to go back to after the newer ones got filled with PUP’s. The original author, Kang Yong-Hui, created a tremendous multimedia player in the KMPlayer but sold the core and source code to Panda TV in 2007 who went on to ‘monetize’ it in version 3+ with what you describe.
      Kang Yong-Hui has now created the Pot Player and it’s at least as sweet as the KMPlayer ver. 2.9.

  • lazarus

    I always choose to do the “Custom” install and then decline all of the extra stuff that is offered.

  • wonkywizzard

    I missed it when some of my software started including pup, years ago it wasn’t there and then it suddenly was! Now I read everything even if it is a known software and uncheck all the boxes, or list everything there and check my installs so I can uninstall all the nasties

    • Monika (Emsisoft)

      Yes, it is really worth (on the long run) to take your time during any install.

  • I think there are two lessons to be learned here. 1) Buying free costs in the longer term (Through the time wasted with all the pups etc) 2) WATCH the installation of software and look for the boxes that offer to install additional software free of charge. (Emsisoft kicks in when you get the ones that cant even be bothered to ask).

    • Monika (Emsisoft)

      Very well put, Mike!

  • Blue Meanie

    I always select CUSTOM INSTALL. This generally allows you to opt out of PUP’s that maybe be bundled. Read dialogs carefully. Many appear to simple license agreement acknowledgements for the freeware you are installing, but are actually you are giving permission to install PUP

  • HisSon

    Thank you Emisoft for this article whose link I got from Gizmo’s Freeware. This is definitely a keeper. Also thank you to all of the commenters here. I have learned much which I hope to be able to retain at least some of in my 74 year old brain. :-)
    I have the paid version of Malwarebytes on both mine and my wife’s computers which seems to handle PUP’s very well. I also use ADBlock Plus which has speeded up my computer unbelievably. I have been using AVG for a long time with satisfactory results. It seems that within the top five free antivirus programs, they change who’s on top depending on the year. Yes, I have to be very careful to uncheck the blocks and it takes careful scrutiny to avoid unwanted program and applications. Not being a real Geek, I have learned the hard way how to be careful about what I install on my computer. I also have several other diagnostic and clean up programs which are helpful and play nice with each other.
    Regards.

  • Moazzam Siddiqui

    As for AVG, not only its free version’s PUP try to sneak into PC but also its paid version (e.g. AVG Internet Security 2015) too !!!

  • Moazzam Siddiqui

    Anyway, thanks a lot for this great info.

  • APC900

    Really glad this trend is being exposed.
    It’s about time.
    More and more programs are doing this kind of thing.
    Putting permission in very tiny print…hoping the un-suspecting installer will overlook PUPs.
    It’s shady at best.

  • Zeeb Ralston

    Kind of a ‘catch 22 situation, a lot of PC owners barely get by on their existing income – and simply cannot afford the ‘pay-as-you-play’ software, so the ‘freebie ware’ people then got hammered with paid packages offered from spyware middle men who were, in turn, getting their paychecks from even higher ‘upstairs’ sources – sources that intend to get ‘in bed’ with every computer owner on the planet. The simple fact that your PC is a ‘FREE window to the world’ became a 2 edged sword 5 years after ‘the internet’ became itself FREE, INTERNATIONAL, and READILY AVAILABLE. It forced software writers, computer people and a gazillion spurious groups all with mandates, passions and orders to ‘control’ it. 20 years later, that ‘window’ has become hacked, hobson-jobsoned and contrived to become a tool for their own purposes – little of which have us, the user’s best interest, at heart…… .

  • DaveC.

    360Safe is malware, please don’t try to advertise it as a clean alternative – http://botcrawl.com/remove-360-safe-virus/

  • Glenn McGrew II

    Mariska, any response?

    • Mariska

      in general i wouldn’t recommend any security ‘addons’. They are just not really needed in most cases. Ad blockers may be useful though. Evaluating that kind of stuff is not our main business, but we’ll keep it in mind and will check more downloads on PUPs and malware periodically. I can see your dilemma there were a lot of sites, reviews and download portals are biased. I’d recommend independent forums in where users can give their take on a product, and you can make a recommendation based on different perspectives.

  • masterZ

    “Fact: 7 out of 8 tested free antivirus suites bundle with PUPs”
    “All TESTED free Antivirus programs”
    Should I mention the key word “tested”? If someone is not “reading carefully” and doesn’t understand the meaning, well, he should better start reading carefully and educate him/herself…. Exactly those type of people are the main victims. And I don’t think that this article is to educate people on how to read, but to inform.
    A big problem is that nowadays people are getting more and more lazy and incompetent, and thus Pups becomes a widely used tactic. Emsisoft is a company that fights malware and viruses. People who use their products have quite good pup protection. So I don’t see a reason for the devs to educate instead of just inform about trends, which is the whole purpose of this blog. Educating users about the internet is a totally different service, and that’s why you have websites, such as howstuffworks, learnthenet and many others. Thousand of sources where people CAN educate themselves IF they want to.
    Nowadays, you can find everything you need much easier compared to before, information is everywhere. But people are lazy…

  • If you ONLY need to uncheck a box, then it isn’t a RED FROWN, instead it just means you are a MORON to not read every check box during installation. Instead it should be a YELLOW FROWN at most.

    A RED FROWN should be any of the things that SCUMBAG software does behind your back and doesn’t tell you that it did, like installing other software and change settings without telling you that it was performed!

  • fairportfan

    I have no PUPs, despite usimg quite a bit of freeware – because i (A) never use the default install, so i am aware of the foistware, (B) have Unchecky, a program that detects and deselects most foistware during installs.

    Also, on a recent install of a program bundled with OpenCandy, a particularly egregious bit of trash, AVG Free warned me of its presence and blocked it.

  • Nobody has mentioned Adobe (McAfee) and Java (Ask toolbar). These IMHO opinion are worse than the PUPs in downloaded software, because people make a concious decision to download these programmes and are getting something for free. Adobe and Java however need and want you to use their products and these are security downloads that we have no choice about. Just saying

    • But in both these cases, as in most of the others, opting out is simply a matter of unchecking a box. Granted, even I haven’t always remembered to do so, but a reasonable degree of alertness during any download and install is generally a good idea.

  • siteXart

    Have you ever seen AVG detecting PUP’s in avgfreesetup.exe from Downloads.com right after install from that exe? It was awesome.

  • stevels_smith

    The AdBlockers, tracking/widget blockers (Ghostery, Disconnect, etc), Flash block/controls and script blocking add-ons are CRITICAL to staying safe on the internet.
    I’ve stayed safe with no infections for years with those products and no anti-virus on my home laptop. Additional protections are Data Execution Prevention for all apps on, Emsisoft Online Armor, a good task manager, scanning all executables with Emsisoft Anti-Malware, switching to Portable Apps, using Iron Chrome and prudent browsing habits.
    After my experience with Avast! (after being a loyal customer and having installed it on hundreds of my clients’ machines) I pulled it from hundreds of machines and left an explanation on their forums as to why PUP inclusions, having very hard to remove 3rd party apps bundled as well as Avast! becoming hard to remove itself was approaching malware and they were becoming an unethical company themselves. The fanboi’s (87,000 posts, really??? and they’re not paid or have a life?) flamed me and an employee came on and claimed they weren’t doing anything wrong and following the path of the rest of the anti-virus business sector.

    • Mariska

      Seems like they didn’t take the constructive feedback very well. Thanks for sharing!

  • stevels_smith

    Will it install your apps to nonstandard folders? It says standard folders in their description.

  • Mariska

    Thanks for sharing, indeed looks like a useful program in some cases. However, PUP developers are getting clever and I have seen several versions now where the “do not install toolbar x’ toolbar is checked so that if by default you uncheck everything you end up doing the opposite. It also doesn’t catch PUPs that you agree with that come in the privacy policy or under a NEXT button, so i hope they continue to develop it to stay ahead of the PUP creators.

  • Flavia Auditore da Firenze

    As far as I know LastPass doesn’t. I use the built-in addon for Chrome and the offline vault.

  • Gary A

    This is in keeping with ‘nothing is free’. Therefore, not surprising.

    • Cat Tilley

      That’s correct Gary, on the Internet, very little is 100% Free. There’s always those sneaky packages piggybacking along. Some of the EULA’s are so cleverly written that the boxes to uncheck is actually in the midst of the very fine print.

      I’m glad to have both Emsisoft Anti Malware & Online Armor covering my back on my Windows installs.

  • ronie

    No matter I’ve just read I’ll download AVG Antivirus Free again next time I re-install my PC.

  • alvin pall

    OK! The damage is done. I have more crap than I can believe. Now I need to know the next step, which is finding some way to rid myself of all these extra programs.All these programs have allowed a million advertisers into my emails (if that’s correct). White listing hasn’t helped me. Verizon’s junk ware removal is non-existant. I am hoping that Gmail’s junk system is better but I need a hammer, not a needle.Unsubscribing has done little. Will Applocker help the past or just the future? How do I get rid of two or three hundred companies I don’t want bothering me.???

    • Mariska

      Hi, For PUPs and all sorts of malware, download the Emsisoft Emergency Kit: a free tool that scans and cleans your computer. It sounds more like you have an email spam problem though, I don’t know a good tool that helps you with that but perhaps one of our users has a suggestion. Indeed unsubscribe every time you get one. Another good tip is to have two email addresses, one you use for personal only and one for more commercial purposes like sign ups for businesses.

  • RemiGyphreigh

    I have BitDefender and it has recently started popping up screens on my Desktop. It steals focus and when clicked takes me to the Bitdefender site. When the antivirus starts behaving like a virus for financial benefit, it’s time to let go… Uninstalling bitdefender doesn’t seem to disable the popup. Ah well, back to a clean reinstall of my OS and my private collection of software. Thanks Bitdefender for defending me so far, and for the 2 hours of my life about to be wasted.

  • Dan Yoders

    I won a free copy of this antivirus/malware, I would just like to know what are the best setting for it or just leave it at default?

    • Mariska

      Hey Dan, default settings are a good start and give you great protection. You can then customize things you like or don’t like on the go. For tech or malware support, you can always head to our support forum as well: support.emsisoft.com. Enjoy our product!

  • builder7

    Maybe these free programs need to be downloaded from the company that made them.

  • Ayush Singh

    Use bitdefender free. It is best.

  • Benny

    Aviras SafeSearch is no longer using white labeled Ask toolbar but Yahoo instead. The reason why the Antivirus industry is doing this is because they need to monetize indirectly, as nobody wants to spend money on his/her protection…

  • Jennifer Martin

    I do believe an antivirus software should be more than antivirus. Now a days antivirus are supporting data recovery software as well. I have recently used Protegent 360 complete security software.