62% of the Top 50 Download.com applications bundle toolbars and other PUPs

  • February 26, 2015
  • 7 min read

CNET’s Download.com is considered to be one of, if not, the most popular download portal(s) hosting a conglomerate of different software (free and paid). We recently discussed the top ten methods of how toolbars, adware, homepage hijackers and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) can sneak onto your computer. Potentially unwanted programs are becoming a new epidemic that users must learn face to overcome on a regular basis. In fact, a recent Panda Security study shows that potentially unwanted programs are on the rise resulting in PUPs now comprising 24.77% of total malware infections.

A lot of potentially unwanted programs are delivered by installers hosted on download portals such as Download.com. But what kind of programs are frequently bundled and should you look out for? And how many of Download.com’s apps actually contain PUPs?

We researched both. First, here is a list of the most commonly bundled PUPs we see through Download.com:

Example 1: MyPC Backup – free trial with pop-ups

MyPC Backup is a commonly distributed potentially unwanted program that can often be found bundled with a wide variety of freeware applications. Once installed, MyPC Backup will nag the user to try and coax them into signing up for a “free account”. Afterwards, it will urge the user to back up their files and folders.

MyPCBackupPUP_150204

The con then comes into play stating that you need to purchase the full version in order to perform the backup. Please, never let appearances fool you: if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Also, expect to be inundated with pop-ups during your free trial period.

Example 2: IObit Products – are IObit products “useful” or “useless”?

Most users have more than likely used one or more of IObit’s free software offerings. Some users may wonder how IObit products are considered to be possibly unwanted. Well, IObit’s clever tactics of bundling one or more of their free software offerings within other similar freeware products is considered to be potentially unwanted. An example of this is: Advanced System Care will install IObit Uninstaller, while IObit Driver Booster may offer to install IObit Malware Fighter.

AdvancedSystemCare_CNET_150127

Plus, do you know if IObit’s privacy policy is one that you want to comply with? IObit has been accused in the past of using shady software development methods. Please be cautious when installing related IObit applications. Consider this: if an application that you may never use is unknowingly installed along with another application, why do you need it on your PC? IObit is also notorious for pushing their paid products by using “in program ad’s” (Activate Now) and questionable promotional and marketing tactics.

Example 3: Pro PC Cleaner – finds fake issues that you need to pay for to fix

Pro PC Cleaner has made its presence known and tagging along with it are its fake results. Pro PC Cleaner uses cleverly deceitful tactics and a colorful user interface in order to give the user a false sense of confidence and security.

ProPCCleanerPUP_150204

Once installed, this “professional” application will pester the user with a conglomerate of bogus errors and misleading display results. Afterwards, Pro PC Cleaner will “claim” that you need to pay money to register the application in order to repair the found “issues”. This software is a definitely unwanted program. If you find yourself facing this rogue like application, removal is highly recommended or you will continue to be plagued by its annoying presence.

Example 4: Skype – frequently bundled with freeware applications

Skype is a very popular application. One might ask: how can Skype be considered potentially unwanted? Skype as an independent application is not potentially unwanted at all. However, the situation with Skype is similar to that as mentioned above with IObit products.

SkypePUP_150204

Skype is bundled with a multitude of freeware installers. If a user happens to accidentally overlook the “I do not accept” or the check box to opt out of installing Skype: it can be considered just as unwanted as Pro PC Cleaner.

Example 5: YTD Video Downloader – more browser modifications than you’d want

Last, but not least, Spigot can be considered the most common potentially unwanted offer that is bundled with the vast majority of Download.com freeware. Spigot is rather nasty because it makes a plethora of browser modifications.

YTDVidDownloaderPUP_150204

Spigot modifies a user’s browser homepage, startup page, search engine and tab settings. As shown in the image above, Spigot also installs various browser add ons. If a user is not installing cautiously, a massive amount of junkware and unwanted changes could befall their browser(s). An offering such as this is definitely unwanted; however, avoiding it is as easy as clicking to decline. Please use definite caution when facing an installer such as this.

Download.com’s Top 50 downloads: what comes with them?

We looked into the top 50 most downloaded applications on Download.com and the various potentially unwanted programs installed with each. Shown below is the list of 50 applications and the bundled PUPs listed next to them. As of February 2015, these programs contain PUPs:

1. Avast Free Antivirus – Dropbox
2. KMPlayer – Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, newtab Aid, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, Pro PC Cleaner, and Wajam
3. AVG Free Antivirus AVG SafeGuard – changes homepage and search engine to AVG secure search, web tuneup
4. YAC (Yet Another Cleaner) – Considered to be a PUP itself
5. CCleaner – Chrome
6. Advanced System Care – Driver Booster, IObit Uninstaller
7. Free Youtube Download – Skype, PC Reviver
8. YTD Video Downloader – Spigot browser extensions – slick savings, browser Error assistant, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, offers to change home and startup pages to Yahoo during installation, and GeniusBox
9. IObit Uninstaller – Advanced System Care
10. Download App – Spigot browser extensions – shopping new tab aid, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, and Pro PC Cleaner
11. 3DP Chip – nProtect, SpeedUpMyPC 2015
12. GOM Media Player – Skype, Clean Water
13. Virtual DJ 8 – NO PUPs
14. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – NO PUPs
15. PhotoScape – Google Drive, PC Mechanic
16. Start Menu 8 – NO PUPs
17. Driver Booster – IObit Malware Fighter
18. VLC Media Player – NO PUPs
19. Ad Aware Free Antivirus – Ad Aware Web Companion – changes home page and search engine to secure search
20. Minitool Partition Wizard – NO PUPs
21. Irfan View – NO PUPs
22. mHotspot – Tuneup Utilities, PC Mechanic, Safer Browser, Clean Water, Driver Max
23. Panda Free Antivirus – Panda Security Toolbar – changes default homepage and search engine to Yahoo
24. Hotspot Shieldchanges default homepage and search engine to HotSpot web search, installs Hotspot shield toolbar during installation
25. Mozilla Firefox – NO PUPs
26. SlimDrivers – MyPC Backup
27. uTorrent – OWSLA Bundle , Skype
28. Virtual DJ 7 – NO PUPs
29. Any Video Converter – offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab aid, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, and Pro PC Cleaner
30. AdwCleaner – NO PUPs
31. PrimoPDF – Open Candy
32. DriverMax – Open Candy, Safer Browser, Tuneup Utilities
33. Daemon Tools Lite – Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab aid, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, Pro PC Cleaner, iCinema, and Bo Browser
34. UMPlayer – NO PUPs
35. Screencast – O – Matic – NO PUPs
36. IObit Malware Fighter – MyPC Backup, Advanced System Care Ultimate
37. Spybot Search and Destroy – NO PUPs
38. FastStone Imager Viewer – NO PUPs
39. Google Chrome NO PUPs
40. VLC Media Player (64 Bit) – NO PUPs
41. 7Zip NO PUPs
42. Kingo Android Root – Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant , search protect, offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, and Pro PC Cleaner
43. Format Factory – Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, and Pro PC Cleaner
44. Media Player Codec Pack – NO PUPs
45. Macrium Reflect Free – NO PUPs
46. AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition – NO PUPs
47. Youtube Music Downloader – Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, and Pro PC Cleaner
48. JetAudio Basic – offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, Pro PC Cleaner, and AVG Toolbar – offers to change homepage and tabs to AVG Secure Search
49. Pandora Recovery – offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo during installation, Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, Pro PC Cleaner
50. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Ultimate Vice City Mod – offers to change homepage and search engine to Yahoo, Spigot browser extensions – shopping aid, new tab, slick savings, Ebay shopping assistant, search protect, and Pro PC Cleaner

To share and download the above research easily, we created a PDF file with our findings. Get it here. Feel free to share!

Conclusion: 31 out of 50 tested Download.com applications bundle PUPs

In conclusion: out of the top 50 freeware applications on Download.com, 31 out of 50 are being bundled with potentially unwanted programs. This means that 62% of the freeware applications on Download.com contain potentially unwanted software. Be sure to use this download portal with extreme caution or else you may risk the possibility of facing a potentially unwanted outbreak.

Here are several reminders on how to stay PUP free:

Download and share a summary of the findings here. Have a great (PUP-free) day!

Slade

Slade

Freelance writer and security enthusiast based in the USA.

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