This PUP is NOT cute!

Cute Puppy

Cute Pup

Most pups are cute. PUPs, on the other hand, usually are not. PUP stands for Potentially Unwanted Program, a class of software that often rides in on the coattails of something else you install. For instance, you might be installing a program and one of the boxes you have to click through says, “Also install XYZ Toolbar,” or, “Change my search provider to ABC Search,” or, “Install PQR Security Scan (Recommended).”

The reason it’s “Recommended” is because it gets the program’s authors more revenue! This is why it’s very important to read all those boxes carefully! None of those add-ons are required by the program you’re installing, unless they say they’re required, and then you don’t get a choice, anyway. Here’s what I’m talking about:

NOT a Cute PUP!

NOT a Cute PUP! Un-check Yahoo Toolbar. You don’t need it.

NOT a Cute PUP!

NOT a Cute PUP! You don’t need the Ask Toolbar either.

These are two examples out of thousands. While these are somewhat more benign than actual Malware (MALicious softWARE), they can slow down your computer, track your browsing habits, and cause unexpected problems. Sometimes they do qualify as malicious. If you just leave all those boxes checked, after a while your computer will be so clogged up with C**P that you can’t do anything. You’ll be calling me and asking, “Why doesn’t my computer work the way it used to?”

You can’t be that trusting just because you don’t understand computers as well as, say, food labels at the grocery store. Just as you need to ask your mechanic and your doctor questions, question everything on the Internet as well. Read those installation boxes with the same care you read food labels.  If there is any doubt, Un-check all those boxes. Whatever you’re installing will still work fine, and you won’t be padding someone’s pockets with more advertising revenue.

If you do wind up with PUPs, malware removal tools such as Malwarebytes and Super can remove most of them, along with the real malware.

Disclaimer: I’ve got nothing against Capitalism or advertising. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it’s still better than any other system I’ve seen. What I do object to is advertising and marketing in a sneaky, underhanded manner, and I think these kinds of installations fall into that category.