Do You Need a PUP Cleaner?

Category: Security , Software


Today's article has nothing to do with smelly dogs or canine shampoo. In the context of software, a PUP is a Potentially Unwanted Program. Read on to learn how they can sneak into your system, what they can do, and how to find and remove these pests…

Find and Remove Potentially Unwanted Programs

Comparisons of anti-malware programs focus on the programs’ abilities to detect, block, and eradicate attacks that do serious harm to a user’s system. That generally includes viruses, data collectors, ransomware, and phishing attacks. One other category of malware doesn’t like to be called malware; some of its developers have even sued firms that blocked their products as malware. So now this type of malware is called “Potentially Unwanted Programs,” or PUPs.

A PUP is a program that you may have installed unintentionally as a result of being tricked by the PUP’s distributor. For example, you download one program that you were seeking, but during its installation you are asked if you want to install another. The checkbox that indicates “yes” is already checked, and in your haste you click “OK” without really understanding what is going to be installed. Notices of PUPs are often presented in very small type fonts and provide only the sketchiest of info about what a PUP does.

Bonzai - Age 9

A PUP always has an ostensibly good use. It might be a browser toolbar that purports to help you compare prices across several shopping sites. It may be a game. The purpose is to make the PUP look like something that has a legitimate reason to be on your computer.

Some PUPs include adware; they may drown you in popup ads, or steer your web browser to advertisers’ sites, or even replace content on a web page with content that links to an advertiser. Adware is annoying but not harmful. Other PUPs may be secret data-sniffers, searching your hard drive and monitoring your keystrokes for passwords and other sensititve data that can be transmitted to the PUP’s master. Still other PUPs track where you go and what you do online, and report this valuable data to marketers and the bulk data vendors who sell to them. PUPs on mobile devices can secretly send text messages to premium services, running up large bills for unsuspecting victims.

Some antimalware suites, such as AVG and Avast, include modules that detect and remove PUPs. Some anti-PUP utilities are offered as standalone products. If your antimalware product does not include PUP protection, you should run a separate anti-PUP utility when you scan your device for malware.

I opened this piece with a dog reference. So I thought it would be fun to include a photo of my dog Bonzai. I introduced him here back in 2008, when he was a puppy. Now he's nine, and still frisky.

Some Recommended Anti-PUP Tools

I've long recommended Malwarebytes (MBAM) as a "second look" tool to scan your system for traces of malware and PUPs that may go undetected by your primary Internet security software. You can download a free trial version of MBAM and see what it finds. (Oh, and in case you're wondering, the feud between MBAM and PC Matic is over. Each of those popular programs was flagging the other as a PUP for a while.)

ADWCleaner was a pioneer in anti-PUP protection. Recently, it was purchased by Malwarebytes, and can now be downloaded from the Malwarebytes site. ADWCleaner is a signature-based system, meaning it looks for telltale patterns of bytes in a program that indicate it is a PUP. Malwarebytes says it plans to improve on that detection method as it integrates ADWCleaner into Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, the company’s flagship product.

The Adware Removal Tool by TSA Softwares is another time-honored PUP killer. It started with adware, as the name suggests, but now it also detects and eradicates toolbars, browser hijackers, and other forms of PUPs.

Bitdefender’s Adware Removal Tool For PC is a free program from one of the most respected anti-malware developers. The executable download file can be run anywhere without installing it on a device. It’s also included in the Bitdefender antimalware products.

Users can avoid PUPs by paying attention during installation of software and unchecking those pre-checked consent boxes. I also recommend downloading any software only from the home site of its developer, not from a shareware repository such as Download.com or Tucows. Such repositories generally bundle shareware with their own “installers,” which include PUPs. The money generated from PUPs helps finance the download repositories. It’s a living, but a pretty sleazy one.

Have you run a scan for potentially unwanted programs that may be lurking on your computer? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 3 Mar 2017


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Most recent comments on "Do You Need a PUP Cleaner?"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

PgmrDude
03 Mar 2017

MBAM: I'll give the Free version MBAM another try. Last time, it expired and didn't give me the op to continue using the Free version - It only wanted me to upgrade to the Paid version.

AVAST: I run Avast frequently (doing so right now) , but don't remember it scanning for PUPs, specifically, and don't see that mentioned anywhere (except for "Browser Add-Ons").

BITDEFENDER: I also have this scan my PC each night at 1:00am. It found a few files a while back, and I manually deleted them; except for one that my system won't LET me deleted (an Avast file, if memory serves).

I have Advanced System Care too, which I run every day or so.


Posted by:

PgmrDude
03 Mar 2017

I forgot to add that Avast, when it finds something (which it always does: "Performance Issues" and "Weak Passwords"), it will NOT Resolve anything unless I upgrade to the PAID version. I guess it does at least let me know what's what.


Posted by:

Rob
03 Mar 2017

I'm using the free version of Sophos for home use and it is working quite well. I am pretty careful when I go to install something, I check for those "piggy-backer programs" along for the ride.


Posted by:

Wild Bill
03 Mar 2017

For those using Unchecky (which I still use and recommend), don't let your guard down. Unchecky works great but Avast, at least, bypasses it somehow and you still have to uncheck the Chrome browser and toolbar options when updating Avast.
I also run MalwareBytes and ADWcleaner as needed.


Posted by:

pshaw
03 Mar 2017

I've been using MBAM free for at least several years and do not check for PUPs with any regularity but when I do run a scan, I rarely find them. As to Avast - free, I used it as my AV for a few years and liked it a lot. Then, some months back my computer downloads slowed to a crawl, especially annoying when using Facebook. I tried for weeks trouble-shooting with no luck. From somewhere it was suggested that it might be my Avast AV. I removed Avast, installed AVG and my sluggish downloads disappeared. Something got added to recent versions of Avast that made it hog my CPU resources; it's gone for good.


Posted by:

RichF
03 Mar 2017

I picked up a toolbar a few years ago that pops up at the bottom of my screen and I can't find out who's it is or how to get rid of it. On the right side of it there's an X to stop it but a day or two later it's back. Just aggravating that it's there and can't get rid of it. I'll keep trying.


Posted by:

Bob Dennett
04 Mar 2017

Bob, I am using PCMatic a couple times a day especially when closing down the computer. Is this as good as any of the programs mentioned in this article? I ask because I do not find any comparison remarks. Never have had any problems since downloading it and grateful for that.

Thanks


Posted by:

Brian L
04 Mar 2017

I use windows defender for AV, works perfect.Also use MBAM free version to clean out the malware etc., if you want the free version you have to uncheck the block that ask you if you want the free trial at the end of the install. Super Anti-spyware free is another good program to use in addition to MBAM. Ccleaner free is the first thing i run to clean out the garbage and clean up the registry bloat, works great.


Posted by:

Stephen
04 Mar 2017

@RichF regarding the toolbar.
If you have tried these things, my apologies.
1. CCLEANER - http://www.piriform.com/
2. Process Explorer - https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals

Hopefully one of these 2 will let you determine the source of that toolbar.
Good luck.


Posted by:

John
04 Mar 2017

I uses Linux so I don't have this and problems Window users have.


Posted by:

Brian
04 Mar 2017

The feud between MBAM and PCMatic is most definitely not over. I just ran a scan to check that, and it returned 13 registry keys and 5 files of PCMatic and PCMagnum labeled as "Malicious"

Don't know about anyone else, but not in a fit would I entrust the security of my computer, to a firm who deliberately labels a competing program as malicious. Apart from that, PCMatic and PCMagnum do sooo much more than MBAM.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
04 Mar 2017

Just today, I got thinking about when I first heard about Bob Rankin and the Tourbus. A dear friend is who told me about the Tourbus. I am so glad that he did, may he RIP. I have been officially getting newsletters from Bob Rankin for 20 years!!! It really does seem like it was just yesterday, Bob. I have been one of his faithful fans for 20 years. Thanks Bob for ALL that you just do!!!

Love Unchecky! I still get some PUPs, since I have a couple of games that are IWIN games. I love playing the games and so far, there doesn't seem to be any problem with my PC working. It seems fine.

When my system is scanned, not all of the scans show PUPs. I usually only get the PUP notice, when I play a new IWIN game. These are IWIN games that I have purchased and downloaded onto my PC. I believe it is the IWIN Game Manager that is the issue that causes the PUP notification after a scan.

I too love Malwarebytes. I have been using it, since Bob first mentioned it, way back when. In all honesty, I have used a lot of programs that Bob has recommended to try, over the years.


Posted by:

Robert
04 Mar 2017

Ok, we might be getting more aware of pups but we are not going to eradicate them or the rogue companies who supply them until the law is on the consumers side.

It should be made illegal to secrete anything onto your computer because your PC should be as safe as your home, if someone broke into your home you have legal address, and the pup problem will not go away until Joe public is able to take lawful and direct action against any company who secretes unwanted code onto your computer, while the penalties should be so great as to be a deterrent


Posted by:

Brummagem Flash
04 Mar 2017

Thanks, Bob, for another balanced and informative article on the joys and dangers of the W-W-Web.
I confidently rely more on your newsletter, than any other single source, on these matters.


Posted by:

Bob K
04 Mar 2017

Hi Bob,

Another helpful article.
I use ADWCleaner, Malwarebytes, and Uncheky. Uncheky is helpful for preventing POP's during download. Both ADWCleaner and Malwarebytes will help speeding up your computer by removing PUP's. Here is one PUP ADWCleaner missed but flagged by Malwarebytes, that really slowed down my PC:

Quarantine Information:
============================
"threatName" : "PUP.Optional.AuslogicsBoostSpeed",
"cleanTime" : "2017-02-17T01:55:03Z",
"objectPath" : "HKLM\\SOFTWARE\\MICROSOFT\\WINDOWS NT\\CURRENTVERSION\\SCHEDULE\\TASKCACHE\\TREE\\AUSLOGICS\\BOOSTSPEED",
"objectType" : "regKey",


Posted by:

Bob K
04 Mar 2017

Hi Bob,

One more thing. Over the years I've noticed great performance improvements by using ADWCleaner, and Malwarebytes. I've never noticed enhancement of any kind using CCleaner, Glary Utilitie, and System Mechanic, hence I've deleted them.


Posted by:

Andrew Prakken
06 Mar 2017

Be careful in removing ALL pups. I deleted them all and my laptop was all screwed up. Had to do a reversal of the Quarantine File to get it back in operation. JS


Posted by:

GeneTinney
06 Mar 2017

i have been using rogue killer free version for quite a while.gets rid of pups and pums.gpes deep into the computer and searches out and gets rid of viruses.very good program.


Posted by:

Howard Spencer
07 Mar 2017

Hello Bob. First let me say that I have read your articles for years now and have learned a great many from you. Thanks a million. I want to ask what you think about superantispyware, a product I have been using for over a decade. I also use avast and mbam but have found s.a.s.w to be a very powerful tool in combating adware, spyware and pups, along with Trojans and viruses and also rootkits. I would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks and keep up the good work


Posted by:

Clive Hawes
07 Mar 2017

I've managed to get the 4yendex PUP in my laptop. Is there a simple cleaner program that will zap it for me? There are loads of instructions on how to delete it on line but many are complex and none seem to involve a free anti-malware program.


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