Do You Need a PUP Cleaner?
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.
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Mar 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Do You Need a PUP Cleaner? (Posted: 3 Mar 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved