[SECURITY] Foistware Blocker in Windows 10
Did you know that Windows 10 has a little-known feature that will block installation of 'potentially unwanted apps' that try to install themselves during another program’s installation? This feature is the answer to one of my most fervent tech prayers! I also have a solution for people still using Windows 7 or 8. Here's what you need to know...
How to Block "Potentially Unwanted" Software
When you download and install a “free” program, you need the concentration of a brain surgeon to ensure that you get exactly what is expected. That’s because many free programs try all sorts of tricks to install other programs that come along with the free program’s installation file. I’m sure you know what I am talking about, but here is a clear-cut example:
The installer app of ImgBurn, a free optical disk burning program tries to trick you into installing "McAfee Web Advisor" (and possibly other junkware) on your PC as you click through the ImgBurn installation screens. ImgBurn’s installation screens contain tiny check-boxes already checked, which purportedly represents your conscious decision to allow the Potentially Unwanted App (PUA) to be installed.
This dirty trick works on many people who don’t pay close attention to all of the tiny print, icons, check-boxes, “Install” buttons, and other distractions that appear during the installation this and many other freebies. The more unwanted "foistware" that gets installed, the more money the authors of the software make. It’s an evil, underhanded tactic that should be stopped. It also results in clutter, confusion, and the potential for compromising your privacy and security.
I've been warning AskBob readers about foistware for at least 5 years, but the problem is not going away. So it's up to you to be aware, diligent, and equipped with the proper tools to prevent the installation of unwanted (and potentially malicious) software on your computer.
If you have Windows 10, the SmartScreen feature will block most apps that try to install themselves during another app’s installation. With this option enabled, you will get the program you intended to download and nothing else. You can start the installer and not have to watch it like a hawk, reading every character and inspecting every box or button that appears.
In my testing with the Edge browser on Windows 10, potentially unwanted programs were blocked before they could be downloaded. A warning appeared, and gave me the option to stop the download. When I tried the same with the Chrome browser on Windows 10, I was able to download the file, but Windows put up a block when I tried to run the program.
To test if your system detects Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs), you can try to download the AMTSO Potentially Unwanted Application test file – a simulated Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA).
Pass the Caveat, Please
Microsoft’s tech support note on this feature explains that blocked apps are placed in the quarantine section so they won't run. BUT… there are some exceptions. The tech support note goes on to say: "PUAs are blocked when a user attempts to download or install the detected file, and if the file meets one of the following conditions: The file is being scanned from the browser; The file is in a folder with "downloads" in the path; The file is in a folder with "temp" in the path; The file is on the user's Desktop; The file does not meet one of these conditions and is not under %programfiles%, %appdata%, or %windows%. "
So if a PUA is a new one that Windows does not yet know about, or if it is not in any of the locations specified above, it will slip past this protection. But it should catch most of the pesky toolbars, weather apps, and other junkware that useful free apps try to foist onto users.
Another Option to Block Foistware
So... if you're not running Windows 10, or you are running Windows 10 with a third-party security tool that disables the SmartScreen filter, there's still a solution, and it may be better in any case.
In my article, Finally: The End of Next, Next, Next… I discuss a nifty free service called Ninite, which makes it easy to safely install new software, and keep it all up to date.
Ninite lets you choose from a menu of over 100 popular free software titles, bundles them up into a single download, and installs them with a single click. Ninite will automatically say no to toolbars and extra junk, and will not bother you with any questions during the installations. It also skips any reboot requests from installers. For security, Ninite downloads each app from the publisher's official site, and verifies the digital signatures.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
foistware blocker, potentially unwanted programs, junkware blocker, crapware blocker, Ninite software installer
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Dec 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [SECURITY] Foistware Blocker in Windows 10 (Posted: 20 Dec 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved