What are PUPs?
Potentially Unwanted Programs, or PUPs, are small pieces of software that are installed onto your system, usually by piggybacking onto other legitimate software, or by other similarly circuitous means. This occurs most often without your knowledge or consent.
While most PUPs are considered highly suspect, they are not always considered malware in the strictest sense. The primary reason for this is because their installation is acknowledged in the agreement of the original program you intended to install, even if such an acknowledgement is buried deep in the fine print. Most of the time you won’t even realize that you’ve installed additional programs until you notice new icons on your desktop or system tray or a new toolbar in your browser. A general rule, Box Support considers any software that is designed to install itself onto your system without your explicit knowledge and consent as likely malware.
What do PUPs look like?
PUPs (potentially unwanted software) come in many forms and varieties, often masquerading as other, more benign types of software. Some of the most common varieties are the following:
Many PUPs appear as toolbars, attached to your favorite browser. Typically the toolbar might come under the guise of a helpful translator bar, a time saving coupon-clipper, a recipe catalog, or even as a philanthropic software accessory. Most of the time toolbars aren’t intentionally malicious, instead, they simply provide functionality that is already included in your browser or search engine and are needlessly taking up space on your screen and your system. Often times toolbars stack on top of each other until there is precious little space for the actual browser window.
PUPs sometimes take the form of anti-virus or similar software. Typically the software will produce a pop-up alerting you to a “serious threat”. These threats are almost always fictitious. It warns that without immediate intervention, your system will suffer a catastrophic error. The message will encourage you to click a button typically labeled “Clean Now” or “Fix”, which will then direct you to a website which promises to remove said errors for a fee.
How do PUPs harm my system?
There are a number of ways in which PUPs can cause harm and hinder the proper function of the computer. Below we have detailed a few such methods.
PUPs (much like their cuddly namesake) tend to doggy pile. This means that they have a cumulative affect on your system’s performance. While one PUP might go unnoticed, as they accumulate, your system will begin to respond more sluggishly and begin producing more errors. This is because they begin leeching your system’s resources, leaving less for the software you actually want. Like barnacles on a the hull of a ship, they need to be scraped off for smooth sailing.
Foot In The Door
Having one pup on your system is like a foot in the door to your computer. Incrementally, that door will be pushed further and further open, making it possible for bigger, more malicious threats to enter; threats like viruses, trojans, bots and other malware.
Spyware and Adware
PUPs aren’t limited to hogging your system resources and making your computer more vulnerable to attack. Some PUPs will randomly display ads, redirect internet searches to unsafe websites and some can even skim your personal and financial information. Fraud and identity theft have become extremely pervasive in the digital age, ranking as the fastest growing crime according to the Federal Trade Commission.
How do I avoid PUPs?
Your risk of being affected by PUPs can be mitigated by being careful about the software you install, the links and ads you click on and the emails you open. With the prevalence of PUPs, even being the most cautious user is likely to find them on their system eventually. As long as your computer is connected to the internet, it is ultimately at risk which is why it’s so critical that you have the right security services and software to protect your computer and your sensitive information.
What do I do if I suspect PUPs may be on my system?
Although many PUPs parade themselves about your desktop with obtrusive pop-ups and toolbars, some PUPs run silently in the background and can only be detected and removed with specialized software.
While uninstalling them and cleaning them with anti-malware programs can help, inevitably PUPs and other more malicious software will end up on your system again. Just as you need professional assistance in maintaining proper health, so too does your computer.
If your computer seems sluggish, unresponsive or is simply manifesting strange symptoms, DO NOT simply wait for these symptoms to go away. Address them early before they have a chance to cause real problems, such as damage to your machine or compromising your sensitive information. The internet can be a frustrating and at times a frightening place. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Help is close at hand
Box Support is the leader in providing enterprise level computer security and support for home users and small businesses. We keep your computer running smoothly and your sensitive information secure. Box Support will clean and optimize your system, install enterprise level security software and guard against future threats. Try us out today by taking advantage of our robust protection plans.