News from the Virus Frontline

By John Schroeder June 2014
Virus infections for Windows systems seem to be declining or our customer base is getting better at avoiding infection.

It’s also possible the virus bad-guys are starting to focus more on the Windows 8 systems and aren’t getting it quite right yet.

However, we will note that certain viruses appear to be easy to remove they are damaging the Operating System. Be sure, if you manage to clean the viruses that your test your Operating System; particularly Microsoft Updates.

On the other hand, we’ve noted an uptick in PUP’s. These are Potentially (P) Unwanted (U) Programs.

They are only considered potentially unwanted because some people actually want them. These are programs and configuration changes which re-direct users to the “deal.” Hence, if you are into coupons/rebates/ebates and/or etc. you will find yourself redirected to a “deal site.”

People who provide “freebie” services on the Internet often include these PUP’s in their download because if one of their installations renders you to a commercial site, they can bill that site. It’s a major drive for e-Commerce.

Hence, these things are driven by money and you need to realize that nothing is “really free.” These guys will even co-opt the really free downloads by using Google Ads to appear at the top of your search list so you’ll take the free downloads from them rather than the official site. In short, they’ll go out to the free site, get the download for you and then send it to you along with their packaged PUP’s.

For example, you want an IRS form and you Google it. You go to site but it isn’t the IRS but they’ll go get the form for you and send it down along with their packaged PUP’s.

The more legitimate sites will tell you what additional items they are sending down and give you the option to opt out by unchecking box. The less legitimate ones might bury their additional downloads in a simple “agreement” option which nobody bothers to read.

Generally, there isn’t too much of a problem with the PUP’s as long as there is only one. But, once there is more than one, they fight over your business.

Another problem is that they don’t always know how to properly deliver you to a real website not offering any deals in which case, you go nowhere. This actually happens a lot to people trying to read an email from a web browser. The link to read the email can’t be resolved and therefore you can’t read your email.

We might also add that these PUP’s are the source of numerous pop ups which occur during regular browsing as they aggressively try to deliver you somewhere (anywhere) so they can create billable events.

These PUP’s manifest and result in the following:

  1. A “light application” for reviewing your systems. These are applications run at start and usually find X number of problems and will remove X-20 but if you only if buy the full product to fix all the X problems. The applications tend to be legitimate although their need and ultimate effectiveness is doubtful. (The same can be said for those “clean up” programs advertised on TV).
  2. The PUP’s will change your home page. If you go to their home page for searches, they need to do nothing further (no software) with your computer. They got you where they want you.
  3. They put themselves in as your background search provider. Again no software is needed. They “tell” your system to use their systems for web searching. Again no software needs to be downloaded.
  4. The various anti-virus systems will recognize these PUP’s but since they only “potentially unwanted,” they will not be checked for removal (assuming a software element on the computer). You need to check the box to remove them.
  5. The newer versions of Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware can help find these PUP’s but you still need to READ THE SCREEN in order to remove.

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