Ever opened up your browser, and all of the sudden your home page is different or there is a tool bar at the top you don’t recognize? You probably recently installed some new program, and it had extra software “wrapped” up with it. You probably agreed to install it, without even knowing it, as annoying as that may be.
When you do a search for something you’d like to download, you likely find several links. It’s always good to look for the actual creator in the address to verify it’s the real version. Notice on this screenshot for my search of Avast (an antivirus program) download the first two are from avast.com, but the third is from download.com.
Downloading from the main source can reduce the risk of extra programs being added. But not always. More on that later on. First, let’s take a look at how you may be tricked into this software installation.
Let’s say I want to download a program called Magic Camera (just an example, I didn’t test the program itself, so this is not an endorsement to download it). I did a web search and found a site to download it from. I click on Download now, ignoring the little blue “Direct Download link” that’s so tiny I missed it.
Now I’m able to go through the installation steps. First, it will download the installer, then I click on the downloaded file to run the installer. One of the first screens I see is this:
Another accept window. I just click Accept, because, again, who reads all this? But by clicking accept, I have just agreed to install GreatArcadeHits, which will serve “advertising through in-text, pop-up/under, transitional, and banner ads in your web browser”. Yes, I just agreed to this. So now they have hijacked my browser home page and will give me pop ups and banners.
This just goes to show you to be careful what you download. Read ALL those windows, don’t just blindly accept. But also, be careful when you uninstall. When testing these installation techniques, I downloaded a program called Drive Boost (again, not a promotion for the software.) When installing I saw this window at the end of the installation.
I saw that tiny little check mark that tried to get me to install an additional program, but I was smart enough not to leave that checked! Once I decided I didn’t need the program, I went to uninstall it and saw this window:
The instinct is to immediately click on the BIG RED BOX! But stop and look at what it says. Uninstall and Get Advanced SystemCare FREE. The same program they tried to get me on when I installed. What I really want to do is click that tiny link below that says “No, I want a full uninstall.” Can you see how easy we get suckered in?
But it’s not just downloads from small companies, big business suck us in too. Have you run a Java update lately? It is recommended to keep it up to date, but be careful, because every time you update, you will see this screen:
Those check marks are there automatically, so if you just hit next, you may find the Ask toolbar at the top of your browser, and your default search will be set to Ask as well. Keep in mind, every time you need to update Java, this window comes up and is checked by default, so pay attention if you do not want that option.
This type of software can be added to any installer, even well known companies. Just be careful where you download from, and read those dialog boxes and windows that come up to be certain what you are installing. It’s easy to get fooled but now you will be wiser to these tactics.