When Brenda called our office early last week, she reported that every time she booted up her computer several pop-ups warned that her computer had multiple problems needing fixed. No matter what she did, they prevented her from doing anything on her computer. And they wouldn’t go away.
A couple days later, Robert called requesting an appointment for us to remove viruses off his computer. He described his problem almost exactly the same as Brenda.
Scores of clients have brought their computers to us over the past year with these annoying, intrusive programs preventing them from being able to surf the Internet, check email or anything else.
These programs carry names like PC Optimizer Pro, Speed Optimizer Pro, My PC Backup, and Windows Registry Cleaner.
While these programs technically are not viruses, they do exhibit many characteristics of malicious software. They become deeply rooted into the Windows operating system, hijack your web browsers, and overall just create a major annoyance when using your PC.
The programs, called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), reportedly scan your computer and discover all kinds of problems – invalid registry entries, junk files, and erroneous system settings. They offer to fix these problems with the promise that your PC will run better. The catch is you have to purchase the software.
Unfortunately, I have seen many instances where allowing these programs to “fix” the problems it finds actually creates more serious problems – usually requiring professional repair.
These programs also tend to act like a magnet, attracting other malicious software to become installed on your computer. Every computer I have examined containing Optimizer Pro-type software has had numerous other similar programs causing pop-ups and other “error” messages.
Most of our clients are unaware of how these programs got installed on their computers. Typically, they are bundled in the installers for other free software – like free video recording or streaming software, PDF creators and download managers. It can also be included in custom installers from reputable download websites.
This is why it is very IMPORTANT to pay close attention when installing software. Read every screen and look at all the options that are automatically check-marked. Most software installers allow you to choose what you want to install.
Using the custom install option is always the safest. This allows you to deselect anything that you’re not sure about, especially unwanted software.
Most importantly, never install software that you don’t trust. When in doubt, don’t.