Anti Virus Companies Profit in Ugly PUP Game
As a follow up to the recent How To Geek post documenting the crapware filled download sites – research by Emisoft shows that a shocking number of Anti Virus products are generating millions in revenue through PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs).
Unfortunately, the issue of PUPs, foistware and crapware is in no way a new issue – as our good friend Bill Pytlovany documented back in 2008.
Note: PC Pitstop takes great in pride in having never included PUPs with any of our products.
Ethics in the software industry seem to be lost completely when even antivirus vendors bundle PUPs with their software…
Fact: 7 out of 8 tested free antivirus suites bundle with PUPs
We decided to further look into this and do the same test with other free, full antivirus suites, and the results are pretty shocking:
All tested free Antivirus programs come with toolbars or PUPs of some sort – except Bitdefender Free. A lot of them have a “rebranded” Ask toolbar that generates considerable pay per install (PPI) revenues while they’re labeled as part of the vendors own security solution. Some disclose they use Ask (for example Avira), others like AVG go as far as adding pops with coupon deals.
Antivirus programs are supposed to protect your computer from viruses, yet many of them give you a questionable program during installation, without clear disclosure.
Below is the list of 8 free antivirus programs and the type of PUPs they give you during installation at the time of posting. Please note that we only included full antivirus suites, not scanner-only products.
Bitdefender Free: as mentioned before, Bitdefender Free is one of the only clean antivirus vendors that does not come with any PUPs.
Comodo AV Free: changes home page and search engine provider to Yahoo during the installation process, unless the user unchecks the box.
Avast Free: offers Dropbox during installation by default, unless you uncheck the box. No toolbars are installed.
Panda AV free: installs Panda Security toolbar, yahoo search takeover and MyStart (powered by Yahoo) home page takeover. No product rebrands, at least the installer is clear that both are Yahoo products.
AdAware free: installs WebCompanion by default unless user unchecks the box. Also installs Bing Homepage takeover and Bing search takeover by default, unless opted out. Discloses that AdAware offers these programs to keep the software free.
Avira free: offers Dropbox after installation. Takes over search with Avira Safe Search, which is a a white-labeled version of the Ask toolbar. Avira does disclose that it partners with Ask, and states that it “chose Ask.com to be our partner in bringing you the SearchFree Toolbar because Ask.com is one of many vendors whose products offer functionality which we believe our users will value”.
ZoneAlarm free AV + Firewall: with Custom Install: Zonealarm homepage and search takeover.This is a rebranded Ask toolbar, which is not mentioned on ZoneAlarm’s website.
AVG free: installs Web Tuneup, including AVG SafeGuard. Sets AVG Secure Search as homepage, new tab page and defaults search engine. Toolbar is Ask powered, although this is not explicitly stated. Also offers AVG Rewards, which displays popup advertisements with coupons and deals.