What is a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP)?

Whether you’re an animal person or not, you have to admit that puppies are pretty darn cute. So cute that there are YouTube Channels, Facebook accounts, and Buzzfeed newsletters devoted to the subject. Unfortunately, there’s a not so cute PUP out in the world, and it wants access to your device. What I’m talking about is a potentially unwanted program (PUP). What is an unwanted program? It’s software or an app that you don’t explicitly want on your device. PUPs usually are bundled with freeware and often installs without your permission.

Note: PUPs are not malware. The main difference is that you give consent to download the PUP, even though you might not know about it if you don’t read the agreements or installation process thoroughly.

So if PUPs aren’t malware, why are they bad? Some PUPs contain spyware including keyloggers, dialers, and other software to gather your information which could lead to identity theft. Others may display annoying advertisements on your device. Even if the PUP doesn’t have any malicious content, too many PUPs can slow down your device by taking up space on your device and it can weaker your device’s security, making you vulnerable to malware.

Companies or hackers use several techniques to get you to download PUPs. One technique is offering multiple installation options. Although the standard or default options may be highly recommended by the company or hacker, it is usually the custom or advanced option that is PUP-free. Another trick is automatically including PUPs in the installation. You have to uncheck the boxes to opt-out of the PUP. Sometimes they will gray the opt-out option so it looks like you can’t get out of downloading a PUP. Other companies will sneak clauses about PUPs into the end user license agreement. This means when you click to agree with their user terms, you also agree to download PUPs.

Here’s some tips on how to make sure you don’t get a PUP.

  • Be picky. Hesitate before downloading any freeware. Do you really need that Guardian of the Galaxy wallpaper for your laptop? Be vigilant and only download from trusted sites.
  • Customize. When downloading a program, it may be tempting to use the standard or default installation, but this version usually includes downloading programs you don’t need. Choose the custom installation.
  • Opt out. Instead of asking you to opt in to PUPs, companies will automatically include the PUPs in the installation; it’s up to you to say no. For example, a freeware program might recommend that you install a free browser add-on andbelow this statement will be a box that is checked that indicates you want to install the add-on. If you don’t uncheck the box, you can potentially download a PUP you may know very little about.
  • Read the fine print. Read the End User License Agreement before you accept it. There may be a clause about PUPs.
  • Have comprehensive security software. Install security software that works for all of your devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service. McAfee LiveSafe can detect PUPs and remove them from your device.

Remember it’s much more fun to snuggle with furry pups rather than the computer code kind.

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