Quickly installed the free game and blindly clicked on “Next” during the individual installation steps? That was not a good idea! If you now start your browser, you might notice that it shows one more bar – and ads wherever it suits. You may find that your favorite search engine is not quite the same as before, and lists online casino operators, for example, if you were just looking for overnight deposit accounts. Harmlessly appearing links are manipulated in such a way that you are led to sites that contain malware or dubious offers. We call this clickjacking. In addition, your device may have become slower.
What happened? You have installed at least one potentially unwanted program along with the game. Such unappetizing, but also appropriately PUP abbreviated programs are not viruses. They do not cause immediate damage to your device. However, damage to your nerves is likely.
“Free” software is often financed by the addition of PUP; PUP is usually financed by advertisers. The installation program of the software you want to use presents it as a “download accelerator” or “search engine optimizer”, for example. The check mark is already set so that these programs will also be installed if you click too quickly on “Next”. The advertised benefits of the PUP remain within narrow limits: If a search engine is optimized, then not in your sense, but in that of the paying advertising partners. If a download is accelerated, then possibly only that of other advertising software, so-called adware.
Even serious companies sometimes use piggyback programs. Adobe, for example, tried that in August 2015 on the download page for the well-known Flash Player, which was to be installed together with additional software. The check mark by which you agree to the installation is already set. At least the text is clear here: The program is described as optional and there are no double negations where it is not clear whether you actually object to the installation. Above all, the installed program can be easily removed if you don’t like it.
With less respectable vendors it’s different: As undesirable as PUPs normally are, it’s hard to get rid of them. Because authors of PUP know that their programs would normally remain on hard disks for only a few minutes after accidental installation, the uninstall routine is naturally missing. But what is probably not missing are entries in the registry of Windows, for example. They ensure that a poorly removed PUP will restore itself as soon as your device is restarted and connected to the Internet. This means that potentially unwanted programs actually have one thing in common with viruses: they are tougher than melted mozzarella cheese. An antivirus program may detect and delete them. However, there may be program remnants left over that allow them to be automatically recovered – without having to ask your permission again. You may need to manually remove unwanted browser bars from any installed browser.
If all else fails, you will need to reinstall your device’s operating system. Lucky the one who backed up his/her PC, including the operating system settings, such as setting a restore point in Windows.