Producers of annoying browser toolbars, take note: Microsoft recently announced that its security products will begin flagging some search add-ons as malware. Any software that contains code to lock down or otherwise deter users from changing their current browser search settings–a behavior the company somewhat confusingly calls "search protection"–is now fair game.
This behavior might be familiar to some users and technicians as naggy pop-ups or confirmation dialogs that appear whenever an attempt is made to change the browser's search engine (usually away from whatever seedy service the browser add-on set when it was installed).
Microsoft has provided some examples of search protection that will get add-ons zapped, and it's also made a list of general criteria that apps will have to meet to be considered kosher. One of the most heart-warming side-effects is that suspects like the Ask toolbar will no longer install–at least until they change their ways.
I sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of computer technicians suddenly cried out in joy.
Update, June 13th at 2:20 PM: Ask Partner Network, who makes the Ask toolbar, has told us that the latest version of the software no longer contains search protection code that would trigger Microsoft's malware scanning tools. The firm also notes that Microsoft does not consider the latest version of the toolbar unwanted software.