Windows Defender will start removing scareware

You don't need us to tell you that Windows is the desktop OS of choice for almost everyone. Because of that, there's an incredible variety of crapware targeted at Windows users. We're not talking just about your usual malware and spyware, but programs that, while not actively malicious or dangerous, attempt to entice users to spend money that they simply don't have to. Microsoft knows this too, and the company announced yesterday that it's going to be taking measures against this type of software using Windows Defender.

Specifically, the apps targeted by Windows Defender will be those with "coercive messaging." Microsoft's primary concern appears to be apps that report specious or misleading poor results after some sort of scan, and then promise to fix them after a paid upgrade. Microsoft says that beginning March 1, Windows Defender will be removing apps that Microsoft has deemed to display the unwanted behaviors.

Other unacceptable conduct includes reporting errors in an exaggerated or alarming manner, suggesting that spurious "issues" can only be resolved using the upgraded software, or requiring users to act within a certain time period. Apps that expect users to take surveys, download additional files, or sign up for newsletters are also going to be marked as unwanted and removed.

Microsoft has been very clear on what it defines as unwanted software. This sort of application has been under fire from the company in the past. Back in February of 2016 the company posted a blog entry along similar lines to yesterday's. Hopefully the company continues to tighten the noose on these junk software peddlers.

Comments closed
    • Ikepuska
    • 2 years ago

    Personally, as long as the various built in tools in Defender for manually whitelisting a file or software still work for this process, then I am A-OK with this. If for some insane reason they get aggressive enough or whatever to actually remove software I use that I have a purpose for, I’ll just whitelist it. Whitelisting is sufficiently difficult/technical that regular users won’t use it to whitelist crapware or malware, but I can use it for software that I may be examining or testing or developing that meets their criteria.

    I’ve had software I’ve personally written be flagged and had defender try and remove it from my system, so I am certainly not the lowest common denominator user. So long as some controls exist for those of us in my position, I’m significantly less worried that Microsoft will turn this into an abusive feature.

    That said, the fact that content updates silently uninstall ‘incompatible’ software without intervention or any form of whitelisting that I can find…. that I hate.

    ETA: I don’t develop any software that I release to the public whatsoever, I just play around with some malware type coding because I picked it up as a hobby back when I was taking a course on Security/Malware in School and I find it fun and interesting to test/develop exploits, but the heuristics sometimes flag my software for removal because of it. (And the whole point sometimes is to test on a fully patched system)

      • tanker27
      • 2 years ago

      You should probably use VMs to do what you are doing. That way you have total control over the environments that you are testing against.

        • Ikepuska
        • 2 years ago

        I do, but the fully patched [s<]system[/s<]VM still tries to remove the software once heuristics flags it. Which is why I whitelist it / the folders ahead of time ETA I don't obfuscate my code because it significantly complicates my personal debugging, *shrugs* It's just a hobby, like tinkering with a soldering iron to fix broken electronics. I don't do everything to best practices, but I don't want too much in my way to drive frustration either.

    • kvndoom
    • 2 years ago

    I hope the list of crapware that it uninstalls includes McAfee Security Scan. Adobe seems to sneak that into Flush and Acrobat updates every chance they get.

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    I switched to avast a few years back when windows defender lost their antivirus license (or whatever). I haven’t been overly happy with avast lately, is windows defender worth switching back to? Or is avast still better?

      • NovusBogus
      • 2 years ago

      Neither of them is particularly well suited to dealing with actual malware threats, but at least Defender is baked into the kernel and doesn’t cost extra or push a dubious subscription plan. Even MBAM is showing its age these days, and I suspect that once the browser vendors get serious about sandboxing and finally slay the Flash demon the only security solutions worth caring about will be OS patches and the high-end hardware appliances from the likes of Cisco.

      edit: If you’re really serious about shutting down malware, the single most effective thing you can do is get VirtualBox and use a Linux VM for browsing. Boom, problem solved. Just be sure to stay up to date on Spectre patches, because there’s risk of that and similar exploits crossing the guest-host divide. It’s not that Linux is inherently any more secure than Windows, just that the vast majority of non-APT malware is aimed at the low hanging fruit: non tech savvy Windows IE/Chrome users.

        • tanker27
        • 2 years ago

        +1 for browsing in a VM. Its a tactic I have used for years now.

    • albundy
    • 2 years ago

    Windows 10. The worst scareware of all. You cant even imagine all the crapware it installs during setup.

    You know what was great about windows 98? It had a Select Components list during the setup/install.

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 2 years ago

      Let me take a stab at this…..

      2018…The worst year of all, You cant even imagine all the crap that has been going on.

      You know what was great about 1910? The Model T. It only came in one color.

      Please let me know how i did with minues.

      Thanks, bros.

        • LostCat
        • 2 years ago

        I really wanted to upvote that but you asked so nicely.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 2 years ago

      Probably why they’ve suddenly taken an interest in removing “coercive messaging” – Microsoft don’t like competition.

    • Captain Ned
    • 2 years ago

    It will be interesting to see (not that I will, as I refuse to let Defender run on my box) what Defender defines as “over the line”.

      • meerkt
      • 2 years ago

      What’s wrong with Defender?

        • auxy
        • 2 years ago

        [quote<]What's wrong with Defender?[/quote<] Are you frigging serious?! It's a HUGE resource hog and enormous inconvenience (omg f-ing smartscreen f-off!) and for what? Anti-malware? What the hell do I need that for? Anti-malware and anti-spyware and anti-virus are all scams and always have been. They tell you the disease to sell you the cure. Do these things exist? Yah sure. You have to be a total moron to get infected though. Antivirus and Defender are scareware as bad as anything MS will be removing after this update. Anyone who leaves Defender enabled is a fool, and anyone who is PAYING for anti-virus or anti-malware software is a brain-dead twit, a complete idiot, an absolute computer neophyte.

          • Jigar
          • 2 years ago

          Not sure if you are being serious or funny.

            • GrimDanfango
            • 2 years ago

            Well, it may be survivorship-bias or something, but the last virus I ever got was back on Windows XP, and that was coincidentally the last time I ever used a virus scanner (a fat lot of good it did…)

            Ever since Microsoft put in some basic access control measures and stopped leaving their entire OS wide open and wired directly into Internet Explorer (Which at the time could allow websites to use ActiveX to merrily install executable addons without even informing you)… I’ve subsequently never run a system-integrated virus scanner.
            Neither have I gotten the barest hint of an infection, simply by ensuring I only use Firefox (with a minimal set of trusted extentions), exercising some basic caution about which websites I visit (even that has largely been a non-issue for the last few years, especially with the demise of Flash), and avoiding installing trash software (or doing a bare minimum of research before installing anything I’m unfamiliar with)

            On the very rare occasion anything seems to me to be remotely warranting of concern, I just go upload it to virscan.org… which provides a far more comprehensive picture anyway, running it through pretty much every known virus scanner at once.

            I cringe any time I have to use someone elses system, and every second mouse click kicks up some scare-box from a virus scanner app.

            • auxy
            • 2 years ago

            I don’t understand all these shills for AV software. It’s like they toe the party line simply because it’s what they’ve been told to do. I guess it’s my fault for expecting people to think for themselves. ┐(・へ・)┌

            • Kretschmer
            • 2 years ago

            I can confirm that she’s not being funny. Just ignorant.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            If she’s not being serious she’s not funny, so the answer might be “neither”

          • christos_thski
          • 2 years ago

          Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

          • Chrispy_
          • 2 years ago

          Smartscreen and Defender are different products. You can run Defender without Smartscreen.

          Also, infections can happen despite the user being careful. Why do you think Spectre and Meldown are causing such knee-jerk reactions from the industry?

          I’ll admit that security-conscious users do not need to pay for security software but you’re also making the huge mistake in believing that your average user is security-conscious.

          • tanker27
          • 2 years ago

          Ummmm……….Defender is ………free?
          o.O

          • Srsly_Bro
          • 2 years ago

          Well done, auxy.

          • Waco
          • 2 years ago

          I was hoping this would end with a sarcasm tag…but no.

          Please stop giving advice to anyone if you’re currently doing so.

            • auxy
            • 2 years ago

            Why? I have a sizable clientele of very satisfied customers none of whom are running anti-virus. They enjoy that their PCs are fast and free of nag-ware and scare-ware. You should try it sometime. (´Д⊂ヽ

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            Please stop.

          • K-L-Waster
          • 2 years ago

          I’ve never gotten sick, therefore antibiotics are a scam.

            • RAGEPRO
            • 2 years ago

            In her defense, that’s a strawman argument, since she didn’t say that. Poor form.

            • K-L-Waster
            • 2 years ago

            Disagree.

            [quote<]Anti-malware and anti-spyware and anti-virus are all scams and always have been. They tell you the disease to sell you the cure. Do these things exist? Yah sure. You have to be a total moron to get infected though. [/quote<] Or would you prefer "Only idiots get sick, therefore antibiotics are a scam" ?

            • RAGEPRO
            • 2 years ago

            Mmm, better. Although I think the comparison to antibiotics is a false equivalency. Generally speaking, antibiotics are life-saving drugs with proven efficacy and few side effects. I don’t think you can say the same for anti-virus software. 🙂

            Besides that, the context of “a human life” versus “an easily-replaceable software configuration” rather drastically changes the meaningfulness of each item in the analogy. I don’t mean to speak for auxy, but perhaps a better analogy would be “only the malnourished get sick, vitamins are a scam.”

            I’m really just playing devil’s advocate at this point though. I certainly wouldn’t look down on someone for using security software.

            Unless it was McAfee.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            I’d replace “an easily-replaceable software configuration” with “potential financial impacts for years”. 🙂

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            I’d go a different route: “only idiots get sick, therefore [b<]vaccines[/b<] are a scam". You're not installing AV to remove a virus after the fact, you're installing it to hopefully prevent it from taking hold.

            • frenchy2k1
            • 2 years ago

            Her argument is very close to anti vaxxers though…
            She’s arguing that anti-viruses are useless (false) and use resources (true).
            Her argument for their uselessness being that she hasn’t caught any virus (that she knows) in a long time.

            Her argument is not unreasonable. If you are careful, you can avoid most infection vectors lately and there has been very few widely exploited 0-days infection without user interaction the way they happened on winXP a decade ago.
            They still have tests of how fast an old XP computer gets infected by just being plugged online. (It is faster than the time it takes to patch it against those attacks)

            Antiviruses work mostly for attacks you do not know and to contain user errors…

            As for the resources, Defender on win10 is really bad on low power HW. On gaming computers, it won’t even register.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            Being in league with anti vaxxers…is not a good place to be.

            • meerkt
            • 2 years ago

            Video encoding uses a lot of resources as well.

            (That is, no one said antivir must be used in realtime scanning mode.)

          • NovusBogus
          • 2 years ago

          Well lets be fair here, there was a time back in the day (2001-ish, IE6, etc.) where traditional AVs did provide a legitimate benefit. It was a long time ago though, and these days malware just asks the user nicely, or runs a bot/mining script in the browser without installing anything, etc.

      • meerkt
      • 2 years ago

      People are forgetting another infection vector: using UFDs on someone else’s computer, or UFDs from someone else.

      I have two main gripes with Defender: no way to type or paste a scan target in the GUI, and no context menu integration possible for the GUI scanner.

    • christos_thski
    • 2 years ago

    This kind of garbage is malware, pure and simple. I’m actually shocked they weren’t removing them already.

    Having said that, nowadays I get far more calls from relatives about android scareware and pop ups than for windows.

    In fact, every relative who isn’t computer savvy at all gets a recommendation for “iphone or no tech support from me”, as far as smartphones are concerned. Those who are tech savvy can go right ahead and buy android. 🙂

      • curtisb
      • 2 years ago

      iPhones aren’t immune to it either. My wife hit one in Safari that was near to impossible to get closed.

        • LostCat
        • 2 years ago

        Safari seems frighteningly bad still. I would’ve thought they’d at least try…

    • aurelius
    • 2 years ago

    MICROSOFT CRITICAL ELERT

    YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN INFECTED WITH A VIRUS AND SPY-WARE

    …etc.

      • willmore
      • 2 years ago

      ….please uninstall Windows.

    • willmore
    • 2 years ago

    They can start by taking out all the nags and nudges to use their services that they littered Win8 and Win10 with.

      • curtisb
      • 2 years ago

      Because Android, Chrome OS, OS X, and iOS don’t do it? They’re just playing in the market consumers bought into…

        • meerkt
        • 2 years ago

        That’s the problem. The only major desktop OS, supposedly for serious work, is becoming another Android or iOS.

          • captaintrav
          • 2 years ago

          You mean someone might not want XBL logins on their enterprise desktop? Shocking.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 2 years ago

        Well, OSX = buying into the Apple ecosystem on Apple branded hardware. The OS is included with the price of the machine.

        Same for the rest – the price is either included or is free in lieu of ads. They’re also mobile.

        Windows is not free and is never free, it’s supposed to be an operating system for x86/x86-64 systems. Not the same thing.

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        Do any of them show you pop ups when you try to run a browser about how much better thiers is, and similar shenanigans, that kind of nags? In the ones I use, only Windows 10 does.

        The others aren’t perfect, lack of setting default apps on iOS is annoying , but they’re not spamming you with ‘hints’ whenever you use something either, macOS and Android particularly could not care what you use.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    Huzzah. Should’ve been doing this for years but better late than never, I guess.

      • aspect
      • 2 years ago

      Could be Microsoft’s motto.

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