Has this happened to you?  Out of nowhere, some “new” programs show up on your computer that you know you didn’t install; or changes have happened on your computer that you know you didn’t make.

For instance, your search engine of choice was Yahoo “Search”; but suddenly, Bing appears as your “Search” choice.  You know you didn’t choose it but now you are having trouble changing back to Yahoo “Search”.  Or something called “Yontoo” is now on your computer. You don’t ever remember installing it, but suddenly there are problems with your browser and coupons are popping up all over the place when you browse….

How the Hack did those things happen to my computer?

They happened because you probably allowed them to happen – unwittingly, of course.  I’ll explain how it happens if you promise to pay more attention to what you “click” on your computer…..

In the early days of internet browsing and downloading, a person could expect that what they wanted to download was what they were downloading.   As an example, let’s say I wanted to download the very good malware program (not an anti-virus program), SuperAntiSpyware.  To do this I searched for it on, say, Yahoo Search, and found the “free download” option for the program at superantispyware.com.   I selected the “free download” button, then followed the install instructions by clicking “Next” until my expected program was installed and running on my computer. Simple, easy, comfortable — almost mindless…

Smart marketers didn’t miss the “almost mindless” part and started to capitalize on that little click, click, click habit we developed.  Counting on our click on Next habit and on our not paying attention to what Next really was, marketers started loading their product programs into the download/install packages that we were actually intending to download. Consequently, we unwittingly began to load unintended programs onto our computers because we didn’t read what we, by habit, were mindlessly clicking Next to…..

Here’s an example, with screen shots, that I did to download SuperAntiSpyware (still a great malware program) today onto a computer. This is a bit lengthy, but please stick with it. I think it is something you’ll be glad to know….

First Screen Shot below: For this example, I did a search for “superantispyware free download”. The search returned choices from various sites. The official site – superantispyware.com was listed third. Something to learn from this:

o Start with a wise search for your product download. The Search process and site selection are important in order to avoid getting all the additional stuff we don’t want to get on our computers.

o Going to the official site of the product you desire will lessen the chances of getting “bloatware”, the unwanted programs that are added to your download experience.

The Second Screen Shot below shows the “download” directions that I would expect for SuperAntiSpyware. The top of the download instructions looks official. However:

o If I don’t read the screen and am in the habit of clicking “Next or “Accept” I will not notice I just agreed to install a product other than what I intended.

o The only choice here is DECLINE, if I don’t want the bloatware.

The Third and Fourth Screen Shots below show the blatant comfort of the marketer to trick me. There are 4 or 5 additional product installs that are presented before I get to the real live install option for my intended product.

o By this time, I might have become aware of the tricky marketing maneuvers and I will finally click DECLINE. Up to this point, however, I might have welcomed, unwittingly, the new products.

o Often, however, there are only 1 or 2 additional products on only one page that I probably will miss, unless I learn how to read before I click. I was had and will probably be had again…..  Unless I learn the….

LESSONDon’t click on Next or Accept unless I know what those words mean and I mean to click on them! DECLINE might just become my next click habit….

OK, I think I get it, but what do I do about the programs that I unwittingly installed before I knew better?

Fortunately the answer to that situation is usually to uninstall them through the Add/Remove Program option in the Control Panel.

• (Windows)   Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs

• (Mac)  Finder > Application > Select Program > Rt Click for “Move to Trash”

• Some programs, however, are more aggressive and resist that approach. In that case you might need professional assistance.

If you have questions about this post, please feel free to contact me. I ACCEPT all questions and am happy to be able to direct you toward safer computing!