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These 5 antivirus suites keep potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from biting

Eric Geier | Sept. 11, 2014
Adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) might not seem like viruses to some people, but they can wreak havoc and cause major annoyances. It's like comparing terriers to guard dogs: A misbehaved terrier (PUP) may not be as dangerous as a bad-tempered junkyard dog (virus), but the little ankle-biters can sure get on your nerves, and they tend to nip more often.

Adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) might not seem like viruses to some people, but they can wreak havoc and cause major annoyances. It's like comparing terriers to guard dogs: A misbehaved terrier (PUP) may not be as dangerous as a bad-tempered junkyard dog (virus), but the little ankle-biters can sure get on your nerves, and they tend to nip more often.

PUPs can change your web browser's homepage and search settings, and even redirect websites you try to visit. They can litter your browser with toolbars and install questionable PC cleaners and optimizers. They can also bombard you with ads that are often illegitimate and lead to further infestation of malware or viruses.

Though most antivirus programs are built to detect and remove more of the true viruses and other serious malware, some do offer protection against adware, spyware, and PUPs. However, you may have to enable the protection manually. 

AVG

In the AVG products, basic PUP and spyware protection is enabled by default. This protection is designed more to detect programs that are a security risk. Manually enabling additional protection may detect programs that are fairly harmless. However, that extra layer of defence can protect you from legitimate programs that could be misused.

Confirm the default PUP protection is still active, then consider turning on the additional protection as well.

To check these options, open AVG, click Options from the menu on the upper left corner and select Advanced settings. Double-click Computer Protection in the left part of the window, and then select AntiVirus.

AVAST

The free and paid AVAST products also offer PUP protection, but it's turned off by default. Though they only have one setting related to how they classify the PUPs, there is a setting for each of the three protection shields: File System Shield, Mail Shield, and Web Shield. They refer to PUPs as programs you may have downloaded unknowingly, typically used for advertising or collecting information about your computer or Internet use.

I recommend enabling the PUP protection for all three shields. Open the AVAST program, click the Settings button, and select the Active Protection tab.

First, click the gear icon for File System Shield. Select the Sensitivity tab, click the Scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) checkbox, and click OK.

Back in the Active Protection window, click the gear icon for Mail Shield.

Select the Sensitivity tab, click the Scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) checkbox, and click OK.

Back on the Active Protection window, click the gear icon for Web Shield.

Select the Sensitivity tab, click the Scan for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) checkbox, and click OK.

Kaspersky

The Kaspersky products include PUP protection that they refer to as elevated riskware detection, defined as detecting software that can make your PC more vulnerable to attack. This includes programs like remote access software and keyloggers, but not toolbars and other software that requires user permission to install.

 

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