We've all got that friend. It's the one that complained about their seven-year-old PC (that was low-end when they bought it) being too slow, and downloaded a free utility to fix the virus that they believed they had, and it would "clean up" their device. After the app found thousands of issues with the PC, they paid to upgrade to a version that could fix these alleged pieces of malware, and then they called you.
These utilities can be referred to as 'scareware', and oftentimes, the viruses and malware that these things cite don't even exist, or they're much more minor than they appear. Today, Microsoft announced that Windows Defender will begin removing this type of software beginning on March 1.
Microsoft's anti-malware software will now classify these utilities as unwanted software, and after being detected, it will be removed.
The company changed its evaluation criteria to include the following:
Programs must not display alarming or coercive messages or misleading content to pressure you into paying for additional services or performing superfluous actions.
Software that coerces users may display the following characteristics, among others:
- Reports errors in an exaggerated or alarming manner about the user’s system and requires the user to pay for fixing the errors or issues monetarily or by performing other actions such as taking a survey, downloading a file, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
- Suggests that no other actions will correct the reported errors or issues
- Requires the user to act within a limited period of time to get the purported issue resolved
This is good news on all fronts, as these types of utilities are pretty much universally agreed upon to be a bad thing. Surely, if you happen to be "that friend" that everyone calls to fix their computer, you'll appreciate that you can probably yell, "STOP DOWNLOADING FREE UTILITIES THAT PROMISE TO FIX YOUR COMPUTER", at least one less time.