Beware of Free Antivirus Software: 7 Out of 8 Contain Unwanted Programs

Maybe you’ve encountered this before: a friend recommends you need an antivirus software to protect computer from the myriad of malware threats out there on the Internet. On your friend’s suggestion, you go online and proceed to search for the right software. You go on a popular website, type in antivirus, get a list of top 10 popular antivirus programs and you proceed to download the most popular one (obviously, right?). You proceed with the installation and follow the steps. Finally, you can sleep well, knowing your precious friend – your laptop – is safe at last.

Sounds like a reasonable expectation, right? It’s a bit unfortunate that things no longer quite work this way. Nowadays, when installing the free version of the top 10 antiviruses, you should expect that a series of unpleasant surprises will come along with it. I’m referring, of course, to the pre-bundled “potentially unwanted programs” that have been installed along with your choice of the top antivirus software.

What are PUPs?

PUPs are, generally speaking, any unwanted programs, most of which find their way to the unfortunate user’s computer through legitimate, although not obvious, ways. PUPs can come in many shapes and forms, from toolbars, adware, plugins, change of your browser’s default home page, search engine, and many others.

What’s the purpose of PUPs?

From the user’s (victim’s) perspective, there are practically no benefits. Why then are they spreading like a wildfire? MONEY. That’s right. Money is the main driving force behind PUPs. Many companies (including legitimate software makers) have let money lead them astray. Short-sighted quarterly increases in profits blinded them, and just like Lenovo recently, they stepped over to the dark side for it.

It’s no surprise that some less well-known companies decided to make some extra cash in this manner, but it’s a bit ironic that the very programs that are, among other things, supposed to help protect you against potentially unwanted programs, are indeed the ones spreading PUPs as well. According to an experiment by Omnisoft, of the top 8 free antivirus software available on, only one did not contain PUPs – BitDefender. The rest, including AVG, Avast, and others, all contained some form of PUPs. Omnisoft reports that “all tested free Antivirus programs come with toolbars or PUPs of some sort – except Bitdefender Free. A lot of them have a “rebranded” Ask toolbar that generates considerable pay per install (PPI) revenues while they’re labeled as part of the vendors own security solution. Some disclose they use Ask (for example Avira), others like AVG go as far as adding pops with coupon deals.”

What should you take away from all this? Do not let the sticker “FREE” fool you. Nothing is really free these days. We recommend sticking with a brand that puts quality and long-term relationships first. In our opinion, Kaspersky Antivirus is one of the brands that one can trust. There is no free version, but that’s not a bad thing. What is your opinion? Share your PUP stories in the comments below.