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Caution: Read the fine print on any download

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Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013 11:15 am

After all the gloom and doom of sequestration, government shutdowns, Obamacare and the highly touted yet totally unfulfilling release of Windows 8.1, I thought it might be nice the share some things out of the Smother Computer Services email bag. If you see something that looks familiar, it may be excerpts from one of your emails.

“So what are all these toolbars taking up half my Internet Explorer (FireFox, Chrome) browser and where did they come from?” These are touted as helpful tools designed to make your life easier but are, in reality, ways for companies to get in-depth information on your browsing habits. These toolbars are constantly accessing the Internet to bring up the latest news, traffic, sports, etc., and are slowing down your Internet connection. In tech terms, they are eating up your bandwidth. Somewhere along the line, you had clicked on some ad or download and did not check the fine print that stated that you would also receive this or that toolbar as an added bonus.

“OK, Mike. I probably did that, but now what? Am I stuck with this?” Most toolbars are easily removed by clicking on “View” in your Internet Explorer or FireFox and Toolbars and unchecking the ones you do not want. You may also want to check your Control Panel under “Add/Remove Programs” and remove any toolbars listed there as well.

“I read your column every month and try to do what you suggest, but this same stuff keeps coming up on my Malwarebytes scans. It says something like PUP. What are those things and are they harmful?” The PUP items that Malwarebytes and most other anti-spyware programs detect are directly related to a couple of things you may be doing on the Internet. If you have the above-mentioned plethora of toolbars living on your computer, the PUP files may be coming from them. If you play games on Facebook or other sites on the Internet, they may be coming from there. PUP files are sometimes referred to as Adware and are not as harmful as spyware but are still files that collect data on your Internet habits and send them to the owners of the files to fill your Inbox with offers of things you simply cannot live without. Have you ever noticed that right after you check out something on the Internet that you will get these ads on the right side of your browser offering some of the same things you were looking at on the Internet? Coincidence? Not hardly! They are paid advertisements that are based on some of the Adware files you have on your computer. That is why if you scan your computer with an Anti-Spyware program and get rid of those PUP files and then go play a game and come back and scan again, those PUP files will be back. There simply is not a good way to get rid of those files and keep them out unless you completely lock up your Internet browser, and that creates a new set of challenges. Basically, just keep deleting the files.

“I sometimes go to websites to get foreign news and now I have all of these pop-ups and emails for some very interesting products and services. Is my computer at risk?” My initial response is, No, your computer is probably not at risk. The Internet has become a virtual marketplace where you can buy anything, and I do mean ANYTHING. This makes it great, but along with the availability of many products and services come the sellers who want you to buy their products and services. This makes it less than great when you have to wade through page after page of ads and websites that do not lead you to what you want, but are trying to get you to sign up for something or add another toolbar. Sometimes I, myself, get so frustrated and I simply turn the computer off and go read a book, which I bought off the computer, by the way.

I would caution you to read the fine print of any download you are considering and look for small check boxes that are checked by default, keep you anti-spyware up to date and do not run with scissors. Keep those emails coming.

• Resident Mike Smothers is president of Ahwatukee-based Smothers Computer Services, a mobile computer repair company. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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