Microsoft has now deemed the Ask Toolbar, an add-on that comes with Java installer as a malware and unwanted software. The toolbar is an interface inspired by the 20-year-old search engine, and apart from taking up unnecessary screen space, it adds itself to the browser’s toolbar and changes your default search engine to without permission.

“Older versions of software can restrict or limit your control over your search provider,” Microsoft said on its Malware Protection Center website. “It can prevent you from disabling or modifying your search provider. This software poses a high threat to your PC.”

Microsoft notes that the latest malware tools for Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 will detect and remove the Ask Toolbar.

“To avoid detection, developers should remove any search protection code from their programs, regardless of whether it is functional or not,” Microsoft stated. “We’ll be working with search protection developers and vendors who have completely disabled search protection functionality from their programs in alignment with our evaluation criteria.”

The decision has earned Microsoft some applause by security and privacy professionals given the fact that the toolbar is not only a threat to privacy, but also reduces the overall performance of the browsers.

All companies should rather adapt to this approach with their browsers and classify bundleware as an unethical practice. Not only is this practice invasive, it tricks users to install every update that is deceitful and apparently illegal in certain jurisdictions.

Good riddance we’d say, though not completely.

Microsoft has apparently made it clear that the version of the Ask Toolbar classified as malware is apparently not the current version. The latest version of the Toolbar will not be discarded by the Microsoft as it does not come with a search protection code.  Though it seems, users need to uninstall manually the software for the foreseeable future.

To avoid installing the Ask Toolbar, users would have to opt-out while installing Java packages, and every time that a Java update or new version is subsequently installed. The current Java, version 8, has had 45 updates. If a user fails to opt-out even once, then the malware is automatically installed. Opting-out during a subsequent installation will not remove the toolbar. Removing the malware is possible, but a good deal more involved than opting out once.

We all know that Ask Toolbar is one of most hated features that nobody wants on his or her PC. A post on Wikipedia describes the Ask Toolbar as a browser hijacker as it performs changes on the system without user’s permission.


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