Microsoft Updates Security Software to More Effectively Block Adware
Earlier this week Microsoft announced that it would be updating its security software by tightening the criteria used to classify applications as adware. Before the update, users could choose from a set of options presented by Microsoft Security Essentials (reviewed) to deal with installed adware, but if no option was selected then the adware was allowed to continue operating. Now any programs classified as adware will be automatically blocked by default.
Microsoft Promoting Ethical Advertisement and User Control Within the Windows OS
The sudden fight against adware is coming at an interesting time, as Microsoft just recently released a set of development tools designed to help developers incorporate advertisements into Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 apps. This all seems to be part of an overall agenda to restrict unethical advertising practices and give users complete control over their computers, while also allowing companies to display digital advertisements within apps in an ethical manner.
Update Forces Programs to Take Responsibility for Advertisements and Provide Easy Exits
To clarify, Microsoft is classifying adware as any program that displays ads and promotions within other applications (I..e. - a gaming program that causes popups to appear in your browser). However, applications that display advertisements within their own app interfaces are not consider adware.
Another requirement is that all programs which display ads should make it easy for users to exit out of those ads via a clearly visible close button. Programs that display ads must also make it clear where the ads are coming from so that the users can easily put a stop to them if desired.
Microsoft recommends that developers use the traditional 'X' in the top-right corner of the app or a button that says “close” or “exit.” Also, it is suggested that developers should specify which program is responsible for the ads by including a phrase like “Powered by ...” or “Ads by...”
Programs That Are Difficult to Install Automatically Classified as Adware
Aside from adhering to the aforementioned guidelines, programs need to make the uninstall process simple and avoid using any trickery that tries to keep program components on the machine after the uninstall. Programs that are difficult to uninstall will now be classified as adware – a form of malware that is typically viewed as “not as bad” as other types of viruses.
Developers should make it easy for users to find the uninstall button within the Windows Control Panel or within the web browser add-on option (in the case of a plugin or add-on app). Browser plugins and toolbars are considered to be the most problematic types of adware because they frequently change their names and behaviors to avoid detection by the leading antivirus software.
Of course, there are a few programs out there that are ethical applications with legitimate uses and yet they're difficult to uninstall. For this reason, Microsoft is giving app developers three months to modify their uninstall process to comply with the new security rules.