Browser developers might squabble over whose product is the most popular or most secure, but these days any browser we use is our most-used application.
Staying secure on the Net requires not only keeping browsers up to date but also regular housecleaning of caches, plugins, and some troublesome apps.
Our online presence demands ever-increasing vigilance against intruders on our systems. No doubt you’ve had the experience of installing a desired program but then failing to see the prechecked box that installs an additional program. Before you know it, you’ve got more crapware taking up system resources — or worse.
Acquiring potentially unwanted programs
Those tag-along apps, commonly referred to as potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), are nearly ubiquitous with free software downloads. And they come not just from small software companies trying to generate revenue with PUP offers, they’re included as well with major products such as Adobe Flash Player and Oracle’s Java.
In many cases, PUP offers are small, easily overlooked checkboxes. Worse, some PUP downloads are revealed only when you select a custom installation option. And though these tag-along apps might not be malware, they can be difficult to remove.
The PUPs of concern for this discussion are those that make changes to our browsers. They might change your homepage setting, add unwanted toolbars, change your default search engine, or worse. For example, McAfee Security Scan Plus, typically bundled with Flash Player (see Figure 1), does no real harm but does take up some system resources. On the other hand, Oracle’s Java installer could include the more intrusive Ask Toolbar (Figure 2).
Given the amount of time most of us spend on the Internet, keeping our browsers clean should be a regular part of our system maintenance. Most of that task requires only a fairly simple, three-step process. Here’s how to do it in the big three browsers running on Windows 7 and 8.x.