Not all cyber threats consist of viruses, ransomware, trojans and other explicitly malicious programs. Some of them are more discreet. Potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), for example, can pose a threat to your computer or device without necessarily infecting it with malware. Millions of computers and devices, in fact, have at least one PUP on them. What are PUPs exactly, and should you be concerned about them?

Overview of PUPs

Also known as potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), PUPs consist of unwanted programs that can cause performance issues for the computers or devices on which they are installed. They often come packaged with legitimate software. If you download free software off the internet, you may inadvertently expose your computer to a PUP. When you download free software, it may come packaged with one or more PUPs.

The Risks of PUPs

PUPs aren’t classified as malware because they don’t have malicious intent. Only malware has malicious intent, such as stealing your data, deleting your data or locking entire drives. PUPs, on the other hand, serve a different purpose.

Most PUPs are used for the following purposes:

  • Pop-up advertising
  • New sponsored toolbar in web browser
  • Track your online activities
  • Entice you to purchase a premium software

If you unknowingly download a PUP on your computer or device, you don’t have to worry about it causing direct, malicious harm. Nonetheless, it can still pose performance issues. PUPs are programs (or applications). They are simply known as PUPs because they are “potentially unwanted.” Like all programs, though, PUPs consume resources when running. They often run in the background while covertly consuming resources, resulting in slower speeds for the computers and devices on which they are installed.

How to Prevent PUPs

There are a few things you can do to prevent PUPs, one of which is using caution when downloading free software off the internet. Most PUPs come packaged with free software. Maybe you’re downloading a web browser extension, or perhaps you’re downloading a registry cleaner. Regardless, you should read the software’s terms and conditions when installing it. If it comes packaged with a PUP, it should offer the option not to install the PUP.

If you accidentally install a PUP, you can typically remove it like any other program. Just go to the remove a program section on your operating system and look for the PUP. After uninstalling the PUP, you can restart your computer or device, at which point it should be free of the PUP. Antivirus software won’t remove PUPs, but you can manually remove PUPs just like standard programs.

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