by Thomas Salomon, head of AVAST Software ‘s German Software Development team
In one of our previous posts we wrote about browser extensions and their possibly unwanted effects on our customers' computers. Browser toolbars have been around for years, however, in the last couple of months they became a huge mess. Unfortunately, lots of free software comes with more or less unwanted add-ons or browser toolbars.
These are quite annoying because they may:
Change your homepage and your search engine without your permission or awareness
Track your browsing activities and searches
Display annoying ads and manipulate search results
Take up a lot of (vertical) space inside the browser
Slow down your browser and degrade your browsing experience
Fight against each other and make normal add-on handling difficult or impossible
Become difficult or even impossible for the average user to fully uninstall
Maybe you have already become a victim of unwanted browser toolbars. avast! Browser Cleanup was developed exactly for this reason; to help our customers identify and get rid of unwanted browser toolbars and add-ons. It is integrated in avast! 2014 and is also available as a stand-alone product on various download portals for use by friends without installed avast! Antivirus. Now, about 7 months after the initial release of avast! Browser Cleanup together with avast! Antivirus 8, it’s time for a review of the results.
Some database statistics after 7 months of use
Back in March, I predicted that we would end up with about 100,000 different extensions. I was wrong - totally and absolutely wrong! Reality shows that I underestimated the problem by several tens of magnitude. Seven months after the release of avast! Browser Cleanup, our database shows:
More than 3,300,000 different browser extensions for the three main browsers
On average almost 20,000 new add-ons per day
That 95% of all new add-ons are toolbars and associated libraries
Crowdsourced toolbar rating
As we can see in the following diagram, the vast majority (88%) of all our users have given toolbars and add-ons a bad or very bad rating. Only a small minority, 0.9%, has a very good rating.
A lot of toolbars are available in different variants. These variations affect mostly the name. This is the top list of name variants we have seen as of today:
The following is the top 15 list of most detected toolbars with a bad user rating. A lot of AVAST users have opted to remove them:
If you have toolbars in your internet browsers or have noticed strange ads displayed as an overlay, check your browsers using avast! Browser Cleanup. The tool is available in any avast! Antivirus product or you can download the standalone version here.
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