Antivirus Programs

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This is a warning got from one of my newsletters--All tested free Antivirus programs come with toolbars or PUPs of some sort – except Bitdefender Free. A lot of them have a “rebranded” Ask toolbar that generates considerable pay per install (PPI) revenues while they’re labeled as part of the vendors own security solution. Some disclose they use Ask (for example Avira), others like AVG go as far as adding pops with coupon deals.

Antivirus programs are supposed to protect your computer from viruses, yet many of them give you a questionable program during installation, without clear disclosure. Below is the list of 8 free antivirus programs and the type of PUPs they give you during installation at the time of posting. Please note that we only included full antivirus suites, not scanner-only products.

pro-icon Bitdefender Free: as mentioned before, Bitdefender Free is one of the only clean antivirus vendors that does not come with any PUPs.

contra-icon Comodo AV Free: changes home page and search engine provider to Yahoo during the installation process, unless the user unchecks the box.


contra-icon Avast Free: offers Dropbox during installation by default, unless you uncheck the box. No toolbars are installed.


contra-icon Panda AV free: installs Panda Security toolbar, yahoo search takeover and MyStart (powered by Yahoo) home page takeover. No product rebrands, at least the installer is clear that both are Yahoo products.


contra-icon AdAware free: installs WebCompanion by default unless user unchecks the box. Also installs Bing Homepage takeover and Bing search takeover by default, unless opted out. Discloses that AdAware offers these programs to keep the software free.


contra-icon Avira free: offers Dropbox after installation. Takes over search with Avira Safe Search, which is a a white-labeled version of the Ask toolbar. Avira does disclose that it partners with Ask, and states that it “chose to be our partner in bringing you the SearchFree Toolbar because is one of many vendors whose products offer functionality which we believe our users will value”.


contra-icon ZoneAlarm free AV + Firewall: with Custom Install: Zonealarm homepage and search takeover.This is a rebranded Ask toolbar, which is not mentioned on ZoneAlarm’s website.


contra-icon AVG free: installs Web Tuneup, including AVG SafeGuard. Sets AVG Secure Search as homepage, new tab page and defaults search engine. Toolbar is Ask powered, although this is not explicitly stated. Also offers AVG Rewards, which displays popup advertisements with coupons and deals.


Popular ways for free Antivirus programs to make money with PUPs

Looking at the above screenshots, we can see that the antivirus vendors have a few popular methods to make money with PUPs:

  • Search Engine Takeover: you now set your default search engine to the software vendor’s choice, there’s big money to make there. Just look at this company called Google.
  • Ask Toolbar: do a quick search on Google for the Ask toolbar, and you’ll learn quickly why the first results page is full of “How to remove the Ask toolbar” and “How to get rid of the Ask toolbar”.
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Posted 5 years ago

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david, Champion

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You just have to know there is no such thing as a free lunch. The main thing is knowing what the price is before you pay it. :-) I use AVG on our non linux computers and just hit the decline. I' ve had no problems.

Bitdefender Free was my first choice but there was no way to tell it when to do updates or change any settings, and it said it's virus scanning was cloud based. Anything claiming to use the cloud doesn't get run on our computers.

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