Over the past few months, you may have heard some chatter about “PUPs.” Not surprising. “PUP” is a fairly new term, but it’s something we yacht computer users should all know about.
According to TechTerms.com, PUP stands for "Potentially Unwanted Program.” The term was actually coined by the McAfee security technology company to differentiate the programs from malware or adware. But often, a PUP can act the same way as malware or adware.
The difference, says TechTerms.com, is that, “unlike malware, you consent to a PUP being installed, rather than it installing itself without your knowledge.”
That’s right—you AGREE to install the PUP on your computer when downloading free software online. It’s bundled with the program you want, buried somewhere in the download agreement. Click “Agree” and the PUP downloads to your device along with the program you were after.
What can a PUP do to your vessel computers?
Even very knowledgeable computer users can unwittingly download a PUP. Doug Greenwood of the North Tahoe Computer Coalition was generous enough to describe his experience downloading a PUP onto his computer in his June 22, 2014 Facebook post. Doug is a computer database expert who has been working in the field for over 30 years. He writes:
Take an example of something I regretted doing: downloading a "free" version of a graphics program that was rated on CNET as being excellent. I have never had any issues with CNET's download site, especially when they cite the download as being "Safe". Well not safe from "PUP's" I will guarantee that!
I found my Chrome browser was hijacked with a software program called "EasyLife App" that changed my search engine and started to show ads.
When Doug realized that he had unwittingly downloaded the program, he used another website, Malware Tips, to read about the EasyLife App and how he should expect the PUP to affect his computer.
From MalwareTips, Doug learned that EasyLife App,
'is a potentially unwanted program which will display pop-up ads, and change your browser homepage and default search engine. EasyLife App is commonly bundled with other free programs that you download off of the Internet.'
Unfortunately, some free downloads do not adequately disclose that other software will also be installed and you may find that you have installed EasyLife App without your knowledge. EasyLife App is advertised as a program that displays coupons for sites you are visiting and competitive prices when you are viewing product pages at sites like Amazon. Though this may sound like a useful service, the EasyLife App program can be intrusive and will display ads whether you want them to or not.
What can you do if you download a PUP?
Once he realized what he’d done, Doug spent over an hour cleaning out his computer system to get rid of the (ironically named) EasyLife App. He used Malware Tips’ Remove EasyLife App and search.easylifeapp.com (Removal Guide), which he also linked to his June 22 Facebook post. Read Doug’s post to see how he removed the unwanted program.
There are also plenty of YouTube videos to walk you through the removal process, which you should review with discretion.
How can you keep your yacht computers safe from PUPs and other bad stuff?
As malware, adware and now PUPs become more prevalent and aggressive, it's up to computer owners to be increasingly vigilant in protecting our devices. Even if you are a knowledgeable long-time user, you can be caught off-guard. As Doug says about his recent PUP experience, "This was really a wake up call for me. I always preach not to download free software, and I did."
But as Doug shared, if you do mistakenly download an unwanted program through a download or via a bad link as described in our post, Are Email Spoofers Invading Your Vessel Computers?, there are a few things you can do about it.
1. Identify the culprit.
You can use computer security programs such as McAfee to scan your system on a regular basis and notify you of any potential problems. The mcafee.com website includes links like this: Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs)-- How to Detect and Remove PUPs from Systems. The web page lists steps to take when a PUP is detected.
2. Don't make the problem worse.
Don't make things worse by ignoring a computer that has suddenly become sluggish or inundated with pop-up ads. Do a little research into the cause yourself or have someone check out your system. And whatever you do, don't download any free software!
3. Call in the experts.
If you don’t want to handle the problem yourself, call a trusted computer consultant or firm knowledgeable in marine computer systems. They should be able to pinpoint the problem and give you additional pointers on how to keep your system safe.
Great Circle Systems can help. Need help setting up your vessel computers or keeping them updated and healthy? Give Great Circle Systems a call. Our technology team will clean up your present system or configure a new and secure yacht computer network. Just call us at +1-530-546-3736 or click the Contact the Author button below and we'll contact you to discuss your options.
Great Circle Systems was founded by Scott Strand and Andy Levy in 1999. Scott and Andy are uniquely qualified to serve the luxury yacht industry, combining extensive software development and network system integration experience with many years of hands-on yachting experience. Over the years, Scott and Andy have assembled a team of experienced and skilled yacht engineers and network specialists. Together, the company has built an impressive array of products and services to assist in the construction and operation of vessels 30 meters and larger. These products include Triton Administrator yacht management software and the NAS3000 Internet management appliance. GCS has provided IT solutions for many of the most beautiful yachts in the world, including M/Y Cakewalk V, M/Y Lady Sheridan, M/Y Jemasa, M/Y "A" and M/Y Katara.