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article imageMicrosoft says the Ask toolbar is a 'high risk threat to your PC'

By James Walker     Jun 14, 2015 in Technology
Microsoft is now flagging the Ask search toolbar as malware in its Malware Protection Centre. Older versions of the once popular toolbar can prevent users from changing their default search provider and many people now view it only as an annoyance.
It is worth noting that Microsoft specifically states that the latest version of the toolbar is not considered to be unwanted software. Older versions are however because they can "restrict or limit your control over your search provider", as The Register notes.
The listing on Microsoft's Malware Protection Centre says that the Ask Toolbar creates 10 files and 10 folders on a user's computer. It explains that older versions of the toolbar attempt to revert you back to the Ask homepage whenever another program tries to reset your browser's homepage by displaying a customised, confusing prompt.
The Ask toolbar was once one of the most popular browser toolbars ever. The Register reports that the search firm now holds just 0.26 percent of the market though and the toolbar is now almost universally viewed as an aggravating annoyance.
It is now most well-known for attempting to bundle itself with every installation and update to Java. As Java is required on computers to run many programs — including older versions of Minecraft — and is a popular programming language with developers of all abilities, people who hurriedly click through installers often find themselves inadvertently installing the Ask toolbar too.
Although Microsoft is letting the latest release of the toolbar remain because it is more lenient towards letting you change your search provider and homepage back, older versions will now be deleted from systems when detected. Microsoft warns that "This software poses a high threat to your PC."
The days of browser toolbars are now very much over. They are known to often dramatically slow down webpage rendering and lead to other issues and their popularity has fallen in the face of more sophisticated alternatives such as browser extensions. There must still be a market for them though because the Ask toolbar still exists — and still tries to bundle itself with freeware software products across the Internet.
More about Microsoft, Ask, Toolbar, Search, Web
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