Goodbye, Ask!

Back in the early days of the internet we would ask Jeeves a question and lo and behold, he would answer it! The adoration of the prim and proper butler we thought of as a friend was evident – Jeeves had his own line of desk calendars, coffee mugs and earmuffs. He even had his own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade until 2005 and is an official NASCAR sponsor.

Goodbye Jeeves, Hello PUPs!

Well Jeeves ”retired” in 2006 (though he made a comeback in the UK in 2009, like all killed-off cartoon characters) and so has our love for the “Ask” toolbar. Somewhere along the line the quirky, novel browser that we had such fun posing real question to like ‘“What time is it in Timbuktu now?” or “Jeeves, what should I eat for lunch?” started serving up unwanted ads and became recognized as a PUP, or potentially unwanted program. Nowadays, it often comes bundled with software and tricks users into installing it with confoundingly-worded installers and it’s notoriously difficult to remove. Once downloaded, it overwrites the browser settings and redirects traffic for skewed search results. And now, in what could be a final blow, Microsoft officially started classifying all but the most recent version of the tool bar as unwanted programs. Their own AV measures will be programmed to automatically remove older versions of the toolbar.

Microsoft Gets Serious about PUPs

The change comes as Microsoft takes a stronger stance on non-compliant programs. Any program that makes it hard for users to change browser settings or that messes with Internet Explorer’s settings is going to feel the burn. “Ask” is now labeled by Microsoft Malware Center as a “high threat to your computer”.

Ask’s Reaction

Spokespeople for “Ask” have stated that since this categorization is referring to older manifestations of the toolbar, they would like the public to bear in mind that their current version is fine by Microsoft’s standards, for now, at least. They say further that the condemned toolbar is utilized by a mere fraction of the current “Ask” users and the warning need not scare everyone.

Our advice? Stick with Google or even Bing if you can stomach it, and make sure you have Unchecky set up to deal with unwanted programs that crop up.

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