Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Browser Toolbars - More Than a Nuisance

The following applies generally to ALL tool bars, no matter how well known the name of the company is where the toolbar originates from. I chose the Yahoo! toolbar only because it is so pervasive and comes in many disguises.

Over and over again I find the nasty (at least!) Yahoo! Toolbar on customer's computers. When I ask the rhetorical question "Who installed that?" mostly I get sort of a blank stare and the reply "I have no idea".

And I trust that the customer really has no idea. But then, how did it happen? Two possibilities:

1st possibility:
You installed a new program or an update to a program you have been using for quite some time. These install processes usually ask a lot of tedious questions and we have gotten used to "clicking through", that is to quickly click on the button for the positive, confirming choice. We want to get done with this, don't we?

This "clicking though" is the culprit. Right in the middle of all these windows is one window that may look similar to this example:

As you can see the example is from an installation of PDF-Creator. And it asks us for permission to install the "pdfforge Toolbar". Only the text by the second preselected check box gives us a hint as to what toolbar this really is. "Set Yahoo! as my ..." gives it away, it's my friend the Yahoo! toolbar in one of it's many disguises!
Do you know a rat when you smell a rat?

This is a typical example of how we get tricked everywhere and all the time to do the wrong thing. We have "trained" ourselves to click through and the people out there know it and use it to our detriment - if we let them.

Take the time to really read and understand what these little windows say and act accordingly. The correct action here would be to uncheck the two check boxes by "I agree..." and "Set Yahoo!...". Simple enough one would think...

2nd possibility:

Just a few minutes ago I did some researching for a specific issue in the Thunderbird email program that many of my customers and I myself use. In a legitimate related article in the Thunderbird support materials was a link to Yahoo! Help. I followed that link and ended up with this (partial) window:

Do you really understand what Yahoo! offers here? We have to sort of translate the words "...Firefox for Yahoo!". Yahoo! does not have any real updates to Firefox; we get those only from Mozilla.

Yahoo! has a slightly modified version of Firefox that locks you into some Yahoo! services, especially their search engine. Once you have the Yahoo! version installed there is no way to get rid of the "Yahoo! Toolbar" and their "search enhancements"  besides re-installing Firefox from a clean installer.

Do you know a rat when you smell a rat? 

Here Yahoo! takes advantage of the fact that most people don't know enough about their computer and seemingly are afraid to ask before they click on stuff like this.

Why is all this important you ask?
Here you have it directly from the horses mouth:
Yahoo! Toolbar "Causes excessive CPU usage" Toolbar "May cause redirected searches, failed keyword searches and/or the "File not found" error..." 
If you want it more technical see Mozilla's own list of problematic extensions for more similar goodies.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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