AVG Security Toolbar is the worst foistware I've ever seen

Summary:It's one thing to have an installer that pushes foistware onto your computer. It's another thing to have an uninstaller that doesn't properly remove and revert everything that it did. AVG is a security company that needs to learn how to act like one.

Update at 5:00PM PST - AVG responds: Plans to update its toolbar installer, uninstaller

poweriso_avg

If you've ever installed PowerISO without looking very closely at the installer, you're in for a nasty surprise, courtesy of AVG. Over on the AVG forums, a user by the name of "superasn" has filed the following complaint:

I recently installed a software (PowerISO) and without consent it installed AVG toolbar and other software on my system which has completely modified my computer without my knowledge.

My browser (Chrome) now goes to your AVG homepage and Google search has also been replaced by AVG. The same is happening in Firefox and Internet Explorer. This has caused me hours in productivity and unnecessary frustration. The same is also happening after I uninstalled your toolbar (from inside Program and features)

I did NOT want this and modifying my computer like this is totally unacceptable. Your call yourself a anti-virus company while in fact the behavior is exactly that of a mal-ware which hijacks your browser and causes problems.

What does AVG have to say for itself? One of the company's "TechBuddy Ambassadors" by the name of "_malchys_" gave the following response:

We would like to inform you that installation of AVG Security Toolbar and AVG Secure Search is optional (as you can see on this screenshot). Please contact the PowerISO company because it looks like bug in their installer. They have tools for debugging their installation process and finding the glitch. We cannot change the PowerISO installer from our side.

Please follow this guide to remove AVG Security Toolbar and AVG Secure Search from your browsers.

Do not hesitate to provide us with the feedback to our services by filling in the AVG Product Feedback Form.

I've embedded the screenshot above. The user had no idea this was being installed on his or her computer because he didn't spot the following checkbox, which was checked by default: "Improve my internet protection with AVG Security Toolbar. Set, keep and protect AVG Secure Search as my homepage and default search provider."

As my colleague Ed Bott notes, this type of software is called " foistware " (personally I would have gone with "crapware" but apparently that already refers to pre-installed software).

This is the type of software that sneaks onto users' computers because they hit the "Next" button without reading. Some would argue that this is their fault, and while I understand that point, it's still completely unacceptable to have checkboxes like this one checked by default.

I have to say that this AVG toolbar is the worst kind of foistware. Implementation aside, as the victim notes, AVG is a security company. This type of behavior is simply deplorable.

I'm therefore not surprised superasn was not satisfied with _malchys_'s answer:

You had the audacity to change my settings in the first place just because I was tricked into clicking a shady checkbox, why should I have to read a FAQ and manually revert them after? Do you have no respect for your user's time? I'm sure the programmer who wrote the program to change my settings in the first place could definitely write a uninstaller to revert them too. But you would not do that.

It's a shame that of all the unscrupulous companies who would use such ploys, an anti-virus company like AVG is doing it instead! I'm sorry but this is just too fishy.

I would still like to give you benefit of doubt that you didn't know about it, but now that you do, will you do something about it?

Again, _malchys_ replies by blaming PowerISO and asking superasn to fill out the feedback form:

Please accept our sincere apologies for these inconveniences with AVG product.

Please contact the PowerISO company regarding implementation of the AVG Security Toolbar and AVG Secure Search into their installer.

Please fill in the AVG Product Feedback Form to contact product management directly.

We are ready to help users which have difficulties removing AVG Security Toolbar and AVG Secure Search. Users can post here on AVG Forums and also contact AVG Technical Support for further information. We would welcome tips how to improve our guides to be more user friendly.

A checkbox for extra nonsense like this toolbar and changing your homepage should start unchecked. The problem is that users don't want to check such a box, so PowerISO and others like it make a point to have it checked by default.

PowerISO isn't the AVG's only partner (in crime). This toolbar is installed along with other software, including: TuneUp Utilities, SlimCleaner, SlimComputer, SlimDrivers, FixCleaner, DriverUpdate, DriverMax, Soda PDF, RadarSync's Drivers update, Soft32 Download Manager, GOM Player, as well as other applications that use Open Install's Online Installer.

While I agree that PowerISO is at least partly to blame here, I think it comes down to AVG in the end. The security company should have policies in place so that its partners' installers and uninstallers work properly.

I have contacted both AVG and PowerISO about this issue and will update you if I hear back.

Update at 5:00PM PST - AVG responds: Plans to update its toolbar installer, uninstaller

See also:

Topics: Security, Malware

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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