Viperware

Viperware This icon marks software whose installation program may install extra software you may not want.

Many software installation programs will install not just the software you want, but also extra software you neither need nor want. This page refers to an installation program as “viperware” if it the extra software slithers into your PC without telling you, or by default.

Something akin to viperware is an installation program which changes the configuration of the user’s PC and makes it hard to undo the changes: an example is a program which hijacks the user’s home page.

Something else akin to viperware is a browser installation program which makes that browser the default browser, without first asking the user.

Such trickery preys on the human tendency to blindly accept defaults when installing software. It also preys on the human tendency not to notice the unexpected.

Those who distribute viperware — and this includes the world’s major software makers — often defend their actions by claiming that they do this as a convenience to users: the real reason, of course, is that the software makers want to force more people to use their products, even if people neither want nor need them.

Viperware is bad not only because it does something the user does not want, but also because it may install software which can make a PC less reliable, or make a PC more vulnerable to security threats.

Tricks and Traps

Viperware trickery takes several forms:

To avoid installing unwanted extras it is important to go through the installation procedure very carefully, to read what each dialog box says, to select any custom (advanced) install options which may be offered, and to uncheck options which are unwanted. It may also be prudent to check afterwards to see whether unexpected extras were installed, and to uninstall extras which can be safely removed.

Viperware Examples

Here are a few examples of viperware which this author has personally encountered at some time. Note that this list is not intended to be exhaustive: instead it is intended to illustrate how pervasive the viperware problem is.

 

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