Microsoft this week announced that it has integrated some new tricks into Windows Defender to help prevent users from being bullied to buy upgraded versions of free software. According to Microsoft, there has been a big uptick in free versions of programs that claim to scan a user's computer and find a litany of errors. The software then uses coercive messaging to scare users into buying upgrades to license premium versions of the software to fix the errors.
Microsoft notes that the premium version of these programs are often called cleaner or optimizer applications and claim to fix the issues that the free version found. Microsoft wrote, "We find this practice problematic because it can pressure customers into making unnecessary purchase decisions."
To help protect Windows users from this sort of software, Microsoft is updating the evaluation criteria to specify that programs can't use alarming or coercive messaging to pressure consumers into making a purchase or completing other actions. This evaluation activity will determine what software is identified as malware and unwanted software. Moving forward, Microsoft says that any software that displays a coercive message will be deemed unwanted, detected, and removed from the PC.
Microsoft's updated evaluation criteria now includes the following trigger points:
- Reports errors in an exaggerated or alarming manner about the user’s system and requires the user to pay for fixing the errors or issues monetarily or by performing other actions such as taking a survey, downloading a file, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
- Suggests that no other actions will correct the reported errors or issues
- Requires the user to act within a limited period of time to get the purported issue resolved
This new criteria will go into effect starting on March 1, 2018, and the software giant notes that software can be validated for detection using the Windows Defender Security Intelligence Portal. Microsoft is also asking users to submit programs that exhibit coercive messages and other unwanted behaviors.