Windows Defender will soon set its sights on coercive 'cleaner' software

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Best Microsoft Surface Book Accessories of 2017 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Starting in March, Windows Defender will begin detecting and removing "cleaner" and "optimizer" applications that use coercive messages to scare people into upgrading to their paid versions. The programs in question typically offer to scan and discover problems with their free version, then ask users to pay to fix any problems that they purport to find, often with messages intended to scare.

The move comes in response to a rise in the number of these programs, Microsoft says in a new blog post (opens in new tab). The company has updated its evaluation criteria to include the following:

  • Programs must not display alarming or coercive messages or misleading content to pressure you into paying for additional services or performing superfluous actions.
  • Software that coerces users may display the following characteristics, among others:
  • 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

Microsoft says that it began requiring cleaner and optimizer programs to provide detailed reports on what they claim needs to be fixed, starting in February of 2016. The goal, Microsoft says, is to prevent such programs from simply stating that there are a number of errors without giving customers information about what's alleged to be wrong.

Windows Defender will begin classifying these programs as "unwanted software" and removing them starting on March 1.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Excellent
  • such as the Windows 10 upgrade reminder?
  • Wasn't that free? 😋
  • Yes, the deceptive nag screen was technically "free"......
  • Good. Those things are garbage and serve only to alarm people unnecessarily. Like the news media yelling "Russia!" every time Trump does anything.
  • That kind of stuff is only white noise to me now. And I'm talking about both these programs and the "Russia! Russia" crazies.
  •   I guess you don't believe global warming, the tax cuts are corporate welfare in favor the rich increase the deficit. I guess you think the DACA children are a security threat. Did you know that the russian meddling is the greatest threat since organize crime.  
  • This is nice, but is this for apps installed through the store or for win32 apps? I use "unchecky" on my folks pc's and it has stopped a lot of those garbage games from installing garbage scanners on their systems. I'd really like MS to disallow bundled software in installers.
  • > garbage games from installing garbage scanners on their systems
    Are these win32 games or games from the store? Didn't know a uwp can perform bundle installations...
  • As it should. WD should be the defense for those who can't tell real threats from scams.
  • Good, Microsoft. Do what you should a decade ago.
  • Long overdue, if they hadn't let them linger so long there wouldn't be so many. I guess a few years late is better than never. 
  • In a word: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious