Millions of internet users have once had the joy of having toolbar installed, usually against their will. Czech antivirus company Avast recently reported that it has removed 650 million toolbars and other extensions that change browser settings in the last two years.
The antivirus vendor removed more than 60 million different toolbars and other browser extensions. Further investigation shows that toolbars from Mindspark, Conduit and Ask.com were removed respectively 18 million, 14 million and 12 million times. Also toolbars from Delta Search, FastStart, DealPly and Yontoo were found and deleted from millions of computers.
Once active, toolbars can change the startpage and search engine, monitor surfing behaviour and search queries, show advertisements and manipulate search results, take browser interface space, make browsing slower and are often hard to remove. Although toolbars can be useful, Avast users only marked 4% of all toolbars as useful. The rest received a negative review.
According to Deborah Salmi of Avast most toolbars are installed through free software. Usually users can opt to not install the toolbar but often the installation of the toolbar is selected by default. Because users don’t properly read the installation screens the toolbars often get installed nevertheless, according to Salmi. She advizes users to thoroughly read all screens and don’t just click ‘next’ or ‘OK’.