Home Articles The Upcoming PUA/PUP Protection Features of Windows 10

The Upcoming PUA/PUP Protection Features of Windows 10

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The next major version of the Windows 10 operating system will include a new security options. Read on to know more…

Recently, Microsoft revealed that the next major version of the Windows 10 operating system will include a new security option that will allow users to enable a Windows Defender secret feature that can detect and block the installation of known PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications). The term PUA, also known as PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program), is one of the lesser-known terms in the cyber-security jargon.

About PUA
A Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) or Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA) is software that a user may perceive as unwanted. It is used as a subjective tagging criterion by security and parental control products. Such software may use an implementation that can compromise privacy or weaken the computer’s security. Companies often bundle a wanted program download with a wrapper application and may offer to install an unwanted application, and in some cases without providing a clear opt-out method.

The term PUA refers to software that has been installed on a computer by tricking the user — hence the term of “potentially unwanted.” This includes tactics like bundling an unwanted app with the installer of a legitimate program, or by using silent installs to bypassing user consent altogether. The category of PUA usually includes apps that show intrusive ads, apps that track users and sell their data to advertisers, apps that change browser settings, install root certificates, or disable security controls.

Antivirus companies define the software bundled as potentially unwanted programs which can include software that displays intrusive advertising (adware), or tracks the user’s Internet usage to sell information to advertisers (spyware), injects its own advertising into web pages that a user looks at, or uses premium SMS services to rack up charges for the user. The practice is widely considered unethical because it violates the security interests of users without their informed consent.

Additional Security Features
Starting with the Windows 10 May 2020 update, which is set to roll out later this month, Microsoft said it added an option in the Windows 10 settings panel that can let users block the installation of known PUA threats.

This capability has been present in Defender/Windows for years, but it could only be enabled via group policies, and not via the Windows user interface. Going forward, this can be done by going to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > App & browser control > Reputation-based protection settings.

The feature is turned off by default, so users will have to manually enable it once they update to Windows 10 May 2020 (v2004).

Once enabled, the feature has two settings. Microsoft recommends that users enable both.

• Block downloads looks for PUA as it’s being downloaded, but note that it only works with the new Microsoft Edge browser.
• Block apps will detect PUA that you’ve already downloaded or installed, so if you’re using a different browser Windows Security can still detect PUA after you’ve downloaded it.

In March 2020, Microsoft also added a similar feature to its Edge browser (the Chromium-based version), which can also detect and block PUA downloads as they happen. This feature is found at edge://settings/privacy

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