Starting March 1st 2018, Windows Defender and other Microsoft products will begin to remove programs that display coercive behavior designed to pressure a user into purchasing their software. This includes registry cleaners and system optimizers that offer free scans, detect issues with alarming messages, and then require the user to purchase the product before fixing anything.

System Optimizer Program
System Optimizer Program

To prepare for this change, Microsoft has updated their software evaluation criteria to include behaviors that will no longer be acceptable.

Unwanted behaviors: coercive messaging

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

This is a very important step, as these types of products have long been a problem, especially to users who may not be experienced with computers. With alarming messages and the use of colors that denote threats, users are often scared into purchasing the program to only find that they didn't have a problem in the first place.

To make matters worse, purveyors of system optimizers and registry cleaners often release the same program under many different names. This allows them to continue pushing their product on unsuspecting consumers even when their older programs have been fully detected by antivirus vendors.

By issuing these new criteria, companies will be either forced to comply or have their software removed. Companies who develop these types of programs can submit their software to Microsoft for validation using the Windows Defender Security Intelligence portal. Microsoft will then  evaluate the program and determine if the program will be detected and removed on March 1st.

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