Windows 10 users get protection against PUAs

Windows 10 users who upgrade to v2004 will finally be able to switch on a longstanding Windows Defender feature that protects users against potentially unwanted applications (PUAs).

Windows protection PUAs

What are PUAs?

Also called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), PUAs are applications that often cannot be outright classified as malware, but still violate users’ security and privacy interests.

Some examples of PUAs:

  • Adware and ad-injectors (software that pushes ads onto users without their permission)
  • Software that tracks how users browse the internet (the goal is to sell that information to advertisers)
  • Software that pushes premium (paid) services on users and/or saddles them with such services
  • Software that installs a root certificate/a proxy server on a user’s device to monitor web traffic passing through it
  • Browser hijacking software (e.g., software that modifies users’ browser homepage and search page, steals cookies and hijacks their connections, and performs actions without their knowledge/consent), etc.

Reputation-based Windows protection against PUAs

Windows 10 v2004 (May 2020 Update), which is expected to be available for download later this month, will allow users to block the download and/or opening of potentially unwanted apps by simply switching on a control, which is available via the Windows Start menu:

Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > App & browser control > Reputation-based protection settings

The Block downloads option will work only for the Microsoft Edge browser, but Block apps will detect already downloaded and installed PUAs, no matter which browser the user uses.

The ability to block PUA downloads was already available to Edge users.

Also, the Windows Defender Antivirus has been able to detect and block PUAs for a while now, but only enterprise admins could enable the protection through Microsoft Intune, Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, Group Policy, or via PowerShell cmdlets.

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Windows 10 users get protection against PUAs