A post on Microsoft's Malware Protection Centre, last updated on June 11, says older versions of the "unwanted software" pose "a high threat to your PC" because they can restrict or limit your control over your search provider, and can prevent you from disabling or changing your search provider.
The toolbars are now detected and removed by Microsoft's free security software:- Windows Defender for Windows 8.1
- Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
- Microsoft Safety Scanner.
The newest version of the Ask search app is not considered by Microsoft to be malware, so anyone who wants to keep the Ask toolbar can install that version.
The Ask toolbars may show up unexpectedly because they're integrated into the download of Java – a popular web programming language required to view some content on the web. You may have downloaded Java in order to access that content, and if you weren't paying attention, you may have unwittingly agreed to install the Ask toolbars:
- The Ask Shopping toolbar, which offers "enhanced shopping search results, links to popular shopping sites and/or content such as coupons, special offers and the latest deals from many merchants."
Microsoft announced in 2014 that it would start considering programs malware if they:- Prevent or limit users' control over their browser search settings.
- Bypass built-in browser features that ask user's consent before enabling browser add-ons.
The company says that as of June 1, it has started detecting programs that do those things.