Microsoft has started classifying most versions of the Ask Toolbar as unwanted software and has updated its malware programs to automatically remove them.
The move drew applause from security and support professionals because the Ask Toolbar has long been a source of performance problems that can sometimes be hard to correct. Making the toolbar more vexing is its ability to sneak its way on to computers when end users aren't paying attention. Oracle's Java software framework, for instance, has long installed it automatically unless users remember to uncheck a hard-to-see box during updates. Even after unchecking the box during one update, the box would be checked during subsequent updates, requiring end users to remain vigilant each time they installed frequent security fixes for Java.
In a recent addition to Microsoft's Malware Protection Center, the company said all but the most recent version of the Ask Toolbar will be classified as unwanted software. As a result, Windows Defender, Microsoft Security Essentials, and Microsoft Security Scanner will automatically remove it when detected.