When it comes to individual software programs spreading potentially unwanted programs (PUP), it is Adobe Flash and Oracle's Java that need to be mentioned in this regard in particular due to the immense reach both products have.
Adobe's been spreading McAfee Security Scan Plus with Flash downloads while Oracle had an agreement with Ask to spread the company's toolbar to user systems.
The latter appears a thing of the past though as the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Oracle will soon replace the Ask Toolbar offer included in new Java installations and upgrades with Yahoo offers.
Yahoo's Chief Executive Marissa Mayer announced the deal on the company's shareholder conference according to the magazine.
Users who install Java anew or run upgrades on their systems will be "prompted to make Yahoo their browser's default search engine and home page".
The offer is opt-out which means that any user not paying attention to the installation dialog will end up with Yahoo being installed as the homepage and search engine in browsers installed on the system.
Java's installer checks for installed browsers and modifies the prompt accordingly. For instance, if you only have Internet Explorer installed only Microsoft's browser will be listed while Chrome may be listed as well if it is installed on the machine.
It appears that Firefox is exempt from the offer. While it is not clear why that is the case, the most likely explanation is that Yahoo has a deal in place with Mozilla already that deploys Yahoo Search on US Firefox installations as the default search engine.
The offer appears to be only integrated in the online installer that Oracle pushes out by default. Offline installers, which you find listed on this page on the Java website, appear clean at this point in time. It is unclear if the offer is limited geographically, for instance US-only, or worldwide.
Oracle did not comment on the deal and why it switched from offering the Ask Toolbar to Java downloaders to Yahoo's offer instead. While it may be tempting to assume that this has something to do with Microsoft classifying the Ask Toolbar as a threat, it could very well have other reasons, for instance that Yahoo's offer was better financially or that the constant spreading of Ask's Toolbar has saturated the market and lowered Oracle's income in the process.
End users who install Java on their computer systems are as affected as before by the third-party offer. While it will "only" replace homepage, search engine and tab page in the browser and not install add-ons on top of that, it is still highly problematic due to the opt-in nature of the offer and the time it takes to undo those changes if unwanted.Advertisement