IObit’s free defragging tool Smart Defrag is not a bad program. It can help to make your PC run faster and more smoothly, and it’s broadly well-behaved. But like a kid who’s easily led astray, Smart Defrag has a habit of bringing unwanted friends home – and these friends change depending on the day of the week.
Last Thursday afternoon, I ran Smart Defrag’s installer to see what lurked within. It was positively polite compared with the trail of Yahoo-spewing, browser hijacking horrors I’ve featured lately. OK, so it contained a triple whammy of PUPs – IObit Advanced SystemCare (an entirely separate program from Smart Defrag), password manager Dashlane, and an ebook – but none was pre-ticked, so they were easy to skip. Then Friday dawned and I downloaded the installer again, intending to take a few screenshots. And wait, what have we here? Pre-ticked boxes for the Chromium browser and a Yahoo search toolbar (see screenshot)? Oh, IObit.
IObit Smart Defrag bundles Yahoo search junk, but it wasn’t there yesterday
Gloomy with disappointment (and disgruntlement, since it meant I had to rewrite this page), I unticked the offending boxes. The first box (‘Install Search Manager extension’) sounds dodgy, but the second (‘I agree to install the above’) sounds important enough to fool many users into waving a browser hijacker into their hard drives.
I managed to install Smart Defrag without the Yahoo-powered Chromium and Search Manager PUPs, but I’d not got away junk-free. Malwarebytes AdwCleaner found an Advanced SystemCare folder in my AppData directory. IObit hadn’t forcibly installed Advanced SystemCare, but it was laying the ground for it, and that’s not acceptable.
In the original version of this column I tried to stick up for IObit, which is currently at odds with Malwarebytes over the fact that AdwCleaner flags up its additional folders. But after Friday morning’s toolbar encounter, IObit has lost my sympathy. IObit would argue that this stuff isn’t malware, but people who find their browsers hijacked don’t care about the distinction between adware and malware. Adware is scary and can be hard to remove – there is no excuse for it.