Windows 10

PUA / PUP-blocking option to update to Windows 10 May 2020.

The next major version of the Windows 10 operating system will include a new protection feature that will allow users to detect and prevent the installation of known PUAs (possibly unwanted applications), Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

One of the lesser-known terms in the cyber-security jargon is the term PUA, also known as PUP (potentially unwanted programme).

It refers to software that was installed on a device by tricking the user — hence the term “potentially unwanted.” This involves techniques such as bundling an unwanted app with a legitimate program’s installer, or using silent installs to fully circumvent user consent.

The PUA category typically involves apps displaying misleading ads, apps monitoring users and selling their data to advertisers, apps modifying browser settings, installing root certificates, or disabling security control.

Starting with the Windows 10 May 2020 update, which is scheduled to roll out later this month, Microsoft said it added an option to the Windows 10 settings panel that may allow users to block the installation of known threats to PUA.

This capability has been in Defender / Windows for years, but it could only be enabled through group policies, and not through the Windows user interface. Going forward, this can be done by going to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Control of the app & browser > Protection settings based on reputations.

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By default the feature is turned off, so users will have to enable it manually once they update to Windows 10 May 2020 (v2004).

win10-pua-protection

If allowed, there are two settings to the app. Microsoft is suggesting that users require both.

  • Block updates are looking for PUA as it is being downloaded, but remember that it only works with the new browser on Microsoft Edge.
  • Block apps can detect PUA that has already been downloaded or enabled, but if you are using a specific Windows Security browser, you can still detect PUA after installing it.

Microsoft has introduced a similar functionality to its Edge browser (the Chromium-based version) in March 2020 which can also detect and block downloads of PUA as they occur.

This feature can be found under edge:/settings / privacy

edge-security-pua-setup

 

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