A family member recently had the experience of Microsoft Internet Explorer not working at all. I had to check it out because I'd never heard of this. Sure enough, when I launched the program I got nothing but a big white screen. Hmmm... I noticed some unusual icons on her desktop for this or that browser, some of which I'd never heard of. Time to enter her Windows 7 Control Panel to investigate.
There, I found numerous applications that I knew she had not installed, including the offending alien Web browsers. So, I started uninstalling them after using a known good browser (Mozilla Firefox) to Google the applications to see what they are. The investigation revealed that these applications and unknown Web browsers had been installed by free software that she and her other family members had downloaded from the Internet, mostly games, of course.
Harsh statement alert—It's your fault. Usually, the viruses, malware and other unwanted software enter your computer because you invited them in willingly by clicking "I agree to the terms of the software license," without reading those terms. The most notorious of these are the phony antivirus programs that, once installed, warn you that viruses might be lurking in your computer, and if you register this program for only $35 (or whatever the price is these days), we will "fix" your computer, which usually never had a virus in the first place. Lies? Dishonesty? Thievery? Yes, but you allowed it to happen to you. Read those license agreements.
I like free software too, but I read the license agreements before clicking "I agree." A certain computer magazine frequently lists free software to try with reviews telling you why you should. I started to try one the other day, but stopped short because of the terms in the license agreement. I thought about not naming the software company here, but changed my mind. I want to give the company credit for doing a marvelous job of warning users that they should read the terms. The warning came in the form of a flashing red message: "IMPORTANT—READ THE TERMS FIRST" or words to that effect.