July 10, 2013, 5:54 PM — It happened because I wasn’t paying attention. Java wanted to update itself on my laptop (yet again) while I was in the middle of sixteen other things, so I just clicked Next-Next-Next and got on to better things. Then I had one of those oh-no-second realizations. Had I just missed something on that last screen, something selected by default to install that I most certainly did not want?
Yes, there was – the dreaded Ask Toolbar. #&@! me.
Turns out I’m not the only luckless user who’s had this happen to him. ZDnet’s Ed Bott goes into great detail about how Ask.com tries to sneak its toolbar onto users’ systems and what it does once it’s on there, like pollute your search results with dicey ads and hijack your default search engine. He calls this “foistware” (I prefer “sneakware” myself).
Naturally the first thing I tried to do was uninstall the toolbar. So I went to Windows Control Panel and followed the usual uninstall procedure, but to no avail. It wouldn’t budge. I got an error message telling me a key file was missing and could not be found.
The Ask toolbar had lodged itself into the top of Chrome like a tick and would not let go. It seems this is a deliberate strategy to make it harder for savvy users to dump this worthless piece of offal.
Ask.com is part of the massive family of Internet properties owned by IAC – the kind of family you end up with when you breed the guys from Duck Dynasty with a colony of ferrets. Security researcher Ben Edelman has a book’s worth of material on IAC and its slimy practices over the years.
Among IAC’s many properties is Dictionary.com, which holds the record for installing the most tracking cookies at a single go – more than 200, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And of course, Dictionary.com is part of the Ask Toolbar.