I’m not sure anybody has ever installed the Ask Toolbar on purpose. But plenty of people have probably installed the browser add-on accidentally, since the installer is bundled with the installer for Java.
Don’t want a toolbar that changes your default search provider, takes up screen space, and can be terribly difficult to uninstall? Neither does Microsoft: the company has marked the Ask Toolbar as malware.
Update: It turns out Microsoft only considers older versions of the Ask Toolbar to be malware. The company has updated its website to reflect that the latest version of the toolbar is OK.
That means Windows security software will automatically detect and remove the toolbar if it’s found on your computer. All you need is Windows Security Essentials and the latest anti-malware definitions for Windows 7 or Windows Defender for Windows 8 or later.
The move comes a few weeks after Microsoft announced plans to protect users from software with “browser search protection functionality,” which is another way of saying apps or tools that hijack the search features of your web browser or other apps.
We may see other apps of this type marked as malware in the future, but Ask Toolbar has long been one of the most egregious (and ubiquitous) examples.