AVG Secure Search Security Toolbar is malware, avoid it more than the plague


I’ve been reviewing software since dotTech was born back in October 2008. By now, over four years on, I have become very good at avoiding crapware that comes bundled with many programs, notably toolbars; I can only remember one time in the past few years when I have accidentally installed crapware.

A few weeks back I ran across avast Browser Cleanup, a program that claims to be able to remove browser toolbars and unnecessary add-ons. The features of avast Browser Cleanup looked interesting so I wanted to test the program to see if it was worth posting about on dotTech. As such, I needed to have some toolbars installed on my computer (because, after all, I can’t know if avast Browser Cleanup actually works if I have no toolbars to test it on). So I went out and installed AVG Secure Search Security Toolbar, Ask Toolbar, and Bing Bar (directly from their respective websites) and then tried to remove them with avast Browser Cleanup. To my delight, avast Browser Cleanup was able to remove all three toolbars from my browsers. Or so I thought.

I’m one of those people who like to keep an eye on Windows Task Manager to see what processes are running on my computer. If I ever see a process unknown to me, I investigate to ensure it is legitimate. A few days after removing AVG Secure Search Security Toolbar, Ask Toolbar, and Bing Bar from my computer with avast Browser Cleanup, I noticed a process ‘vprot.exe’ was running. Never having seen it before, I started looking into it; my first step was right-clicking on vprot.exe and opening the file’s location. To my surprise, vprot.exe lead me to C:\Program Files\AVG Secure Search which contained AVG Secure Search Security Toolbar, a toolbar I thought I had already removed.

At this point I was raging at avast Browser Cleanup, thinking the program didn’t properly remove AVG Secure Search Toolbar. What I didn’t know at the time is avast Browser Cleanup did its job just fine; the problem was (is) AVG Secure Search Toolbar keeps coming back after being uninstalled/removed/deleted.

When I discovered AVG Secure Search Toolbar was still installed on my computer, I went to Add/Remove Programs to uninstall it. The only problem? AVG Secure Search Toolbar’s uninstaller didn’t work. I even tried running ‘Uninstall.exe’ directly from C:\Program Files\AVG Secure Search, but still no luck. With a seemingly broken uninstaller, I decided to simply delete C:\Program Files\AVG Secure Search thinking that would be the end of it.

A few days passed and out of the blue I was prompted by Firefox that AVG Secure Search Toolbar wanted to install in my browser. I thought to myself: “WTF, didn’t I just delete this a few days ago?” I, of course, blocked AVG Secure Search Toolbar from installing in Firefox and then went to check C:\Program Files\AVG Secure Search to see what is up. To my surprise (and horror), AVG Secure Search Toolbar was back as if I never deleted it! At the same time, I noticed AVG Secure Search Toolbar was also residing in C:\ProgramData\AVG Secure Search, so I thought to myself: “Maybe that is why AVG Secure Search Toolbar came back — I didn’t delete the ProgramData folder last time and only deleted the Program Files folder“.

Upon seeing the return of AVG Secure Search Toolbar, I once again tried to uninstall it and once again ran into the same issue — broken uninstaller. So I decided to again manually delete AVG Secure Search Toolbar, except this time I made sure to delete both C:\ProgramData\AVG Secure Search and C:\Program Files\AVG Secure Search. I even used Eraser to securely erase them, just for the heck of it.

For the moment it appeared that AVG Secure Search Toolbar was gone. However, guess what happened the next day? I found AVG Secure Search Toolbar was back!

When seeing this piece of shit was back (again), I repeated the same procedures of trying to uninstall it but upon fail due to broken uninstaller, I decided to pull out the big guns. I used Comodo Programs Manager to force uninstall AVG Secure Search Toolbar and delete all related files, folders, and registry entries. Again, for the time being, it appeared that I got rid of AVG Secure Search Toolbar. But then a few hours later, I noticed it was back. Again.

Now, at this point, I was frustrated beyond belief. I decided I’d try to remove AVG Secure Search Toolbar one last time to see if I was successful. So I went to Google to see if anyone had tips on how to remove it. I found out that AVG Technologies provides an official uninstaller/remover for AVG Secure Search Toolbar. Upon seeing this uninstaller, I thought to myself: “Wow, this must be it. This must be how to remove this bloody crapware.” Oh how I wish I was right.

After downloading AVG Secure Search Toolbar’s official uninstaller, I ran it and it told me it had successfully removed AVG Secure Search Toolbar from my browsers and computer; it even reset my browser homepages to default. Cool. Or not — the next day AVG Secure Search Toolbar returned, yet again.

That, as I just mentioned, was my last attempt to try to remove AVG Secure Search Toolbar. My computer is due for a reformat anyway, so I figured I’ll get rid of AVG Secure Search Toolbar vis-a-vis the reformat I’m going to do; I wasn’t about to go waste more time trying to remove this crap. However, then I had an idea. What if the reason AVG Secure Search Toolbar keeps coming back is if its installation was (is) corrupted? That would also explain the broken uninstaller. Of course, this was a shaky theory (because a broken program doesn’t continually reinstall itself) but it was worth a shot. So I downloaded AVG Secure Search Toolbar’s installer from AVG’s website and reinstalled AVG Secure Search Toolbar. Then I reran the official AVG Secure Search Toolbar uninstaller. Anyone want to guess what happened next? Yep, AVG Secure Search Toolbar’s official uninstaller seemingly removed AVG Secure Search Toolbar… only for AVG Secure Search Toolbar to return after a few hours.

I am currently typing this article with AVG Secure Search Toolbar still on my computer (although I have it blocked from my browsers). I have tried everything I can think of to get rid of this crap but it keeps coming back, just like malware. What makes matters worse is the fact that AVG Secure Search Toolbar is not be some rogue developer; it is by AVG Technologies, a company that makes anti-virus and other security software (AVG AntiVirus Free, AVG AntiVirus, AVG Internet Security, AVG Premium Security, etc.) used by millions upon millions of people around the world. Yet their toolbar behaves nothing better than malware. In fact, I had an easier time removing Ask Toolbar — a toolbar infamous as the worst of the worst crapware — than AVG Secure Search Toolbar.

As luck may have it, I’ve never been an AVG user to protect my computer, data, and files; for one reason or another, I’ve always gone with AVG’s competitors, notably Avira and Avast. Now I’m glad I’ve never used AVG. If they have a malware-like toolbar, I can’t see how their anti-virus¬† — and releated programs — will be any better. And, based off my experience with AVG Secure Search Toolbar, I’d recommend everyone using AVG security software to switch as soon as possible. It just isn’t worth it.

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