Driver Updaters: Digital Snake Oil, Part 2

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Apr 25, 2013
A word on Driver Updaters.

You may recall that we recently blogged about our change of stance in regards to the PUP classifications of “Registry Cleaners”. This blog post is a continuation of our efforts as we do not plan on simply stopping there.

Scammers often build scenarios that are predicated on the same, or similar themes. Basically, you take a scam that works, in this case the bogus registry scanner, put a dress and some lipstick on it and extend the lifespan of the scam.

With this technique, unscrupulous software manufacturers can diversify their offerings and increase their chances of having new victims to bilk money from. A prospective mark who is familiar with one scam and would therefore avoid it, may fall victim to a variation on the theme.

The scam only needs to be different enough for weary users to fail in recognizing it for what it is.

Having built a successful money printing machine, based on registry scanner snake oil, how do they diversify? Driver Updaters!

You build an application that scans the system, generates a report on the drivers installed on the computer, and recommends updating the drivers, whether needed or not.

Who makes this software?

There are many software companies all over the world who make Driver Updaters. Not all of them are included in our PUP classification.

We will discuss why some get added to our PUP list later in this blog post, but for now, let’s look at what a driver updater is exactly in greater depth.

What is a Driver?

A driver, also known as a device driver is a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to a computer. The driver effectively allows your computer to talk to the corresponding hardware component and function properly. If you have a sound card, you have a sound card driver. The same applies for all the components in your personal computer.

Where are drivers stored on my computer?

There isn’t a centralized location where you drivers are kept.

Some are “native” and are included as part of Windows. Others come with hardware and must be installed manually from a disk.

Some manufacturers include all of the pertinent drivers for a system in a specific folder. Others store them in a hidden partition on the hard drive, only to be used as part of a system restore.

Once installed, the many files that make a driver can be several places on your hard drive. This lack of standardization can make installing and updating drivers challenging.

When were drivers added to Windows?

Since day one. Windows operating systems have always required them to make the myriad of peripherals that can be connected to personal computers function properly. From printers to sound cards, all these devices need drivers to work.

So how does that make driver updater programs bad?

Everything would seem to indicate that updating drivers should be a good thing, and there are several reputable driver updater programs in existence. We agree that there are edge cases where updating a driver would be beneficial. However the vast majority of systems do not require driver updates to function properly.

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