New Microsoft Edge gets Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA) protection

The latest version of Microsoft's upcoming Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser includes options to enable protection against Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs).

The feature blocks downloads of software programs that Microsoft Defender SmartScreen identified as potentially problematic.

Microsoft introduced a new protective feature in Windows Defender in August 2018 that would detect and block potentially unwanted programs on the system the security feature was enabled on.

PUAs include various types of software bundling, programs that inject advertisement into the browser or system, and "optimizer" programs that detect (mostly) superfluous issues on the system in an attempt to sell a premium version of the program.

microsoft edge new pua

The option in the new Microsoft Edge web browser works similarly. Microsoft added it as an experimental flag to the most recent Chrome Canary version; it is unclear at this point if the option will become available in the Settings directly in the first Stable version of Microsoft Edge and whether it will be enabled.

Here is what you need to do right now to enable it:

  1. Make sure you run the latest Microsoft Edge Canary version
  2. Load edge://flags in the web browser's address bar.
  3. Search for SmartScreen.
  4. Locate the "Microsoft Defender SmartScreen PUA support" flag on the page.
  5. Set it to enabled.
  6. Restart the web browser.

Enable PUA protection in Microsoft Edge

microsoft edge chromium pua protection

Now that the flag is enabled, it is necessary to enable the protection in Microsoft Edge. The flag unlocks the feature but it is still disabled by default.

  1. Load edge://settings/private in the browser's address bar.
  2. Scroll all the way down on the page to the Services group.
  3. Locate the option "Block potentially unwanted apps".
  4. Toggle the feature to enable it.

Microsoft created a sample site and application to test the protective feature. Just visit the PUA page and click on the link under Scenario to run a test. The download of the application should be blocked on the system

Closing words

It is unclear at this point whether it is really necessary to enable PUA protection in Microsoft Edge if PUA protection in Windows Defender is enabled. A quick test had the sample application flagged in older versions of the new Microsoft Edge as well on a system with Windows Defender PUA protection enabled.

PUA protection is not enabled by default in Windows Defender, however. Another explanation for this is that the new Edge is also available for other operating systems. Microsoft lists the Mac version as compatible for that particular flag.

There is always the chance that legitimate applications get flagged as PUAs, and that is the main reason why I prefer to keep the protective feature turned off. It may be useful to protect inexperienced computer users who would fall for these programs, however.

Now you:  What is your take on PUA and PUP protections in browsers and security programs? (via Deskmodder)

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