Ever heard of Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs)? If you have your virus checker/scanners set to detect and delete PUPs then you might be ok.* They can't call them spyware or viruses or trojans anymore because the marketing people get all ticked off at anyone who uses those, now, politically incorrect terms. What? You thought that printer was pretty cheap? A good buy? Where the ink cartridge or toner cartridge replacements are just about as expensive as the printer itself? Well, there is another way they make up for that "cheap" price... and that is being paid by other companies to include all of those PUPs along with the setup software on the CD and internet downloads.
You buy a new printer and you want to configure your computer and the printer so that you can connect wirelessly. You pop in the new setup CD, that came with your printer, to do that and then you realize that there is little or no actual software on that CD that has anything to do with configuring your computer to talk to the printer or update the software on the printer. It has to connect to the internet to download that software. Yes, it does this partially to make sure you get the latest software updates for the printer. But what else does it do? If you didn't read the "terms of agreement" (that you have to agree to before you can actually do anything to make your computer and printer work... but hardly anyone reads it or understand the legaleze and who is going to not agree because then your printer won't work as you wanted it to) you didn't know that they were going to also get you to agree to download other malware that the manufacturer of the printer was paid to include along with the printer setup. And they can be pretty tricky and unclear as to what you are agreeing to download in addition to what you really need to download in order to set up that printer. Most people will just agree to everything because they think that if they don't they won't be able to have a working system. Others might actually think some of those software downloads are good and may be useful some day. They have the mind-set that more is better especially if they think it is going to be "free".
And if you buy a new computer, especially the ones that already have an Operating System software installed by the factory... like Windows 7 or 8 or 10 they ususally have a lot of PUPs and "trial" offers that will nag you to death to buy.** Even if you build your own computer, you have to load in the Motherboard software before you install Windows or Linux. And there are plenty of PUPs lurking about in that software as well. Only someone building his/her own computer may be a little more careful and usually can avoid them.
PUPs are actually online spyware and adware that "phones home" and reports your surfing and computer use habits... and reports back your interests so they can target ads to you through annoying adware "popups". They may even read your email contact list to send spam to your contacts or sell that data to others who will. It usually slows down your computer, and does a lot of other damage as well. You have to be very careful, when you download anything or install anything onto your computer, so that you only download just what you want to download and not any of those other things they "recommend" you download. When you install any software onto your computer you should probably never, ever, select "recommended" install. Click the other button and look at what they are trying to get you to install. But people just click OK or Agree to those unnecessary malware and bloatware... and that will eventually cause computer problems. And just try to remove these things. If you manage to find one executable and delete it... it will most likely have another executable that detects that you deleted the other one and will recreate the one you deleted and they "protect" one another that way. Even Microsoft recently had a couple of updates that said they were "important" updates that if you uninstalled one... another recreated the one you uninstalled. It was the one where they are trying to get everyone to switch from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10. I mentioned this in a previous post.
This article lists a number of acronyms making fun of the possibilities of using politically correct terminaology. Funny!
*But some people may not even know that they might have to configure that in their virus scanner "settings". I recently worked on one computer that had over 450 PUPs and they had been using the free version of Avast! virus checker program that did not have "PUP" checked in the settings. Actually, I downloaded and used a free version of Malwarebytes which found all those PUPs and got rid of them.
** Ever hear of Norton Removal Tool? That is a program that you need to get rid of all of the Norton Virus Checker software that gets so deeply rooted that you just can't do a normal "removal" or "uninstal" to effectively get rid of everything. There are usually pieces of code that stays resident that could, and have been known to, cause problems with the computer. There are other "Removal Tools" for other software as well. But it might take a bit of searching to find "Removal Tools" for some malware... like viruses or trojans or keystroke loggers or worms...etc. Sometimes, about the only thing you can do is to Nuke the hard drive... ie: do a clean wipe of the hard drive using a program like Derick's Boot And Nuke (DBAN) which is free on the internet. You can't just reformat the hard drive because it won't get rid of any of the data stored on the hard drive. Reformating doesn't actually wipe a hard drive clean. It is very easily recoverable by forensics tools and malware may re-emerge to cause problems. You should always Nuke your hard drive before you trash or sell your computer if you have sensitive data stored on them. That, or whack it with a hammer so hard it destroyes the platter inside the drive.
Some people don't like Norton because they claim that it is such a big program that it slows down the computer. Other major virus checkers, like McKee, were originally pretty good and lightweight and effective but have been bloated with features to the extent they slow some computers down very noticeably.
Then there are the software programs you just download from the internet. Just about every downloader web site like CNET or Download.com, just to name two well known ones, all are able to afford downloading "for free" because they are paid by other sources to include in the download other downloads that you may not even be aware of. Some of those downloads may be spyware and adware and PUPs and trojans and viruses and worms.
About the only way to be relatively safe is to download directly from the manufacturer but even that may include stuff that will eventually be a problem. Don't download from alternative downloaders.
I generally tend to trust Open Source program downloaders like SourceForge. Open Source programs are free and the source code is open for anyone to look at and analyse. And there are a lot of eyes scanning these programs for anything suspicious. Most of it is all voluntary with minimal corporate influence and it is not all about money as it is in the Proprietary Source software... like Microsoft... McKee... Norton... etc. Their software source code is closed...secret...you have to take their word for it that nothing is hidden in their "hidden" source code.