CCleaner Installs a web browser? WTF

CCleaner Installs a web browser? WTF

by Randy Dreammaker (SellerThink)

I have  been a computer security and cleaning geek since the first computer I ever touched, which dates back to the Commodore 64 and Apple IIe in high school.  I tweaked and geek just about every computer operating system, on every platform since.

As a security buff, I run a third party firewall, virus software, ransomware software and I even have specialty software that prevents Microsoft from every being able to force a new operating system I didn't want onto my computer again. (After years of using Microsoft Windows 10 as an early adopter, I rolled back to my favorite Windows 8.1 earlier this year).  I also use Mac.

So it was a shock this afternoon, when I finally decided to update the known security safe version of CCleaner I've been using on Windows 8.1 laptop.  I had stopped updating it years back for various reasons, including the fact that their newer updates often introduce unneeded new features or turn off features for previous uses of their "free home version."

When you have a stable version of anything that works well for your current level of operating system that a new operating system is being introduced, for some software it can be worth not updating.

I was fortunate to escape CCleaner being hacked in the past for just this reason.  It had been a long time since i update (I save a copy of previous versions of software in case I ever need to go backwards), so I decided to finally update. (Here is an article by Ryan Dube on Help Desk Geek, explaining the past hack and reasons he no longer recommends CCleaner)

I took the normal steps I take when installing "Free" software, I went through the install options to make sure no hidden software was going to be installed, I checked to make sure there were no "Opt-out" options that would let the installation change my web browser settings, etc. So I was shocked when CCleaner (a registry cleaning app), had installed its own web browser.

During installation, one of the things that peeked my curiosity, was my firewall by Comodo kept popping up alerts asking if I wanted to allow CCleaner to change my web browser settings.   Generally Comodo sits quietly on my computer doing its job, picking up and blocking the areas my virus software doesn't.

Having alerts pop up during installation of software isn't normal, especially for software that I essentially unstand its purpose and am intentionally downloading and installing.

Comodo kept popping up messages saying, "WTF are you doing CCleaner? You're not a web browser; you don't need access to web browser permissions".  I happened to agree, so I declined CCleaner from being able to do whatever exactly it was trying to attempt.

As soon as the current version of CCleaner completed installation, I noticed an additional CCleaner icon in my start-up menu and task bar, so I decided to check it out.  I thought CCleaner had done what some companies will do, and placed a short cut to a new feature they want you to find out information about on their website.  But NO!  CCleaner had installed an entirely new chrome based web browser.  WTF CCleaner! What are you thinking.

Looking around the web browser for a few minutes, I immediately decided to uninstall it.  Like other Chrome-Knockoff browsers, CCleaner Browser is built on the chromium open source project.  Essentially, its similar to putting a Skin on your LapTop or Iphone. A skin isn't part of the Lap Top or Iphone, it's just a covering, and that is how CCleaner Browser and similar third party browsers work.  It allows them to write their own code, methods of implementing features, etc. that are not part of Google Chrome.  
That's not necessarily a bad thing, I use Vivaldi web browser as my main browser and replacement for Google Chrome, because it gives me a lot of features and better privacy options.  But I chose to install Vivaldi, I never had it installed without my direct involvement.  But did I mess up?  Did I miss something?

So I missed it. I missed their text and opt out notification on the front page of their installation.  Chances are, you will to.  I never knew CCleaner went into the web browser business.  I would never think of CCleaner when I look for alternative web browsers. I wasn't looking for a browser.  I saw "CCleaner Browser" apparently, and didn't pay attention, since the first word was CCleaner, so I assumed it was some function of CCleaner, since I was downloading CCleaner.  It would be more innocent if it said, "Install Free Web Browser CCleaner".  That would of been clear and spot on.  I wouldn't have had to try to guess what function a "CCleaner Browser" played.  Essentially, that is the function that the traditional CCleaner software does, it browses the registry.  I assumed they had changed its name or it was some new function. Nope

Reasons why I do not recommend using CCleaner web browser and not look back.

  1. When I go to the car dealer to get my car fixed, I expect a mechanic will fix my car, but I don't expect there will be any discussion or offer for an pair of shoes.  I wouldn't want to wear or buy a pair of shoes that looked like and sounded like the name of the automotive company that works on my car.  I didn't expect a web browser, wasn't even thinking about how a registry cleaning software might be associated with a web browser.  Despite the parent company of CCleaner being Avast, when it comes to a web browser I am all about knowing how is receiving and selling my user data.  (There is no such thing as free, right), Facebook and Google taught us that.
  2. There is no need for yet another web browser, there are already so many. Even Duck, Duck, Go has a web browser now.  I have to trust whoever is handing me a web browser.  All my passwords, financial information, business information, personal online activities go through the web browser.  Just because CCleaner can delete old entries from a computer's registry system, doesn't give me any confidence that my data is save with them.  At least with Google, I know how it's being used to profile me, and Google gives me a lot of options to turn some of those options off.  But, I don't know who built CCleaner browser, who maintains it, how often they'll update it, how fast they'll patch or become aware of vulnerabilities they create in their custom chromium project.
  3.  I didn't ask for it
  4. I wasn't expecting it
  5. Coming from a company that has no established history for developing or patching web browsers.
  6. I didn't see anything in the CCleaner browser that other more mature and established browsers like Vivaldi, Fire Fox, Opera, Chrome have to offer.
  7. Since its built over "Chrome" essentially, I have no idea what has been added or who receives that information.
  8. If i'm not going to allow CCleaner to receive data from its registry cleaner, since they do not specify how its going to be used, i'm definitely not going to make their browser the life source of my connections on the internet.
Should you keep, search for, or install CCleaner's web browser?  That is entirely up to you. 
I do not see it as a problem if you are actively looking for a new alternative web browser, do some digging and read a few reviews about it, read its details, and visit a website specifically built for downloading it and obtaining information about it.  But I 100% have a problem when a web browser is intentionally being forced as an install with another unrelated kind of software, even if a little check box is provided.  I might feel a little different if the check box was not already checked and was something I had to intentionally look at, have an option to read some details about it, and had to decide to click the check box to install.  CCleaner however has the check box already checked, and since the browser uses the same first name as the software I wanted to install, its normal to assume that its part of what you wanted to install, not something entirely different.

I can't recommend CCleaner browser and I am now contemplating removing the new version of CCleaner and rolling back to my previous version or just not bothering with using a registry cleaner anymore.  I never used a registry cleaner while I had Windows 10 Installed, and because of the way my Mac computers by Apple Inc. work, I've never needed one on my Mac computers.

As already mentioned, if you're wondering if you need a registry cleaner, this article on Help Desk Geek makes some good points against them.