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Windows 7: Microsoft hides mystery Firefox extension in toolbar update

10 Jun 2010   #1

Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit. SP1.
Microsoft hides mystery Firefox extension in toolbar update


As part of its regular Patch Tuesday, Microsoft released an update for its various toolbars, and this update came with more than just documented fixes. The update also installs an add-on for Internet Explorer and an extension for Mozilla Firefox, both without the user's permission. As you can see in the Windows Update screenshot above, Microsoft does not indicate that the update will install anything for either browser. It's also not really clear what the installed extension actually does.

To make matters worse, the update was marked "Important" instead of "Optional," which means it was more likely to be installed either automatically (if the user has Automatic Updates on) or manually when the user clicks Install (Important updates are checked by default).

The Microsoft Support page for this update, KB982217, describes the issues the update supposedly fixes: "In an Internet browser, you specify a homepage that is not a fully qualified URL. However, Windows Live Toolbar, MSN Toolbar, or Bing Bar may not categorize your homepage correctly. Therefore, the homepage reporting may be generated incorrectly for users who select the Help improve our services option when they install these toolbars."

The Bing Bar, which has replaced both the Windows Live Toolbar and the MSN toolbar, is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox, which is why we assume that only these two browsers are tampered with. Still, the KB article does not mention an add-on or an extension being installed or updated.

Since we could not find any official documentation from Microsoft, we checked the actual IE add-on and Firefox extension. Unfortunately, they were not terribly helpful; all we discovered was that the IE add-on is at version, so it has been around for a while, and that the Firefox extension is at version 1.0, so it's likely it was only released now. Both seem to be installed in "C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\." Inside, there is a file called "SEPsearchhelperie.dll" that is responsible for the IE add-on and a "firefoxextension" folder responsible for Firefox. The update can't be uninstalled, but deleting these files works just fine.
More -
Microsoft hides mystery Firefox extension in toolbar update

My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Jun 2010   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1

This article says it's only offered with having one of the toolbars installed already.

This article says it's offered whether you have a toolbar installed or not: Microsoft quietly pushes Firefox extension in toolbar update

I didn't get this update offered, so it seems you have to have one of the toolbars installed to get it, like Ars technica says.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Jun 2010   #3
Robert Cartman

Windows 7 RTM x64

My System SpecsSystem Spec

12 Jun 2010   #4

Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit. SP1.

Microsoft explains mystery Firefox extension, "fixes" update

By Emil Protalinski | Last updated about 12 hours ago

Microsoft has fixed the distribution scope of a toolbar update that, without the user's knowledge, installed an add-on in Internet Explorer and an extension in Firefox called Search Helper Extension. Microsoft told us that the new update is actually the same as the old one; the only difference is the distribution settings. In other words, the update will no longer be distributed to toolbars that it shouldn't be added to. End users won't see the tweak, Microsoft told Ars, and also offered an explanation on what the mystery add-on actually does.
The Search Enhancement Pack is a shared component used by the Windows Live Toolbar, MSN Toolbar, and Bing Bar. This component enables toolbar search functionality, like the toolbar search suggestions drop down. It is not the toolbar. It is a component used by the toolbars. Unfortunately, we discovered a bug in the latest update that was installing the Firefox extension for users with the Windows Live Toolbar and MSN Toolbar (specifically people who have not upgraded to the latest version of the Bing Bar). We fixed the update so that going forward folks who still have only the older Windows Live Toolbar or MSN Toolbar will not see this behavior anymore. The extension in Firefox will be update[d] for users who have the Bing Bar or the latest version of MSN Toolbar (version 4.0), since both are available for both IE and FF. We apologize for the inconvenience.
We pointed out to Microsoft that this doesn't solve the problem for all those users who already installed the update. After all, while many Windows Update releases can be uninstalled, this particular one does not show up in Control Panel => Programs and Features => Installed Updates. Furthermore, the Uninstall button for the extension is greyed out in Firefox. Internet Explorer, meanwhile, does not have uninstall options for add-ons: only Enable and Disable buttons are present.

Microsoft gave us the following instructions to remove the extension:
  1. Close all running instances of Firefox.
  2. Open Windows Explorer.
  3. If you have 32 bit Windows, navigate to C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\firefoxextension
  4. If you have 64 bit Windows, navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\firefoxextension
  5. Delete the folder named "SearchHelperExtension"
  6. Start Firefox.
  7. Go to Tools > Add-ons and verify that Search Helper Extension is gone.
More -
Microsoft explains mystery Firefox extension, "fixes" update
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Jun 2010   #5

Windows 2000 5.0 Build 2195

never recieved this update...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Jun 2010   #6

windows 7 professional & ultimate 64bit laptops

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by arkhi View Post
never recieved this update...

nor I
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Jun 2010   #7

Windows 7x64 Home Prem Svce Pack 1, Build 7601.win7sp1Ver 3.0install)

It wasn't offered when I updated this week, and it was not added to FX or IE.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Jun 2010   #8
royal tyrant

Window's 7 Home Premium 32 Bit

Ive not recieved this update either and i have both FF and IE8 installed!!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Jun 2010   #9
Microsoft MVP

Win 7 Ultimate x64

Guess you guys all missed where you have to have one of the three toolbars mentioned in the article installed for the update to have been offered.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Microsoft hides mystery Firefox extension in toolbar update

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