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What is Adware? How to protect yourself from Adware?

  • Yashoda Gandhi
  • Jun 16, 2022
What is Adware? How to protect yourself from Adware? title banner

Here's how it goes down. You use your nice, well-behaved browser to go online, only to have it throw a virtual tantrum as an onslaught of advertisements pops up, slides in from the side, or otherwise inserts itself to interrupt and even redirect your intended activity. And no matter how many times you click to close them, they continue to buzz you like flies at a picnic.

 

That annoying phenomenon is caused by adware, which is short for advertising-supported software. Adware is drawn to your PC or mobile device in the same way that your picnic food attracts pests. 

 

We provide a brief overview of adware, including what it is, how to get it, what it tries to do to you, how to deal with it, and what to avoid in the future.


 

What is Adware?

 

Adware, also known as advertising-supported software, is software that displays unsolicited advertisements on your computer. Adware programs will typically display pop-up ads, change your browser's homepage, install spyware, and otherwise bombard your device with advertisements.

 

Adware is a more concise term for potentially harmful programs. It's not a virus, and it may not be as obviously malicious as a lot of other malicious code floating around the Internet. But make no mistake: malware must be removed from whatever machine it is on. 

 

Adware can not only be annoying every time you use your computer, but it can also cause long-term problems with your device. Adware collects your web browsing history through the browser in order to 'target' advertisements that appear to be tailored to your interests. 

 

Adware infections are simply a hindrance when they are at their most innocuous. Adware, for example, bombards you with pop-up ads, which can significantly slow down and complicate your Internet experience.

 

The most common reason for adware is to collect information about you in order to generate advertising revenue. When it's on a computer, it's called adware, and when it's on a mobile device, like your smartphone or tablet, it's called madware. Whatever the adware or madware is, it will most likely slow down your machine and/or make it more prone to crashing.

 

Also Read | Cyber Security Awareness: Ways to Protect Cyber Attack Vulnerability

 

History of Adware

 

Initially, around 1995, industry experts considered the first ad-supported software to be part of the larger category of spyware. However, affiliates to these legitimate businesses frequently spread adware without being checked for legitimacy by the adware vendor.

 

Adware spread unchecked through any means available, including peer-to-peer sites, botnets, instant messaging infections, and the aforementioned browser hijacks.

 

With enough time, adware vendors began to close down their misbehaving affiliates and denied responsibility for the affiliate's actions. This was a common pattern of activity during the peak years of adware, which lasted roughly from 2005 to 2008. While these safeguards protect users from adware, they also cause websites to lose revenue from legitimate advertisements.

 

Although adware is still present today, it is usually regarded as a type of PUP that poses a threat level lower than that of malware. Nonetheless, adware remains popular and consistently ranks high in our analysis of top consumer detections. Adware was the number one consumer detection in the second half of 2018, trailing only banking Trojans (such as Emotet).

 

One reason is that the volume of adware is increasing, possibly due to the proliferation of mobile devices and adware making its way into mobile apps. Adware creators, on the other hand, are consolidating power today.

 

To stay afloat, they employ more aggressive tactics than simply hijacking, such as hiding within Trojans, bundling with fraud components, or demonstrating rootkit capability, making them difficult to remove.


 

Types of Adware

 

There are two types of adware: legitimate and malicious. When legitimate adware unintentionally creates vulnerabilities, there is a gray area between the two.

 

  1. Legitimate Adware

 

Legitimate adware is downloaded with the user's explicit permission. Users willingly download this type of adware and usually receive something in return. In exchange for receiving the adware, they may receive a discount or free software. 

 

The advertisements help to cover the costs of developing the software or allow the developer to provide the product for free. Some software, for example, is available for free, as an ad-supported version, or as a paid version without advertisements. Users who want to avoid advertisements can purchase the paid version.

 

  1. Malicious Adware

 

Adware that is deceptive or abusive makes it difficult for the user to refuse consent or uses deceptive means to obtain consent. For example, it may bombard the user with unwanted advertisements or make unwanted third-party software difficult to uninstall. 

 

Adware is only considered malicious if it is designed to deliver malicious software to the user. However, some legal adware may inadvertently create vulnerabilities that malware can exploit.

 

 

How to protect yourself from Adware

 

Maintaining your computer properly and acting safely is beneficial to your overall security. In general, we’ve listed some of the ways you can protect yourself against adware below : 

 

  1. Keep up with all software updates. Security fixes are included in the most recent updates for your apps, system drivers, operating system (OS), and other software. To protect you from threats, developers are constantly discovering vulnerabilities and patching your software.

 

  1. Be wary, not curious. In the digital world, anything unknown or unusual should be regarded as a potential risk. Hackers use everything from USB charging stations to impersonating your social media friends to infect you with adware and malware.

 

  1. Keep an eye out for the small details. If you look closely at these, you'll notice odd details that are red flags for scams.

 

  1. Maintain the legality of your activities. Aside from the obvious risks, pirating media and software brings you closer to unscrupulous criminals who prey on your desire for "free stuff." 

 

Always read all terms and checkbox agreements before clicking "next" during software installation when downloading free computer software, mobile apps, or browsing the web.

 

  1. Many sponsored third-party software is opt-in, which means you must uncheck a box to avoid installing any accompanying PUA. Only download programs from reputable, trusted sources. You should try to only download from brands you are familiar with.

 

  1. Check to see if they have a solid track record. Official app stores such as Google Play are not supported. Check to see if they have a solid track record. Although official app stores such as Google Play are not completely free of malicious apps, they are more likely to keep you safe.

 

  1. Take a look before you click (or tap). Some advertisements use social engineering to take advantage of unintentional clicks. Fake close buttons, carefully placed confirm buttons, and unexpected pop-ups are all used to trick you into clicking an infected link.

 

  1. Take care not to fall for it. Keep track of your bank statements. Unexpected subscription charges could indicate that you've been infected with mobile adware. If you have antivirus security software, you already have one of the best anti-adware solutions.

 

  1. Security software actively protects against malicious or PUA app downloads, scans attachments and links, and blocks pop-ups. Your online behavior is your first line of defense. However, cybersecurity programs are essential for protecting yourself against adware threats.

 

 

Examples of Adware

 

There are hundreds of known adware programs that can negatively impact your computer in various ways. The following are some of the most common and/or well-known adware examples:

 

  1. Appearch

 

Appearch is yet another common adware program that functions as a browser hijacker. It is usually bundled with other free software and inserts so many ads into the browser that surfing is nearly impossible.

 

When you try to access a website, you will be directed to Appearch.info instead. In addition to advertisements, Appearch may display a message informing you that access to the website you wish to visit is restricted.

 

It will then request that you subscribe to notifications in order to access it. The program overrides your browser settings to prevent you from opting out when you subscribe.

 

  1. DeskAd

 

DeskAd is another common adware program that displays misleading ads in your browser, redirects your traffic to suspicious websites, and displays pop-up ads. 

 

Unlike other similar programs, DeskAd begins quietly before gradually seizing complete control of your browser. That is why it frequently goes unnoticed until the problem becomes so severe that only a reinstall of the operating system can solve it.

 

DeskAd is typically distributed via email attachments and overrides the computer's registry so that it can be launched on boot. It also replicates itself, which can tax the crashing memory, and the processor results in a crash. If it infects a computer network, the consequences could be disastrous.

 

  1. Fireball

 

Fireball made headlines in 2017 after a study commissioned by an Israeli software company discovered that it had infected more than 250 million computers and one-fifth of corporate networks worldwide.

 

Fireball is a browser hijacker created by Rafotech, a Chinese digital marketing agency. It is bundled with other Rafotech software, such as Mustang Browser and Deal Wifi, and installed alongside these programs without the user's knowledge. It takes over your browser when it infects your computer. 

 

It modifies your homepage to look like a fake search engine (Trotux) and inserts intrusive advertisements into any webpage you visit. To make matters worse, you are unable to change your browser settings.

 

There is still no proof that this adware example does anything other than hijack your browser and flood it with advertisements. Experts are concerned that if Rafotech decides to launch a cyberattack using Fireball, the consequences will be disastrous due to a large number of infected systems worldwide.

 

  1. DollarRevenue

 

Although it is no longer active, DollarRevenue is noteworthy because it was one of the first major adware programs to infect millions of computers worldwide. It would install a browser toolbar on the affected computer to track internet searches. Furthermore, the program would display deceptive advertisements, both on-page and in pop-up windows.

 

It was created in the Netherlands in 2005 and had infected more than 22 million computers worldwide by late 2007. Furthermore, a Dutch telecoms watchdog investigation discovered that DollarRevenue was involved in a number of botnet attacks that affected thousands of computers. The creators were fined one million euros in 2007, but the decision was overturned six years later.

 

  1. Gator

 

Gator, another now-defunct adware program, is credited with popularizing the concept of behavioral marketing. Gator would remove advertising from websites and replace it with its own ads when bundled with popular free software such as Kazaa and Go! Zilla. This meant that if a website's visitors clicked on an ad, all profits would go to Gator rather than the content creator.

  

Gator, on the other hand, was notorious for recording people's entire browsing histories and even parts of their credit card numbers. They would then use this information to serve them with more relevant advertisements. Although this is a common practice today, it was unheard of at the turn of the century.

 

The company behind Gator changed its name to Claria Corporation in 2003 and continued to release adware until 2006, when it was shut down.

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for removing adware from your computer. Some adware can be removed by simply uninstalling a browser extension and restarting your browser. Some other types of adware may require the use of adware removal tools to detect and remove them successfully.

 

Certain types of adware can be so dangerous that not even the best antivirus software can remove them. In those rare cases, reinstalling your operating system may be the only option.

 

Even though the most common types of adware aren't particularly dangerous, you shouldn't take any chances on the internet. If you do, you risk not only losing the files on your computer, but your personal information may also be compromised. 

 

To avoid this, you should install dependable software that protects your computer. You will be able to scan your computer for all types of threats – viruses, worms, spyware, malware, and adware – and completely remove them in just a few clicks.

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