what is adware

Adware: What it is, How it Works and How to Get Rid of it?

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PureVPN UpdatesAdware: What it is, How it Works and How to Get Rid of it?

The digital landscape is a dangerous place. It seems as if there’s a new and more disparaging threat emerging every week. Adware is one of such threats. It has grown over the years and has become one of the most effective ways of affecting a user’s device online. Despite this, many users are still wondering, “what is Adware”? Just like keeping your site free from any unnecessary clutter can help your site’s performance, knowing all about the potential threats can similarly help your site’s security.

Read on below to learn everything necessary you need to know about Adware, how it differs from other dangers on the internet, and most importantly, how to keep your devices safe from it.

What Is Adware?

As the name might suggest, Adware is an advertisement-supported form of software meant to distribute other products or software to earn money. In most cases, it can be found within software, encouraging you to install additional software. The additional software is usually a third-party sponsor. These ads typically appear as pop-ups.

Adware programs exist across all major platforms and devices. Despite the name, most are not as dangerous as you’d expect. However, some of them can cause serious harm to both your device and your internet activity.

All Adware can be categorized as follows:

  • Legitimate Adware – This is the kind of Adware that allows you to consent to pop-up promos. Users willingly download this Adware since they’re getting a free product as a result. Similarly, users allow it to collect marketing info on their devices. This is helpful in terms of receiving personalized ads and desired third-party software.
  • Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) – This is the significantly more dangerous kind. Users are given no option to consent or any warning. PUAs have different purposes depending on who distributes them. They can be further categorized under these categories:
    • Illegal Malicious Adware – These profit from installing malicious software on your device. Malware can also disguise itself as Adware to bypass some of your security protocols.
    • Legal Deceptive Adware – Users can opt-out on paper. However, it is virtually impossible, considering the software won’t properly install unless you give the required permissions.
    • Legal Abusive Adware – These are intended to show you an excessive number of ads. A browser add-on usually accompanies these.

The most common ways you may inadvertently download adware includes:

  1. Free downloadable programs or apps online
  2. Personalized third-party ads
  3. Bundled software

Adware creators make money via these through a variety of techniques such as:

  1. Pay-per-click (PPC) – Getting paid each time a user opens the ad
  2. Pay-per-view (PPV) – Getting paid each time a user views the ad
  3. Pay-per-install (PPI) – Getting paid each time the software is installed

It is important to mention here that it is not nearly as dangerous and hazardous as Malware. While Malware is intended to steal and corrupt information from your device, adware is not considered a significant threat. Some of the most reputable firms use adware (sometimes unknowingly), as it exposes their product to a larger audience. Moreover, it also helps collect valuable marketing data, even though it is generally a frowned upon practice.

How Do You Get Adware

Your device is likely to be affected by adware through two main channels:

  • You downloaded a program that contained adware – This is usually in the form of freeware and installs without your permission.
  • You visited a malicious website – These websites may contain adware which will take advantage of your browser’s vulnerability to automatically download

What Problems Can Adware Cause?

Due to its very nature, it can take a while for you to notice that adware has infected your device. However, there are some common symptoms that you’ll begin noticing that indicate an adware infection. Some of these include:

  1. Slow Speed – While you might start cursing your internet provider for this, it can also indicate adware’s presence on your device. Adware affects your internet speed since many of these apps have to continually download exuberant amounts of data to your device to make their money and do their damage.
  2. Data Usage – If you’ve noticed a sudden increase in your device’s data usage, it might be due to Adware. As mentioned above, these Adware rely on frequently showing you ads. This uses up a lot of data. Unless you know exactly why your data usage has gone up, it might indicate an Adware on your device.
  3. Spying – In rare instances, Adware can mutate into Spyware. Similarly, some hackers lace Adware with Spyware to gain access to your device and data. Once they infiltrate your device, they can easily steal your personal info, passwords, and contacts.
  4. Man-In-The-Middle Attacks – Also known as a Monster-in-the-middle or Monkey-in-the-middle attack, the hackers secretly relay and alter the communication between two parties. This allows them to eavesdrop on all your communication and possibly take complete control of the connections. 
  5. Excessive Ads – You’ll start seeing an increased number of pop-up ads, even if you’re not on the internet. Additionally, these ads are harder to close as they usually come with a time limit, usually 15-30 seconds. Furthermore, even if you close the ad, they might redirect you to a page that has more adware lying in wait.
  6. Crashes – This should be a red flag, especially if it starts happening randomly. Moreover, similar symptoms may include your device freezing or shutting down without a proper reason. Similarly, it can lead to frequent browser crashes. As you can probably guess, it’ll lead to an unpleasant browsing experience. 
  7. Processing Speed Slowed Down – Similar to crashes, you’ll see your device’s processing speed go down significantly. This is usually an indicator of a background process that’s taking up too much of your device’s potential. 
  8. Homepage Change – One of the most common indicators of adware is a change in your homepage. It can also be dangerous as the page it directs you to may lead to additional adware and possibly Malware being installed on your device.
  9. Unknown Application Install – Another clear indicator of an Adware infecting your computer is the sudden installation of unknown applications. These applications usually come with their own Adware, intended to keep your device in an endless loop of Adware infections. 
  10. Redirected Internet Searches – This is similar to your homepage being changed. However, sometimes you may find yourself being redirected to random websites even if you’ve searched for something else.
  11. New Toolbar/Browser Add-on Addition – Like the homepage edits, you may notice the random appearance of a toolbar or browser addon. These add-ons are usually linked to third-party shopping ads.

Protecting Yourself Against Adware

By now, it’s understandable if you’ve started wondering how to remove adware. Despite its relatively innocuous nature, it’s advised you opt for adware removal as soon as you see any indications of it. The most useful measures are as follows:

  1. Use an Ad Blocker: There are dozens of ad blockers that will keep you safe from ads while you use a free service. These prevent ads from being displayed while you’re on a browser.
  2. Go Ad-Free: This should be a no-brainer, but the best way to avoid falling prey to the adware is to avoid ads altogether. Most services offer ad-free versions for their premium subscribers. It may cost a little more, but is the extra cost worth your devices and sensitive info being protected?
  3. Antivirus Is Your Friend: Most antivirus software can easily intercept and block adware. However, you’ll need to keep it updated since hackers consistently improve adware to appear as legitimate programs.
  4. Use an Adware Removal Tool: The most extreme, albeit effective way is to run an adware removal tool. You can find dozens of useful adware remover tools online, both free and paid. These come with different features that can help you keep yourself and your device safe against adware. Moreover, you can use these on your Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices without any hiccups since most of these tools are supported on all these platforms.

What Do I Do If Infected With Adware?

If you feel your device has become infected with Adware, it’s highly advisable to take these steps immediately:

  • Make a Backup: This is the first thing to do. Ideally, you should backup all your important files on a separate external hard drive. The Adware removal process can sometimes be extensive, and in rare instances, you might need to do a complete reset of your device. 
  • Clear Browser’s Cookies and Data: Next up, clear all of your browser’s cookies and browsing history. The Adware usually relies on these to keep track of your activities so it’s advised to remove these as soon as possible. 
  • Run An Intensive Anti-virus Scan: Instead of running a short scan, it’s better to run a full and extensive search. It can take a bit longer, but it’s exceptionally useful in pin-pointing exactly which software might be causing the problem. 

Useful Tips

Follow these few simple tips, and you’ll likely avoid falling prey to Adware in the first place:

  1. Keep Your Software Updated – This should be the easiest and most efficient way of keeping yourself safe against any potential Adware on your device. Ensure all the software on your device are properly updated, and you’ll likely avoid most of these problems early on. 
  2. Don’t Be Too Curious – Curiosity killed the cats, or in this case, got Adware on your device. Don’t fall for the clickbait titles on scammy websites. Only visit websites that you trust. Additionally, avoid sites that your browser warns you don’t have the proper security certificates. 
  3. Careful With Your Clicks – You should pay attention to your activity while on a site. Sometimes merely hovering over an ad can leave you susceptible. Ensure you avoid any unscrupulous behavior while on any site and pay attention to the permissions you grant a website. 
  4. Download Diligently – Another area to be careful about. While you might want to download a particular file or app, sometimes another file downloads simultaneously without your permission. 
  5. Avoid Illegal Activities – This should go without saying but stay away from illegal activities. Numerous websites promise premium versions of software and applications that end up infecting your device. Do not fall prey to them and stick to acquiring these services through legal channels. 
  6. Read All The T&A – It might seem like an elongated and often tedious task, but it’ll save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Go through the terms and conditions of any service you download. It’ll help you identify whether you’re unconsciously about to give permission to any potential Adware or not. 
  7. Trusted Downloads Only – The most secure way of avoiding Adware is to rely only on the software’s actual purveyors. Go to their official website and download the official versions, as it’ll keep you away from harm’s end from the get-go. 
  8. Read, Read, & Read – You can either commit your own mistakes or learn from others’. If you would prefer to go for the latter, then the best option is to read as many reviews as you can. There are a plethora of websites that review software, applications, websites, and even brands themselves. These will give you the most clairvoyant insight into whether you’re safe from Adware while using these services or not. 

These steps might seem small and simplistic, but they can go a long way in helping you stay safe from any adware virus and enjoy a smooth online browsing experience.

People Also Ask

Here are some other common questions most users have related to Adware:

  • Can Adware Steal My Passwords?

It is rare, but yes, the more malicious forms of adware might be Spyware. This can allow third-parties to access your browsing history, contacts, personal information, and passwords.

  • How Does Adware Make Money?

Adware uses the advertising model. Whenever the ad displays on a website, it collects information on the user’s internet browsing habits for marketing purposes. This information is then sold onwards to other websites.

  • Why is Adware a Problem?

Most users complain of adware’s ability to display pop-up ads whenever it wants. While the primary purpose is to grab your attention, clicking on these ads usually leads to malicious websites that silently install even more adware without permission. This can severely limit the performance of your device over time while also affecting your browsing experience. 

  • Is Adware Same as a Virus?

Yes, although it’s important to note that it’s not as dangerous as other forms of viruses in most cases. Adware is a program that installs itself on your device, usually without permission. It then collects info on your browsing activities while showing you pop-up ads. 

  • Where Does Adware Come From?

Cybercriminals usually rely on the drive-by-download method. It exploits any potential vulnerabilities in your browser to load a malicious code on your system whenever you visit a malicious website. Alternatively, it can also spread via software bundling. 

  • Who Do Adware Authors Target?

Well, Adware is designed to infect as many people as possible. There’s no set target apart from the ones that stumble on to the ad. The Adware authors want as much browsing behavior and information as possible. Hence, everyone’s a potential target.

  • What Is The Difference Between Adware vs Malware vs Spyware?

A Malware is a software intentionally designed to damage a user’s device or server. Adware and Spyware are both types of Malware. Adware is meant to generate revenue for the developer by generating advertisements. On the other hand, Spyware tracks a user’s activities and collects information without their knowledge.

Yasir Nawaz Yasir enjoys reading and writing about the latest developments in the world of AI and cybersecurity. A firm believer in the right to digital privacy for all, he shares his thoughts on issues both controversial and menial. His other interests include chess, reading, and looking to the horizon in his best Luke Skywalker impression.

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