What You Need to Know About Adware

Imagine this: you’re innocently surfing the web, then suddenly you get a pop-up advertisement. Then another. And another.

 

You try to close these windows but they keep coming back. Worse, they seem to be random ads for products and services irrelevant to you. (Baby clothes when you don’t have a kid? Or maybe hair growth products or wigs when you have a full head of hair?)

 

It looks like you’ve got a case of adware. Advertising software or adware for short, this is a sneaky piece of malicious software that serves you ads … even if you didn’t sign up for them.

 

If you belong to the 99.9% of people who don’t like unsolicited advertisements, then read on to find out how to remove adware and prevent them from being installed on your device.

What is adware?

Adware, short for advertising-supported software, is a type of malware able to deliver advertisements automatically.

 

While they don’t seem very harmful, these pesky ad-spewing ‘wares can actually compromise your online safety.

 

How dangerous is adware?

Adwares themselves are not very dangerous but they can be very annoying and even occasionally embarrassing. Since you cannot predict what kind of promotional pop-up you’ll get next, you may get an irrelevant ad or - gasp! - a NSFW (not safe for work) banner while in the office!

 

And it doesn’t stop there. Think back to the time you installed the adware. Maybe you don’t even remember it. That’s because you may have accidentally downloaded it as part of another product’s pack. Remember that free app? Yeah, it was probably in there.

 

Since you don’t remember installing the adware, who knows what else you have downloaded onto your device? It’s even possible you could have installed spyware. This is a type of malicious software capable of collecting private information about you and tracking your activities online.

 

Can adware steal passwords?

If the adware you unwittingly downloaded came with spyware, then your personal data can be collected and given to third parties.

 

They may just use this to target you with more specific, relevant ads. On the other hand, more malicious spyware can also steal your device's contacts, passwords, and other private information.

 

Is adware spyware?

Technically, adware is not a type of spyware. However, adware could come in a pack also containing spyware. The only way to know is to scan your computer with a robust cybersecurity software offering overall protection.

 

Is adware illegal?

Unknowingly downloading adware onto your own computer or phone is one thing. Maliciously installing it to someone else’s device is another.

 

Installing adware onto another person’s computer or phone is considered illegal as the data collected can later be used in more nefarious crimes such as identity theft.

 

What is an adware attack?

Adware attacks are considered to be one of the most underrated and overlooked threats.

 

As everyone battles the pandemic, unscrupulous cybercriminals have still found ways to exploit those who are not tech-savvy.

 

Because more people are downloading video conferencing tools, these hackers have been creating free-for-download video conference apps injected with malware and adware. There were 120,000 variants of such products, according to a recent study.

 

To prepare ourselves for the next adware attack, we should familiarize ourselves with the different types of adware and how to identify them...

What are the different types of adware?

Adware is classified according to how it attacks your device. The two main types are as follows:

 

1. Adware from a downloaded program: This is a type of adware that comes bundled with free software you may have downloaded.

 

2. Adware from browser jacking: When you visit a website infected with malicious software, it can automatically install adware without your knowledge. You will only realize this later on when you suddenly become bombarded with ads. You may think these are coming from any new websites you visit but they are actually from the adware stealthily installed on your PC or phone.

 

What are examples of adware?

Here are common and known examples of adware:

  • Appearch: Bundled with free software, it hijacks your browser to make internet surfing a nightmare. Anytime you visit a website, you are redirected to their website instead.
     
  • Fireball: This changes your homepage to a fake search engine and serves you irrelevant, intrusive advertisements when you try to visit other websites. It can also modify your browser settings so it is difficult to revert back to normal!
     
  • DealPly: Windows users who have downloaded a photo cropping software may find themselves dealing with DealPly. What makes it dangerous is how it collects information from your device's security software. This is later sent to malware developers.
     
  • DollarRevenue: This adware installs a browser toolbar to keep track of user searches. Thankfully, this was taken down in 2007and its creators were fined one million euros.
     
  • Gator: This adware removes advertising from websites you visit and replaces it with their own ads. It also records users' browser history and financial information.
     
  • DeskAd: This type of program starts to operate in stealth mode. Gradually, without the user's consent, it can change your web browser and online toolbars. It can also send you to websites compromised with malware.
     
  • Spytrooper: When you encounter this adware, you may find yourself scratching your head while looking for an uninstall button. Unfortunately, you may need a computer technician or a strong cybersecurity software to get rid of this pesky program.

How do you get adware?

You get adware by visiting suspicious websites or by downloading “free” software or apps packaged with adware. These types of programs can go undetected on your device for days.

 

How do you know if you have an adware infection?

Adware can be very sneaky but here are a few tell-tale signs they have wormed their way onto your device:

  • You are bombarded with pop-ups while surfing
  • Programs you regularly use keep crashing
  • Your browser changes without your permission
  • Your browser keeps crashing
  • You have noticed software being automatically installed
  • If you’re using your phone, there is a spike in data usage
  • You experience slower-than-usual internet connection

 

Adware detection tools

For the best adware detection tool, choose a cybersecurity program that proactively protects you against a range of other threats too. This is important since we know that adware often comes in bundled with other software not necessarily considered as a virus by antivirus software.

What is mobile adware?

As the name suggests, mobile adware is a type of malware you get on your phone.

 

Since your mobile phone has a smaller screen than your desktop or laptop computer, there is little “real estate” space for advertisers. You may think this would turn off hackers from infecting phones with adware but it’s actually the most common type of malware on phones ⁠— it accounts for around 72%, in fact.

 

Because more people use their phones more than their computers, nasty types of adware like ad-fraud and ad-clicker can do some major damage. Adware can secretly download executable files and run malicious apps in the background. Worse, they can subscribe you to paid services without your knowledge.

 

How to remove adware from Android devices?

Removing adware from your Android phone can be simple or difficult, depending on the type of adware installed. However, most Android adware can be removed manually:

 

1. Restart your phone in Safe mode (by doing a long press on the off button) or activate Airplane mode.

2. Find the root cause of the adware or the admin app responsible for it. Go to Settings > Biometrics and security > Other security settings > Device admin apps.

3. Once you find the admin app behind the adware, disable admin rights by unchecking it. After this, uninstall the admin app like you would a normal app.

4. Disable other apps connected to the admin app. Go to Settings > Apps. Find the specific app then click Uninstall.

5. Exit safe mode and run a cybersecurity scan to be sure.

 

How to remove adware from iPhone and iPad?

You may think iOS devices are safe from viruses and malwares but they are not. They can get infected with adware like other phones but there are also ways to remove them.

 

1. Clear your history and browsing data by going to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

2. Restore your phone to an iCloud backup.

3. Run a cybersecurity scan on your phone after.

How do you protect yourself against adware?

The best way to protect yourself against adware is by being vigilant about the latest cybersecurity threats. And the easiest way you can do this is by subscribing to cybersecurity news.

 

And with knowledge comes power. You’ll be ready to stop and prevent adware infections in the future.

 

How do you stop adware?

What is the best adware removal tool? And is there an adware cleaner? You can manually remove adware by exploring your computer or phone settings. However, since adware most probably came in a bundle with other malware, the adware can always return or be redownloaded.

 

The recommended step to take is to first assess the extent of the damage and if the adware has affected the operations of other apps or programs on your device. You can only do this by using a strong, holistic cybersecurity tool that protects your device.

 

How do you prevent adware?

To avoid the hassle of adware, you can start by preventing it ever touching your computer or mobile phone in the first place.

 

1. Be careful visiting any websites offering free apps or software

When they said there's no such thing as a free lunch, unfortunately, this also applies to anything you download from the internet. In the case of adware and other types of malware, they are usually bundled with these free but malicious programs.

 

2. Don’t click on suspicious looking ads

When you are browsing and chance upon a dodgy looking advertisement, trust your gut and avoid clicking on it. Sometimes, these pop-ups will even say your PC is infected or you won something.

 

3. Keep your operating system updated

Installing operating system updates helps to protect your system by instantly detecting viruses and malware.

 

4. Scan the files you download from email

When using email, make it a habit to scan all files for viruses and other threats before you download. Some email providers like Gmail do this automatically but if you want to be extra sure, you can also activate your cybersecurity software to check if a newly downloaded file may harm your device.

 

5. Install an all-in-one cybersecurity software

Look for a cybersecurity software to provide real-time alerts on threats against your device. Preferably one to also give you personalized suggestions on how to better protect yourself against the latest adware threats, like Clario.

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