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What is Adware?

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | November 18, 2021
Cyber Dictionary|CyberSecurity - Consumer

Adware can be frustrating, and almost everyone recognizes it when they experience it. That’s because it is first and foremost ANNOYING!!!!  Popups and website redirections to places showing advertisements you had no intention of looking at. Bombarding you with crap that you have no interest in seeing and taking control of your desktop or phone experience can be infuriating. Welcome to Adware – “advertising malware”, the software that presents advertisements using intrusive and even dangerous methods.

How Adware Works

Adware is not always destructive. In the best case it is just immensely annoying. But more often than not it can be horrible, compromising your security settings to track your activities and display ads where it normally wouldn’t have access. These security breaches are exploited by the real bad actors who load even worse malware onto your device. This more nefarious technique is referred to as malvertising.

So what can Adware do?

The real threat of Adware goes far beyond just displaying pop-up ads, changing your browser’s homepage, or redirecting your web browser to unwanted websites full of advertisements. It can be a nuisance and a severe threat, but it sometimes appears to be less threatening than say a ransomware popup. But here is the rub, Adware is often the tool bad actors and cybercriminals use to lure you into downloading even more dangerous malware.

Some of the direct ways Adware can affect your devices include:

How does Adware get on my device?

There are generally 2 ways Adware can get on your devices.

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How do I know I am infected?

The most obvious one is the constant, annoying popups. But there are other indicators.

Is it illegal?

Based on the nasty effects of Adware, you may be wondering, “is Adware illegal?”. The answer unfortunately is nuanced. The actual display of ads is not and in fact many of the free software apps, particular those used on mobile devices like phones, use ads to support the businesses that make the software. So free apps that include some ads isn’t against the law. But when an external party downloads malicious ad software onto your device without your consent, it against the law, as is the secret tracking and sale of your browsing history. 

Anatomy of Adware

How to protect your devices from Adware.

The best strategy is the same as with all of malware, combine good cyber security practices along with a quality antivirus/antimalware tool and avoid getting hit with annoying Adware.

Good practices include:

Installing a quality antivirus/antimalware tool is still the best defense from all types of malware, there are some additional steps that can be done to prevent Adware infection.

Blocking certain kinds of scripts from running in your browser can help, Adware is usually written with the same programming language used by legitimate websites and services. But disabling these scripts does mean disabling the web as you know it.

How to Uninstall Adware

There are also specific techniques and tools for the most common devices. See below for links to the most popular devices.

How to remove Adware on your PC.

How to remove Adware on your MAC.

How to remove Adware on Android.

How to remove Adware on IOS. 

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