A Guide to Adware - What Is It and How to Remove It?

Haseeb Awan
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April 5, 2023
Modified On
April 5, 2023

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Most of our daily activities, such as banking, shopping for groceries, and social networking, occur online because we live in a digital age. In our lives, the average daily usage of social media is two hours and 24 minutes.

"Adware is responsible for an estimated $1.6 billion annual losses to businesses worldwide."

You probably don't like ads appearing every time you open a website or an app, whether you spend most of your online time working or enjoying social media scrolling (or both). These pop-ups result from adware, also referred to as advertising-supported software.

What is Adware?

Software that is supported financially by advertising is referred to as "adware." Developers add pop-up ads to web mobile devices and browsers to make money. Positively promoting new goods and services to a larger audience is one way many developers use online advertising. However, some types of adware are unlawful and can create entry points for other, malicious software to infiltrate a computer or other device.

Adware makes a profit for its author by showing ads online in the software's user interface or on a screen that appears before the user installs it. And that's when you start seeing questionable get-rich-quick schemes, offers for weight loss miracles, and fake virus alerts imploring you to click on them. Additionally, you may notice that new tabs open, your home page changes, results from unknown browsers, or perhaps a redirect to an infected website.

However, it does occasionally occur for genuine software programs to incorporate online advertising. These advertisements are typically integrated into the program and are displayed according to the preferences. Adware is an entirely separate can of rotten fish. You might download it without realizing what it is for. It could also be hidden within reputable software that finds its way onto your PC. Whatever the route, it all comes down to a computer program displaying advertisements to you that does not come from the sites on the internet you are visiting.

When adware gains control over your computer, it might start carrying out a variety of undesirable tasks. To display ads relevant to the types of goods or services offered there, the software's functionalities may be developed to evaluate the websites that you visit. Adware is less of a threat to cybersecurity than an annoyance. Still, if the malware's authors share your browser history and data with third parties, they may even employ it to approach you with far more ads based on your browsing preferences. You can use Chrome, Mozilla, or any other browser; they are all impacted.

History of Adware

Adware has been around for a while, although it was less common to be included in legitimate programs in the early days. However, as adware became more widespread, companies began creating programs designed to display ads. These types of programs are known as "adware bundles." They would install adware on your computer without you knowing or consenting to it. Even though they're not quite as popular nowadays, adware bundles are still pretty prevalent.

Although most adware is made by companies only interested in making a profit, some individuals or groups also create malicious versions. These result in having your internet activity tracked or personal information stolen. Additionally, delivering malware is another possibility if someone falls victim to this type of scam; Software designed to Damage your computer system or give control to another person illegally.

How To Tell If You Are Affected by Adware?

Adware Detection Techniques:

Several of these are typical signs that your computer contains adware:

  • Ads can be found in unlikely places.
  • Frequently visited web pages are not displaying correctly.
  • Clicking on website links may lead you to unexpected websites.
  • You can't even open your web browser anymore.
  • Your browser starts to use new toolbars, plug-ins, or extensions.
  • Your Mac starts installing unwanted software on its own.
  • Your browser has stopped working.

How Does Adware Work?

Adware is integrated or embedded with the software itself when a company decides to use it to support its software. This enables ads to be loaded automatically. Other companies purchase ad space to market to the program's users, and the revenue generated by selling ad space could be employed to cover user and operational costs. Some companies incorporate adware into their programs so that the program will not function unless the ads are displayed. To use the software, any ad blockers must be disabled. Adware frequently collects personal information from users and tracks their browsing patterns, which are later sold to third parties.

The Dark Side Of Adware

Adware is a term used to refer to adware programs that display malicious or unusual behavior. Adware is classified as spyware when it tracks user activity without their permission. To display their malvertisements, cybercriminals exploit flaws in the ad network's verification process or flaws in the user's browser. As soon as a visitor enters an infected website, adware can generate pop-unders, pop-ups, and permanent windows that allow drive-by downloads. Visitors could be at higher risk of infection if ad blockers are not enabled. Some adware programs have additionally been known to prevent antivirus programs from running since some adware programs are credible and do not include uninstalling procedures.

Are Adware And Viruses The Same Thing?

Adware is a type of malware, but not the same as a computer virus. Malware is a more general term for malicious software that can take many forms: Viruses spread by duplicating themselves and corrupting documents; Trojans abuse legitimate programs to hide their true nature; ransomware locks your files and won't give you the key until you pay up. Even though adware isn't technically a virus, it can still be annoying and harmful.

Where Does Adware Stem From?

One of the most common ways that malware, including adware, is spread through operating systems or software vulnerabilities. These loopholes are created when developers make mistakes during the creation process. Later, hackers find a way to exploit these flaws and attach malware to your system. When it comes to adware, malicious hackers often use a drive-by-download technique that takes advantage of browser flaws to silently download malicious code to your computer when you visit a malicious website without knowing it.

Adware can also spread through software bundling, where a developer offers a "free" app but includes some extra, hidden software from an adware vendor. In other words, the developer is paid by the adware vendor while you get the app for free. But when you think about it, this probably doesn't sound so great since the adware entered your system without your knowledge or consent, depending on how irritating the resulting ads are.

Adware exists primarily to generate revenue. The developer earns money when you click on the ads it displays. Adware can also keep track of your browsing and search activity in order to show you advertisements that are more pertinent to you. Furthermore, the developer can earn more money by selling your browsing history to other parties once they have it.

Types of Adware

There are several methods for categorizing adware. Some are premised on how the adware enters our systems, while others are based on whether or not they are harmful. Adware can firstly attack your devices by hijacking your browser or while you are downloading software. We have two types, according to that.

On-Site Adware

When we speak of browser hijacking, we are referring to on-site adware. A malicious website that installs adware on your device after you visit it infects you. If your browser behaves strangely, this could be the first sign of adware. The typical adware symptom is as follows: you see difficult-to-close ads, and no matter how frequently you do so, you'll continue to see them. Some may believe that the ads are part of the website they are visiting, but they are coming from your browser, which has become infected.

Downloaded Adware

Adware can be installed when you download a free program from the internet. The first ad pop-up may appear soon after installation. Freeware and shareware authors use ad revenue to grow their companies. A program is considered freeware or shareware if it is distributed without charge later charge for it.

It's crucial to remember that users usually know that this type of adware contains ads and that it's not dangerous. On the contrary hand, spyware may occasionally be added to assess the content you are looking for so that the relevant ads can be displayed. Adware cleaners or antivirus software with removal capabilities are typically needed for removal.

Adware can also be classified according to its danger level. There are thus legitimate adware and potentially unwanted software. Companies that provide free software typically fund it by enabling respondents to consent to ads. Everything is agreed upon in this manner: visitors will be forced to deal with ads, and the profit earned by the creators allows them to keep offering specific software at no cost. This is genuine adware. As a result, not all adware is a virus.

PUAs, on the other hand, are applications you did not choose to install. They are also referred to as PUPs (potentially unwanted programs).

The degree of maliciousness is determined by who distributes it and the purpose for which it is intended. They are classified into three types:

  • Illegal malicious adware makes money from companies that want to spread malware and viruses by hiding them from within adware or the software that comes with it. These operations are deliberate, and their tactics are frequently abusive.
  • Legally deceptive adware frequently makes it difficult to avoid installing the accompanying software. Although this method of trying to introduce adware into user systems is lawful, some programs unintentionally install malware.
  • Legally abusive adware is designed to bombard you with advertisements via browser toolbars or other locations. It's legal if it doesn't contain any viruses, but it's still irksome.

Five Ways to Prevent Adware Attacks

When it comes to adware, prevention is always better than cure. It's better to avoid getting infected than to face the consequences. Here are a few steps to protect yourself from adware and other online threats.

Install Antivirus Software.

Using antivirus software, threats to a computer can be prevented, scanned for, and eliminated. Most antivirus software runs in the background as a cybersecurity defense to provide real-time security against adware attacks from viruses, spyware, and ransomware and aids in safeguarding your data and hardware.

Antivirus software, such as McAfee, provides the best defense against cyberattacks. 

Regularly Update Your Software.

Make sure your device's security features are regularly updated. By searching for weaknesses in outdated operating systems or apps, hackers can take control of your devices. The newest security features are available when you update your Mac or PC's operating system, some of which were created to thwart targeted hacking techniques.

Be Wary Of What You Click On.

It should go without saying that you should never click on pop-up ads. The same is valid for opening links or downloading files from emails sent by unknown senders. Phishing scams that install viruses and malware on your devices are frequently delivered via email, text message, or even through trusted social media groups.

Control Settings And App Permissions

Limiting app permissions and locking down your settings are excellent ways to avoid the adware. For example, if an app asks for access to your connections or link to other applications, click no. You expose yourself to new risks when you permit a plug-in or an app to connect to other browsers.

Alter your settings so apps and browsers can only access your data when actively using them rather than "always on." Before downloading apps, it doesn't hurt to read reviews. Before downloading an app, you should also consider what access you're granting to your device.

Recognize The Warning Signs

Take a minute to notice any unusual details that could be a red flag for a scam. If you visit a new website that appears slow or spammy, exit immediately. When installing a program, pay close attention to what you're opening or accepting. Double-check before you click because cybercriminals may try to impersonate reputable email addresses, URLs, and profiles on social media to catch you off guard.

Who Does Adware Target?

According to conventional wisdom, adware's primary intended victims are individuals rather than businesses. Additionally, it keeps track of the user across all devices, including Windows and Mac computers, smartphones, and almost every web browser. It employs the "too good to be true" marketing strategy to entice potential victims by offering lucrative discounts on new software products, movies, or other products.

How To Remove Adware?

Your escape route is straightforward for adware prevention. If you suspect your computer has adware, you can manually try uninstalling it in a few simple steps. However, there is no one-size-fits-all method for removing adware from your device. A few adware can be removed by simply uninstalling a plug-in or extension or maybe by reloading your web page. You might need adware removal tools to find and eliminate some other kinds of adware effectively.

  • Make a backup of your files. When challenged with a potential infection, always take the first precaution. Take out an external hard drive or save your critical data to the cloud.
  • Download or update any required tools. You must download or run updates for a scanner that deals exclusively in getting rid of PUPs and adware to get your computer sparkling clean. If you seriously doubt your computer is infected and don't have these tools, download them on a friend's computer and transfer them to yours via USB.
  • Remove any unnecessary programs. Verify if the adware program has an uninstaller prior to running a security product scan. To do so, navigate to the Add/Remove Programs section of the Windows Control Panel. Identify the unwanted program and choose the Remove button if it is present. Even if you are not prompted to restart the computer after having removed the adware, do so.
  • Run an adware and PUP removal program scan. The software will probably quarantine the items once it has scanned and discovered adware so you can inspect them and decide whether you want to delete them. Our advice is to delete, delete, delete. This will remove adware as well as any other residual files that may bring the adware back.

In the End

Adware is highly prevalent, making it among the most threatening cyber attacks users are likely to face. Multiple legitimate software applications rely on advertising to fund development, but this doesn't make them malicious adware that must be removed immediately.

In order to plan massive cyberattacks, the adware can also obstruct device usage and direct traffic to malicious websites. Your first line of defense should be antivirus, anti-adware, and ad blockers. To permanently avoid adware threats, users must progressively educate themselves on best practices for internet browsing and differentiating genuine from fraudulent sites.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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