What is Adware?


What is Adware?

If you’ve ever had popups, banners, or ads on your computer or browser and haven’t been able to explain them (or get rid of them), you’ve probably had adware. Adware is a specific type of malware that works to make money for it’s creator by showing you ads. However, adware can be much more sinister than forcing you to view a constant stream of popups, it can steal your data, slow your computer, and redirect your search requests.

If you want to protect yourself from adware, it is crucial that you understand what it is, how it works, and how to avoid it.

What Adware Is:

There are two primary types of adware. The first is a potentially unwanted program that you may have installed yourself (even accidentally) that lets you know what it is doing, that it is there, and may even offer you a very tiny fee for allowing it to redirect your browser and your searches. Another type of adware is malware, this adware does not tell you that it is there, does not show up on the system tray, and typically installs itself or tricks you into installing it. This second type of malware is more dangerous and more difficult to uninstall.

In some cases, you can install adware using freeware or shareware (free apps or programs) available on the Internet. These companies sometimes partner with adware to attempt to make some money off of their free to use software.

You might also get adware by visiting an infected website, joining an infected network, or through a browser hijacker, which installs itself using a vulnerability in your browser.

What Does Adware Do?

Adware can perform a number of tasks depending on the program, but typically works to show popup ads, show ads in browsers or programs, show ads on the desktop, redirect the browser to an ad website, redirect searches to partner websites, and similar. Many also collect data from your computer and from your searches, which allows the program or app to tailor searches and ads into those that it thinks you are more likely to want to see. In some cases, it may collect this data with your permission, and in some cases it might not have your permission.

How Can Adware Harm Your Computer?

Most adware doesn’t physically harm your computer. It simply shows you a lot of annoying ads, uses your Internet, and may slow your computer down a great deal. It can also be quite annoying to have your searches re-routed. However, if you don’t mind any of those things, most adware is relatively harmless.

However, in some cases, an adware program might include more malicious software, which can harm your computer. For this reason, it is almost always a good idea to remove adware as quickly as possible.

Uninstalling Adware

In some cases, you can uninstall adware by dragging and dropping it to the trash on Mac, or using the uninstall from programs option for Windows, or use a third party uninstaller for either option.

In other cases, the program may be designed to hide from the system, which will make it more difficult to uninstall. You can and should try running an antivirus scan. If that does not work, you should restart your computer into safe mode (restart while holding SHIFT on Windows or Mac), and then run your antivirus or a built in computer antivirus such as Windows Defender, from there. Alternately, you could turn your computer off, plug it into another computer, and scan the drive as an external drive. Because malware cannot hide from a scan while it is not running, this final method almost always works.

Avoiding Adware

Adware is most often installed through browser or website vulnerabilities, or installed by users who aren’t paying attention. The best ways to combat these issues are to update your browser, computer, and security as often as possible, use a link scanner that will tell you when a website is compromised, and pay attention to the software you are downloading and what you are clicking ‘accept’ on when installing programs.

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