Adware is unwanted software designed to throw advertisements up on your screen, most often within a web browser. Some security professionals view it as the forerunner of the modern-day PUP (potentially unwanted program). Typically, it uses an underhanded method to either disguise itself as legitimate, or piggyback on another program to trick you into installing it on your PC, tablet, or mobile device.Adware generates revenue for its developer by automatically displaying online advertisements in the user interface of the software or on a screen that pops up in the user’s face during the installation process. And that’s when you start seeing dubious miracle weight loss programs, offers for get-rich-quick secrets, and bogus virus warnings that invite your click. Also, you might experience new tabs opening, a change in your home page, findings from a search engine you never heard of, or even a redirect to a NSFW(Not Safe To Work) website.

Adware is software, with the main goal to deliver advertisements to the user. Sometimes the means used by the adware leads to a different classification, like f.e. browser hijacker, but they will still be does happen that legitimate software applications do use online advertising, with ads that are typically bundled within the program and that display in ways the program developer specified. Adware is an altogether different kettle of rotten fish. You might download it without understanding its intent. Or it might land on your PC by means of legitimate software within which it’s secretly buried. Whatever the path, it all boils down to some program on your computer showing you advertisements that do not come from the websites you are visiting.

Once adware hijacks your device, it might carry out all sorts of unwanted tasks. The software’s functions may be designed to analyze the location and which Internet sites you visit, and then present advertising pertinent to the types of goods or services featured there. While adware is more of a pesky nuisance than a harmful malware threat to your cybersecurity, if the adware authors sell your browsing behavior and information to third parties, they can even use it to target you with more advertisements customized to your viewing habits. And it doesn’t matter whether you are using Chrome, Firefox, or other browsers: It affects all of them.

Types of adware

For all the ways adware tries to dig into your PC or other device, most adware strategies qualify as browser hijackers. These interlopers specialize in modifying Internet browser settings without the user’s knowledge or consent. Typically, hijackers change the homepage and default search settings. You’re happily surfing along when suddenly the ads start pummeling you. You might naturally assume that the ads originate from the site you’re visiting, but they aren’t. But since they appear in the form of pop-ups or pop-unders, they seem that they are embedded in the site itself.

1) Mac adware

It used to be that Mac users had no adware fears. For one thing, Macs have a built-in anti-malware system called XProtect, which does a decent job of catching known malware. Then there’s the fact that cyber criminals focus mostly on Windows PCs, as they are a more prolific target compared to the installed Mac base. But recently that’s changed fast. According to counts of the number of new Mac malware families to appear in 2017, they increased by more than 270 percent compared to those in 2016. Adware specifically for Macs first started to emerge in 2012; and since then, Mac adware variants have proliferated, developed both in secret by hackers and organized crime bad guys, as well as by seemingly legitimate corporations who claim to sell bona fide software with real-world uses.

There are a lot of reasons Mac users don’t sweat getting infected. One: They’ve got a built-in anti-malware system called XProtect that does a decent job of catching known malware. Two: Macs are not plagued by a high number of attacks. (Most cybercriminals are focused on infecting PCs.) And three:

  • There’s just not a lot of Mac malware out thereBut that’s changing, and fast
  • Mac malware has increased by 230 percent in the last year alone.
  • Most Mac users don’t know this, and assume their Mac is fine.

2) Mobile adware

There’s not much real estate room on a mobile’s screen. So when a mysterious icon moves into your start screen, or scads of ads start clogging your notification bar, you’ve probably got an uninvited adware guest.There are two methods through which mobiles come down with adware: through the browser and through downloaded applications.

  • Infection by browser refers to a known exploit, caused by the way most browsers handle redirections executed by JavaScript code. It’s a weakness that can cause ad pop-ups; and advertising affiliates know about it, and how to exploit it. If your mobile’s browser has been compromised, then the best way to block the pop-ups is to use a different browser, disable JavaScript, or install a browser with ad blocking. Another remedy to pop-ups is to back out of them using Android’s back key. Or you can clear your history and cache, which will also stop the ads from coming back.
  • Infection by downloaded applications refers to getting infected with persistent ads through adware apps installed on a phone. They present in different forms, from full screen ads inside and outside of the infected app, to the device notifications and on the lock screen. Typically, a third-party app store installs this kind of adware app. So it’s best to avoid third-party app stores, although even Google Play has been an unwitting source of adware-infested apps. 

How do you get adware?

No one ever intends to download adware; chances are, you were attempting to download something else when you accidentally downloaded the malicious software. But if you’re battling constant pop-ups or seeing a never-ending stream of ads, there’s a good chance you’ve been infected with adware.

There are a number of ways adware sneaks on to your computer. The most common occurs when you download software from questionable websites. But some adware hides in plain sight: adware companies are notorious for creating website redirects, forcing you to a malicious website that quickly infects your computer with adware. This is called a “drive-by” download, and also comes in the form up persistent pop-ups, new browser windows, and site blocking banner ads.

How do I know if I have adware?

There are a few obvious signs to keep an eye out for: if you see something like “You’ve got a virus!” pop-up on your screen, or if your browser is otherwise hijacked unexpectedly. But there are less obvious symptoms to look out for as well.If your browser seems extremely slow that can be a sign. Oftentimes adware forces your computer to load pop-ups, ads, and trackers, which can slow your browser down significantly. If you see more ads than usual and you suddenly have an inexplicably slow browser, it’s time to check for adware.

Another key indicator of adware is if your homepage has changed on your browser, or if you see ads every time you open a new tab on your browser. This can sometimes be difficult to detect, because the new homepage may look normal, but it will often contain an excessive number of ads, links, and downloads (none of which you should click).

How do I remove adware?

Adware is specifically designed to be undetected, so don’t assume your computer is safe simply because you’re not seeing ads everywhere. It’s a good idea to perform regular adware checks and, when necessary, adware removal on your computer.

Adware removal doesn’t have to be complicated, but the steps for removing it can vary depending on your computer and the type of adware you’re dealing with. One simple way of approaching some of the more lightweight forms of adware is to simply clear your browser’s cache and cookies, and reset your browser settings.

 If you’ve tried clearing your browser and you’re still struggling with adware, you’ll want to look into a safe, trusted, adware removal tool to help.But be careful! Malware removal sites and tools are often coupled with adware itself.

How do I prevent adware?

So now that we know more about what adware is, how can we prevent it in the first place? The first and most important step is simply being cautious online. Never download software from an unsafe source, and when possible, avoid downloading anything from third-party sites. It’s also a good habit to carefully read the terms of service for anything you’re installing to your computer. You don’t necessarily have to translate all the legal jargon, but keep an eye out for misspelled words or other inconsistencies in the wording of the terms themselves. Upstanding software companies are generally very careful to make sure their privacy policies and terms of service are well written, free of errors, and easy to understand.

Another easy way to help keep adware at bay is to use an ad blocker. Ad blockers prevent most ads from ever downloading, so if you’ve installed an ad blocker and you still find yourself seeing frequent ads or seeing the same ad everywhere you go, there’s a good chance you’ve downloaded adware somewhere. Ads “following” you are a huge red flag, especially when using an ad blocker. So while an ad blocker won’t necessarily block adware, it will help you detect adware more quickly so you can begin the adware removal process right away

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