WHAT IS AN ADWARE?
Adware, often called advertising-supported software by its developers, is software that generates revenue for its developer by automatically generating online advertisements in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process
Adware is software that displays unwanted (and sometimes irritating) pop-up adverts which can appear on your computer or mobile device. Adware typically ends up on a user’s device through one of two ways:
- You might install a free computer program or app without necessarily realizing that it contains additional software that contains adware. This allows the app developer to make money but means you could download adware onto your systems without necessarily consenting.
- Alternatively, there may be a vulnerability in your software or operating system which hackers exploit to insert malware, including some types of adware, into your system
Adware is a type of malicious software (or malware, for short) that quietly collects information about you, such as browsing history and search results, while at the same time feeding you ads, and it does all of this without asking for your consent.
The consent part is an important aspect of adware, since a program that informs you of its advertising activities isn’t classified as adware, but as regular software that uses ads as a monetization or growth strategy.
Adware can roughly be grouped in two big categories, depending on who spreads them:
1. Companies that use unethical business practices.
2. Cybercriminals who completely disregard the law and just want to make a quick buck.
Types of adware
It is important to distinguish between harmless and harmful adware. Adware examples include:
Legitimate adware that allows you to consent to ads and software promos, offsetting developer costs so they can offer their software for free. Users willingly download this type of adware to get a free product. Also, you might choose to allow it to collect marketing information. Sometimes the accompanying personalized ads or sponsored third-party software can be desirable.
Legitimate adware is created by all types of developers, including reputable ones. It is a valid and legal way to give customers a free product.
However, not all application downloads are consensual. This is where legal boundaries become blurred.
Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) include any program you might not have chosen to install onto your device. These may also be called potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
PUA adware can fall into a gray area, where the extent to which it is malicious or illegal depends on the goals of the software and those who distribute it:
- Legal deceptive adware PUA may actively make it tricky to opt-out of installing harmless third-party software. While frustrating, legitimate adware sometimes uses this method. It is legal if the creator has not knowingly included malware-tainted ads or software. Unfortunately, some adware might unknowingly deliver disguised malware to devices.
- Legal abusive adware PUA is designed to bombard you with ads. Excessive ads may be in adware itself or in packaged software via web browser toolbars or other means. Without any malware, this is also legal. Ads for things like pornography or fitness pills frequently appear in adware like this.
- Illegal malicious adware PUA profits from malicious third parties who want to distribute malicious software like spyware viruses, or other malware onto devices. This malware may be intentionally masked within the adware itself, the websites it advertises, or in accompanying software. The creators and distributors knowingly spread this threat and might use abusive methods to accomplish it.
When people talk about “adware,” they tend to mean the programs that abuse ads and open the door for malware.
Adware can be frustrating regardless of legality and can easily go undetected for a long time. To avoid any invasive or tedious software, you should know what to look for.
How does adware spread?
There are a couple different ways you can contract adware. One iteration of adware comes when you download a program or app for “free,” and it quietly brings adware along for the ride without your knowledge or consent. This happens when the program developer works together with the adware vendor in order to get paid for their “free” app.
These unwanted applications are called junkware. They can even come preinstalled on your device, clogging your machine and compromising your security — but fortunately, junkware can be removed
The other most common way to get infected with adware is when malicious coders find a browser vulnerability to exploit Vulnerabilities are created accidentally during the development process, and manufacturers frequently issue updates to patch these holes. But if a patch has not yet been released, or if you haven’t applied the update, hackers can find a way into your device through the exploit. In the case of adware, this usually looks like a drive-by download, which is when you visit an infected website that secretly downloads software onto your system.
Is adware a virus?
Actually, no. Although many people use the term “virus” to refer to any harmful software, adware does not fit the precise definition of computer virus malicious code that hijacks other programs in order to self-replicate and spread to new hosts through networks. Rather, adware is a different type of malware here are many different types of malwares, including ransomware, spyware and Trojans
How does adware work?
Adware works by installing itself quietly onto your devices, hoping you’ll – accidentally or otherwise – click on an advert that it displays to you.
This is because, ultimately, adware exists to make money.
Adware creators and distributing vendors make money from third parties via either:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) — they get paid each time you open an ad.
- Pay-per-view (PPV) — they get paid each time an ad is shown to you.
- Pay-per-install (PPI) — they get paid each time bundled software is installed on a device.
Adware can also track your search and browsing history to display ads that are more relevant to you. Once the developer has your location and browser history, they can make additional income by selling that information to third parties.
At the less harmful end of the spectrum, adware is simply a nuisance. At the more harmful end, it can be a damaging malware threat to your cybersecurity.
How to tell if you have an adware infection
Signs that you may be infected with unwanted adware include:
Computer adware infection signs
- An unexpected change in your web browser home page
- Web pages that you visit not displaying correctly
- Being overwhelmed with pop-up ads — sometimes even if not browsing the internet
- Slow device performance
- Device crashing
- Reduced internet speeds
- Redirected internet searches
- Random appearance of a new toolbar or browser add-on
Mobile adware infection signs
On your phone, signs are similar:
- Your phone is slow
- Apps take longer to load
- Your battery drains quickly
- Your phone has apps you don’t remember downloading
- There is unexplained data usage and higher than expected phone bills
- There are numerous ad pop-ups
Some adware is aggressive – it embeds itself deep into systems with rootkits to make removal challenging. If you are infected, you’ll need to take steps to clean your system of the offending applications.
Not to mention, none of us is flawless. Likewise nobody is super human; everyone has some merits and demerits. Cyber analysts say, adware infects system, they invite virus and malware. But do not forget, they also say adware are not all together bad, there are certain positive aspects of adware which put them in good books too. Like…
One of the positive aspects of the adware is that it helps you in getting free software. The makers of the software will embed adware in the application, or have it serve you pop-up ads. In exchange, you get the software free rather than pay for its use.
The makers of adware are not familiar with you. They buy data from the research companies to approach you. Like, you need sweets for your friend’s wedding, and there is no sweet shop around at that moment you itch your head and an ad pops out of system, this ad is about online delivery of sweets , so here adware is boon and there is no doubt.
Likewise you might need biscuits for your son’s coming birthday; adware on the system’s screen tells you about the place from where you get crunchy biscuits.
Adware software publishers generate money through ads served to the end-user. This gives them another source of income beyond selling of software. The toolbars, specifically, are add-on tools that might help software publishers gain user loyalty, as well as give them an outlet to advertise updates and other products.
The income derived from presenting advertisements to the user may allow or motivate the developer to continue to develop, maintain and upgrade the software product.
For the majority of the time, where there is adware, there is an opportunity to make money. Since there are not enough monetary donations to cover expenses incurred from developing a download, advertisers are usually willing to contribute money
In return, they simply ask the download distributors to add their adware with whatever they are offering. If we sum up all aspects only one thing comes out that is Adware saves a lot of advertising expenditure it doesn’t matter if you do or do not utilize free downloads.
Most adware is at least marginally annoying because it displays advertisements in your private space (ie: your computer). But while some adware only displays ads in the program you downloaded it with, other types of adware can also create pop-up ads on your desktop and even change your computer setting in aggressive advertising schemes. While this is not a threat to you, it is a huge annoyance.
Other annoyances that may come with adware are certain changes in your internet setting like your home page being changed and additions to your favorites list you didn’t make. These are usually promoting the same types of products and websites that the adware’s advertisements are promoting.
Adware my also slow down your computer because it uses system memory. It may also slow down your internet connection by using up bandwidth to retrieve advertisements. The stability of your system may also be compromised, because adware often has below-standard programming.
Adware’s Connections to Spyware
Certain adware can be much more threatening than the average adware because of its close connections to spyware. Spyware is software designed to download itself onto your computer by piggybacking on other programs for the purpose of tracking your computer and internet activities and sometimes even recording personal information about you. Spyware can be a major security threat. Adware that displays advertisements on your computer but also tracks your activities and reports or sells your profile information to a third party without your consent can be considered spyware.
Not all adware does these types of thing. While some adware may monitor your web surfing activities for the purpose of tailoring its ad content to your tastes, it may not sell or report this information to any other party. However, it is hard to tell exactly what adware is doing with your information, and many adware programs are really spyware in disguise.
Good Adware vs. Bad Adware
Good (or non-threatening) and bad adware can often be told apart by the way they visibly interact with your system.
|Good Adware||Bad Adware|
|Only installs itself on your system if you give consent for it to do so||Installs itself secretly without your consent|
|Allows itself to be uninstalled, usually through the “Add/Remove Programs” section in your control panel||Is difficult or impossible to uninstall|
|Displays unobtrusive advertisements inside the applications that it is downloaded with||Installs itself in other programs or changes your web browser settings so it can display more ads while you are surfing the internet|
|Does not collect your personal information or monitor your activities||Monitors your activities or collects your personal information and can sell this information to third parties|
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