Ahh, adware. Who doesn’t love being bombarded by messages from a million spammy websites and fake services?
I can’t call adware a form of malware, because technically not all adware is malicious (even though I hate constant ads as much as the next person). Adware is short for ad-supported software, and it’s all over the place, ethically.
You know when you go to install a legitimate program, like a photo editor or another tool, and it asks you if you want to install a free trial of another program? Or, even worse, when the installer just assumes you want the other programs as well, and just drops them on your computer real quick? That’s adware. Ironically enough, antivirus installers are often the worst about doing this! They get paid to bundle another software in with theirs to “trick” people into installing it. Unfortunately, antivirus software companies are often the worst offenders.
Another type of adware is less annoying—free versions of programs supported by ads. Mobile games are a great example. For developers, the benefit is twofold: they can collect revenue from advertisements, and incentivize users to pay for a “full” ad-free version of the game or software. Spotify, YouTube, and other services use this model, and do so responsibly (most of the time).
We give these large companies permission to keep and/or sell our data to advertisers in exchange for their services. Nothing is free, and we pay for most things on the internet with personal information. Some adware, however, does not get your permission before collecting data. The line is thin, and there are many experts who feel that even large corporations cross the line with data collection and the ads they serve users.
A big problem with adware is the spread of “malvertisements,” or ads that lead you to sketchy websites of all sorts. You’ve no doubt run into this—ads that you don’t want to see at all for services you would never use. They may fill up most of your screen, or have “close” buttons that are ridiculously small. If you accidentally click on them, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be! These can be served up by malicious browser extensions and other programs that “hijack” your web browsing experience.
This is where adware gets really bad—these types of advertisements may come in the form of pop-ups or permanent windows stuck on your screen. They may prevent antivirus software from opening or detecting them. It can be pretty bad. They may take you to a site where a download automatically starts, infecting your computer even further.
When something like that happens, your best bet is to bring your computer to a local virus removal service or virus cleanup company like Facet. We can get the malware off your computer and leave it running like new again. If you haven’t already, look for an ad blocker browser extension to use as a first defense.