How does it happen? You enter the Internet through your friendly and efficient browser to surf in the virtual world, and the only thing you see is a flood of advertisements, popping up and slipping onto the screen from the side, disturbing or even redirecting you to unwanted sites. No matter how many times you click to close all unwanted windows. They are coming back, like a bunch of flies at a picnic.
This embarrassing phenomenon results from the existence of adware – software used to display advertisements. Just as eating at a picnic attracts pests that want to feed, so the money, ie the income generated from displaying ubiquitous ads, attracts adware to your computer and mobile devices. Below is a short compendium of knowledge about adware. What it is, how it gets on the device, what it is threatening to do, how to deal with it and what to do to avoid annoying advertisements in the future.
What is adware?
Adware is an unwanted software used to display advertisements on your screen, usually in a web browser window. Some security experts perceive them as PUP (a potentially unwanted program), typical nowadays. Typically, these programs use various methods of impersonating or snoozing to the desired applications to get us to install them on your computer, tablet or mobile device.
“Adware is the unwanted software used to display ads on your screen.”
Adware generates revenues for its creators thanks to the automatic display of online advertisements in the user interface of the application or in the form of pop-ups during the installation process. That’s when you start to receive information about diets with suspiciously wonderful effects, quick enrichment methods and false warnings about virus detection that are waiting to be clicked. They can also open new tabs, make changes to the start page, add unwanted search results, and even redirect to pages with sensitive content.
It should be remembered that in legal software, online advertisements are used, which are usually integrated with the application and displayed at times specified by the programmer. Adware is something else. You can install them without realizing the intentions of its creator. It can also be found on your computer after installing a legitimate application in which it has been hidden. Regardless of the way you got to your computer, its operation will be to use some programs to display ads that do not come from websites you visit.
When the adware software is already on a device, it can perform various undesirable actions. The adware can, for example, analyze the places where you are and the websites you visit to display ads for goods or services similar to those offered to you. Adware is rather an inconvenience than malware and the threat of cybersecurity, but if its creators sell your browser’s stories and other information to third parties, these can be used to display personalized ads tailored to your online habits. It does not matter if you use Chrome, Firefox or any other browser – adware can attack any of them.
Below are a few warning signs that indicate that adware is in your system.
- Ads appear in places where they should not be.
- Your browser’s start page has changed in a strange way, without permission.
- The websites you normally visit are not displayed correctly.
- Links on pages redirect you to unexpected places.
- The browser works extremely slowly.
- New toolbars, extensions, or plugins appear in the browser.
- Your Mac automatically installs unwanted software.
- Browser hangs.
How can you infect your device with adware?
There are two main ways that adware gets into the system. In the first of these, after downloading a program, usually freeware or shareware, its installation adds adware without your knowledge and permission. This is because the author of the application signed a contract with the creator of the adware program. Why? Because ad profits allow you to make the program available for free (even paid software from an unreliable source can be used to profit from ads). Then the adware starts working, and the user learns that what is “free” also has its price.
“There are two main ways that adware gets into the system.”
The second way is equally tricky. You visit the website. This can be a trusted site or the one you visit for the first time. Either way, it can be infected with an adware program that uses the user’s web browser’s imperfections and quickly finds itself in the system. As soon as it installs, it will start gathering information about you, redirect you to malicious websites and display more ads in the browser window .
Types of adware programs
Adware programs can use different applications installed on computers and other devices, but most of them take control of the browser. These intrusive codes are adapted to modify browser settings without the knowledge and consent of the owner. Typically, adware changes the start page and default search settings. You surf on the Internet when you suddenly flood the stream of ads. You may think that the ads come from the page you’re viewing, but it is not. Due to the fact that the ads take the form of pop-ups or are displayed in the background of the page, you can assume that they are part of the displayed website.
It is worth mentioning again that there are adware programs that change the start page, the search engine or affect the shortcut that is used to open the browser. Of course, there are various adware programs adapted to operate on different devices and operating systems. You can meet adware programs for mobile devices / Android system, for Mac computers and for Windows.
Adware programs on Mac computers
Previously, Mac users did not have to be afraid of adware programs. First of all, they have a built-in XProtect system for protection against malware, which works well with detecting known unwanted applications. In addition, it is known that cybercriminals focus on computers running Windows, as there are more of them than those with the Mac system. This, however, changes quickly. According to statistics, the number of malicious programs targeting Macs that appeared in 2017 increased by more than 270 percent compared to 2016. Adware programs adapted for Mac began to appear in 2012. Since then, the number of adware types for Mac has increased significantly. These programs are created in secret by hackers and organized criminal groups, as well as completely legal corporations that claim to create applications in good faith and for various applications. The latest versions of adware are completely in view, they are mentioned in fine print in the installation contract for small applications. Nobody reads such agreements. Clicking and accepting the terms of the agreement causes spam to appear on your computer immediately. Developers behind the creation of adware programs do not do anything illegal. At least from a technical point of view.
In most cases, adware programs for Mac computers are placed inside Trojans, malicious programs that take their name from the Trojan horse of Greek mythology. The Trojan imitates something that the user wants to download. For example, a player or plug. It can even be hidden inside the legal software installation package downloaded from an untested site. In any case, we get adware, although we were promised something completely different.
As soon as the first symptoms of infection appear on the Mac with the adware program, they are deleteriously similar to those observed on devices running Windows. Ads appear where they should not – literally everywhere. Something is changing your start page without even asking for permission. Familiar websites do not look like before, and clicking a link will redirect you to a completely different site. Adware can even replace the most-used search engine with a different one.
In summary, Mac computers are less prone to adware than Windows systems, but despite the adware is a threat to their security.