So the last time you went online, everything was fine. You finished your research and sent some emails. You even downloaded some apps on Google Play or App Store, and had a good laugh at some posts and memes as you checked your various social media accounts. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you go online and you can barely do anything with all the advertisements popping up on your screen. It’s like a party of pop-up windows displaying advertisements and various sales pitches on your device.
You, or your device, may just have been infected by a type of malware or got caught up in a highly advanced digital marketing scheme. Adware, or advertising-supported software, is software designed to bombard your screen with advertisements, often unwanted ones. It generates revenue for its developer by automatically displaying online advertisements or by paving the way for a third party to distribute their software. Adware also uses your web browser to collect your browsing history to tailor advertisements based on your interests.
How Did Adware Get On My Device? Are Their Different Kinds?
Usually, people think or label adware as malicious software; this is not always true. Some adware is perfectly safe, legal, and reputable. Software developers often use legitimate adware to offset costs so that they could offer free versions of their software. People willingly download adware in exchange for a free product. This is the legal area of adware.
There is also what could be considered a gray area in the world of adware. This could lean closer to the legal side, but it may also fall right in the middle of fully malicious and illegal areas. This gray area is comprised of what could be referred to as Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA), also referred to as Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP). PUAs may generally fall into three types of adware:
– Legal but Deceptive
Legal deceptive adware PUAs are frustrating and make it actively tricky to avoid installing harmless third-party software. It is considered legal if the developer of the adware program has unknowingly allowed malware-tainted software or advertisements to piggy-back ride on the adware.
– Legal but Abusive
This type is comprised of adware that cannot technically be considered as a form of malware even though they most certainly act like malware. Legal abusive adware PUAs bombard people with as many ads as they can to maximize or abuse sponsorship pay-out. Such adware usually includes ads for fitness pills or pornography.
– Illegal and Malicious
Adware under this category falls on the darkest side of the spectrum, so to speak. They gain profit by aiding malicious third-party software developers or companies that aim to distribute malicious software like spyware and viruses. Again, the developers knowingly spread such threats so the malware may be intentionally embedded and carefully masked into the adware. The malware may also be masked within the advertised websites or the accompanying software.
Adware is illegal if it installs programs and gathers information without your consent and it knowingly infects devices with malware. Always proceed with caution when you’re online. Malicious adware programs could infect your device through a program that you download, usually freeware or shareware; such a program may stealthily install the adware. Another entry point for malicious adware is a bad website that you may visit. Such websites may be infected and may do a drive-by download through a vulnerable spot in your web browser.
How Do I Detect Adware On My Device?
Avalanche of Pop-up Ads
Pop-up ads could be considered normal nowadays. However, multiple pop-up ads that appear simultaneously or one after the other is a tell-tale sign of an adware infection. These pop-up ads are usually tricky to close or may even redirect you to another advertisement or another website altogether.
Adware may slow down your device’s processor; they may also take up a large space in your device’s memory. Thus, your computer’s or cell phone’s performance is greatly affected resulting in delayed or slow launching and running of programs, loading documents and images, and more.
Reduced Internet Speed
Adware greatly slows down your internet connection due to the massive amounts of ads that it continuously downloads from the internet. In basic terms, the more activity that occurs on your Wi-Fi reduces its speed.
Device Crashing and Freezing
Another red flag your device is infected is when your programs are crashing randomly or when your device constantly freezes. You’ll be going about your normal device activities and all of a sudden it will stop functioning properly with no warning.
Changes In Your Browser Home Page
Adware may make changes to your browser’s home page; it may also cause the appearance of a random toolbar or browser add-on. It may redirect you to a new page which in turn would install more adware or even malware on your device. If this happens too often, you have to watch out for the possibility of hacking.
How To Get Rid Of Adware On Your Device
Okay, so we have discussed the symptoms of an adware infection. Unfortunately, there is a strong probability that your device is infected. There are some steps that you can take to remedy the situation. Before that though, there are some precautionary measures that you could take.
First of all, make a habit of regularly backing up your files. Then, make a habit of doing the following:
- Always exercise caution when downloading or installing new applications. It is best to only download apps through the official app store for your operating system.
- It wouldn’t hurt if you make it a habit to do some research about the app you want to download first. Check for reviews on the app store or online.
- Always read and make sure to truly understand the permissions an app, software program, or website wants. This would also cover checkbox agreements before clicking the “next” button during software installations. Also, pay close attention to the buttons you tap; some developers cleverly place “close” buttons so you would accidentally click “yes”, “agree”, or “next”.
- Avoid clicking on pop-up ads or links from unreliable senders or sources. Avoid downloading unverified or odd attachments as well. Carefully check URLs, email addresses, and social media profiles before clicking on them because cybercriminals try to mimic legitimate ones.
- Keep in mind that hackers usually exploit old vulnerabilities on your operating system, so always agree to updates whenever they become available. Updates patch up vulnerabilities effectively protecting you from threats like malware and spyware.
- Keep downloads and installations on the legal side of things to avoid unnecessary risks.
The best way to terminate an adware infection is through a legitimate and reliable adware removal tool. Get such a tool or simply download a legitimate cybersecurity program that is designed to search for adware, PUAs or PUPs, and other malware. After running the program and effectively removing malicious adware, it is best to change all your passwords. Password changes should be done on your device, social media accounts, email address, and other online accounts.
Observing all the aforementioned precautionary measures is already a big step towards preventing adware infections. However, it is an unfortunate fact that there are a lot of threats lurking in various digital platforms; hence it wouldn’t hurt to be extra cautious.
Don’t wait for your device to get infected, protect your computer from malicious adware and malware by arming it with a reputable cybersecurity system; and then perform scans frequently. You could install a spy app on your device as well for real-time monitoring. Such software could help you detect odd and unusual activities, helping you address issues faster.