Adware Explained and How it Works

What is Adware?

Adware is short for "advertising-supported software." Essentially, it is software installed on your device that shows you unwanted advertisements, typically in the form of pop-up ads. It is not necessarily malicious - however, if you suspect your device has it, you should make sure it is removed.  At best, it's a nuisance that significantly slows down your computer and leads to crashes. At worst, it can lead to much worse problems for your device such as spyware attacks.

Adware works by using your internet browser to collect your browsing history and send you a constant bombardment of targeted advertisements. Whenever you get a pop-up ad, it leads to advertising dollars for whoever owns the specific program.

How it is Installed

Adware can install onto your device through three channels:

  1. Browser vulnerabilities. Adware can infect websites. Depending on your browser, the browser may have a vulnerability that allows it to download to your device when you visit the "bad" website.
  2. Freeware or shareware. When you download free programs, they may contain adware that installs onto your device without your knowledge.
  3. Bad apps. Untrustworthy mobile applications can be infected with adware that can then install onto your device when you download the "bad" app.

How to Detect

There are four tell-tale signs that your device has an adware inspection:

Constant Ads

Adware computer displays popup ads
When we browse the internet, it's completely normal to see advertisements (unless you're using an ad blocker). However, if you are getting pop-up ads every few seconds or minutes that are difficult to close, you probably have an adware infection.

Slower Than Normal Device

If you notice that your device seems to be running slower than normal, you may have an infection. This is because adware takes up a lot of memory space and slows down your processor. It can also slow your internet connection due to the constant downloading of advertisements.

Crashing

It is normal for your device to crash every now and then if you're running multiple large programs. But if you notice random crashing multiple times a day, you probably have an adware infection or another type of virus.

Changes to Browser Homepage

An adware program may change your browser homepage in order to install additional programs onto your device. If you notice your homepage change without your consent, you may have an infection.

How to Remove and Prevent Adware

The best way to protect yourself against adware and any other malware is to use a cybersecurity program such as Malwarebytes. Once you have an anti-virus installed, you should keep it up to date and run it regularly on all your devices. You should also keep your internet browser up to date. Browser updates install security patches that fix any found vulnerabilities.

Outside of antivirus software, you should exercise caution when using the internet. For one, avoid suspicious websites. Additionally, only install apps and software programs that are trusted and legitimate - read the reviews and do your research! And last but not least, never click on pop-up ads. This is probably the worst thing you can do while browsing the internet.