Adware (as we’ve discussed before) is “any type of software that appears to offer coupons, deals, or gratuities to the user.” Adware is one of the more devious forms of malware in that it appears genuine to the user and usually doesn’t directly affect their system in a recognizably dangerous way – at least, at first. It can take the form of a system app that runs on your OS, a browser “add on,” or an actual program (this often appears to be digital or printable coupon offers for legitimate business or stores).
More insidiously, many types of adware come “bundled” into software that users can download and use. Such software may practically be useful! To muddy the waters even more some forms of adware are not actually malware, but programs designed to support a specific brand, business, or website. Once installed, adware will begin to generate pop-ups, change your browser’s home screen (they are like browser hijackers in this way), and tailor ads you may encounter while browsing online. It usually does this by documenting your personal habits and information and then sending that information to a third party to use. Some adware acts like a Trojan and allows other, external users to slip into your system by opening ports, sending your log on information, etc. Because of this, in general, it’s best to avoid any sort of third-party adware and be aware of the various avenues that can lead to its installation and infection of your system.
- Bundled Software and/or Content: Perhaps the most familiar way of accidentally downloading or installing adware, bundled apps can cause all sorts of headaches and are becoming more and more common. Whenever you install any software always click the “custom” option instead of any express install to make sure you’re not downloading.
- Smart Browsing Habits: When surfing the web, remember to stick to websites you know or trust or download STOPzilla AntiVirus (which includes a “smart web” filter) or similar software. When using an unknown site make sure that you double- and triple-check your download for infections or unwanted software!
- Ad Blocker Software: There are many different forms of ad blocker software out there for browsers. Pick one and use it. AdBlock Plus for Google Chrome is the industry standard and is free.
- Keep Private Information Private: Avoid taking surveys, giving out your email address, and otherwise letting others collect your personal information. As we’ve talked about before (see our post on Identity Theft), your personal information is valuable and not to just you. Be careful how you “spend” the currency of your identity.
- System Maintenance: Make sure you do a “health check-up” on your system at a set interval (e.g., a weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly check-up) and do not skip it. This can be done in multiple ways (see STOPzilla Optimizer for a fast option), but at the very least you should check your installed programs to make sure there are no surprises there.