Sometimes one or two advertisements come into view, while some unfortunate Internet surfers are unlucky enough to enter a site that aggressively attacks the calm of a computer screen with a multitude of colorful endorsements. This is the world of adware (also known as advertising-supported software), which includes any attempt to automatically play, display, or download advertising items onto a computer after a user clicks on an unsuspecting link, uses a certain application, or installs software .
What is Adware?
Any software application that displays advertising banners, pop-ups, and pop-unders while a program is running is considered adware. Those who create adware, utilize specific codes that delivers ads to a computer screen through pop-up windows or a bar that appears in clear view . Whenever the program you are using is responsible for displaying ad banners, you are dealing with a form of adware. In many adware cases, no details are sent back to the advertiser unless you willingly fill out a form or request additional information.
But, some adware is created with the intent to collect data, which many claim is used to tweak the way products are marketed to the public. When a legitimate party produces the adware on your computer, the invasion of your privacy is strictly used to collect general product usage information, and does not threaten your identity as an individual.
The Negative Effects of Adware
One of the main disadvantages associated with adware involves the irritating pop-ups that appear on a computer screen when you’re trying to conduct important research or enjoy an online chat with friends. Some adware installations have the ability to change your homepage and even hijack other pages in order to display their own messages. Often, these soliciations are obscene, offensive, or rather annoying at best.
In regards to a high amount of adware intrusions, malicious intent is not the main objective. Most adware programs are not created to cause harm to a computer, but for some, the information they aim to collect pertaining to computer habits is irritating and occurs without knowledge or consent.
Also, adware has the capacity to slow down a computer by running programs in the background that computer user are unaware of. When an elevated amount of usage power is drained by adware, the chances of suffering a computer crash are rather high.
How to Prevent Adware
The best way to avoid adware on your computer is to follow a mixture of knowledge, better Internet habits, and reliable prevention programs. Below are a few preventative measures you may want to consider regarding the safety of your computer and concealment of your Internet browsing habits:
a) Know the Risk:
There are certain activities on the Internet that encourages the installation of adware. Common risks include the downloading of various shareware programs and games; the clicking of certain banner ads; the installation of certain music set-ups; and the registering of programs received through a CD installation. It is suggested to avoid the temptation of downloading â€œfreeâ€ software programs, screensavers, and any other program that seems too good to be true.
b) Become Familiar With Known Adware:
There are certain programs that have a reputation for installing adware onto a computer and are still able to attract a large following. In a society where music, email, and video streaming are popular forms of communication and entertainment, applications like Bonzi Buddy, Kazaa, and Gator have found a niche.
For example, Kazaa Media Desktop is a notorious peer-to-peer file sharing application that is commonly used to exchange MP3 music files across the World Wide Web. Kazaa is an attractive download for many because videos, applications, and other kinds of documents are also exchanged through the system. The reason Kazaa is offered to the public for free is through financing received by bundled adware and other malware included in the download of the software. When Kazaa is installed, the default option places adware applications, such as Cydoor, DoubleClick, and WhenU onto a computer .
Additional malicious downloads to be on the lookout for includes TopMoxie, 180 Solutions, Zango, ClipGenie, Comet Cursor, ErrorSafe, Hotbar, WeatherBug, WinFixer, and Smiley Central.
c) Choose Reputable, Well-Known Companies:
When downloading, it is highly suggested to first choose trusted material that comes from well-known companies with a reputation of providing good products and services. A good sign that a website can be trusted is when there is a clear-cut system of customer contact, where users may ask questions and receive the answers that allow them to make better product decisions. It is also important to remember that not all reputable companies completely refrain from the use of adware.
d) Research the Unknown:
If you are really interested in a software program and not sure if it is legit, a quick search on the Internet may shed light on the product in question. A good place to seek information on possible adware software and other malicious products is to take a peek into forums centered on listing problematic or suspicious software.
e) Prevention Products:
There are plenty of adware prevention products geared towards the detection, quarantine, and removal of adware. Some of the best selections will also take care of spyware and other malware threats. While there are both free and paid subscriptions and downloads, some of the more popular options include Ad-Aware (Lavasoft); CounterSpy (Sunbelt Software); Spybot Seach & Destroy; SpywareBlaster (Javacool Software); SpySweeper (Webroot); Spyware Doctor (PCTools); AVG Anti-Spyware (Grisoft) and of course, the infamous line of Symantec and Norton products . Installing a personal firewall is also recommended.
f) Beware of the Gimmicks:
If a download or software selection seems to have a few strings attached, then you should probably move on. Pop-ups and advertisements that promise something for free or make an offer “you can’t refuse,” is not worth the hassle that comes when you unsuccessfully satisfy your curiosity.
g) Pop-Up Blocker:
A good way to avoid annoying adware is to block pop-ups before they even have a chance to entice a click. There are many free options to consider when looking for a reliable pop-up blocker.
h) System Updates:
Individuals help prevent adware by keeping up with their security patch and Windows operating system updates.
i) ActiveX Alerts:
When using a pre-Internet Explorer 7 version on your computer, it is suggested to establish a prompt that alerts Active X installations, which are sometimes responsible for opening up the gateway for malicious downloads to take place. In IE7, the prompt is already turned on by default.
j) Using Alternate Web Browsers:
Sometimes, a computer’s vulnerability to adware is avoided when one uses a different browser to surf the Net. A few selections to consider include Safari, Opera, and the very popular, Mozilla Firefox.
k) Alter Internet Habits:
Some people change the way they make use of the Internet in order to prevent the chaos of adware and other malicious software downloads. While it may sound easy enough, simply using the Internet less is a good way to reduce the risk, as well as prevent adware attacks from taking place. Also, it is a good idea to turn off the computer when it is not in use. Just because you are not manning the controls of your PC, a computer still connected to the online world is sometimes just as vulnerable for attack. Turning off a computer or disconnecting from the Internet when the PC is not in use is a good habit to follow.