For the fourth blog in our ‘30 Days to Better Security’ series, we discuss the topic of adware. The goal of this article is to help our readers understand the concept of an adware, identify dangerous adware, and know what to do  in case your system gets infected by this type of malware.

30 Days to Better Security: Protecting Against Adware

Broadly speaking, the term ‘Adware’ has a very simple definition. It is defined as any software application that displays ads – either as banners or pop-ups – while the application is running. Several free software applications often recover development costs by displaying advertisements to free users of the program. In legitimate cases, once a user upgrades to a premium, paid version, the ads stop running and the adware is uninstalled.

However, there are several adware programs that are designed with malicious intent. These programs penetrate into an individual’s system often recording personal information and user browsing habits without permission. This type of adware is often referred to as spyware, since they are installed without a user’s permission, and steal personal data with an intent to commit fraud.

In most cases, adware programs find their way into one’s system through free software downloaded from the internet or through infected websites.

Why should you know about adware?

The reason is simple. Today, as users, we use the internet and, more specifically, the browser to perform a number of critical, personal tasks. From bill payments to e-commerce purchases, there is no reason for someone else to know what you do online or have access to your data. Malicious Adware programs are designed to steal personal information and even financial data to possibly engage in fraudulent activities.

Protecting yourself against adware

The first step to take is rather simple. Run a high quality security software program such as K7 Security’s Total Security to check your system for installed adware. Now, you may be aware of where a particular adware came from and you may trust that source. But if you don’t know where an application came from, uninstall it. Your security software should be able to help you uninstall any unwanted programs that are detected.

Often, your browser is a source of adware. You may have unintentionally clicked on an extension or plugin that you don’t use or need. In such cases, your browser’s help file  will describe how to uninstall such plug-ins. Be sure not to click on suspicious or unknown  links that may lead to risky websites. Many of these websites host and distribute 3rd party adware as a way of monetizing their web traffic.

Why is adware risky? 3 key points to note…

While adware is something that you need to protect yourself from, the fact is that not all adware is risky or built with malicious intent. In fact, most get the user’s consent, via language buried in the software’s license agreement, to capture personal information in order to display targeted ads. The fact that not all adware is bad, however, can make it more difficult for users to spot the dangerous and malicious adware.

Adware comes in different shapes and sizes, and can even steal credit card information. It is important to understand this and carefully uninstall unwanted programs. Adware may sound more harmless than other forums of malware, but it can really slow down your system and direct you to unwanted websites to hijack your browser. When you download free software, always stay cautious to make sure nothing extra got installed.

The simple point to remember here is this: would you trust a stranger to access your personal computer? Adware is the digital version of a stranger. Don’t trust it and make sure you get rid of unwanted programs to minimize your risk.

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