Adware, or Why advertisements are dangerous

Helga Smith

Advertisements are the integral part of modern web browsing. You will see them wherever you browse. Sporting websites, forums, online shops – all of them have 3-5 ads on every page. These web pages are gaining money in such a way, and it must not be an object of complaining – everyone wants to have a penny to buy a lunch. But besides website maintainers, there is another category of users who want to gain the money with advertisements. These users created adware – a very popular and annoying type of virus these days. Let’s talk about its essence, ways of distribution, and other things you need to know to avoid this thing.

Secret of adware popularity

How to force users to watch the advertisements unlimitedly? You can offer them to do so for several cents per each view, but the need of paying the users makes the margin significantly lower. So, the best deal is to ignore the user’s wish to watch these ads and show them forcibly. And at this moment adware joins the game.

 

adware-related ads

Adware is the type of virus that shows you pre-paid pay-per-view advertisements without your allowance. Such ads have zero correlation with your search queries, so they can be easily distinguished from Google ads, which usually contain something that may be interesting for you. You may see ads on websites that have no ads by default, or even when you have installed AdBlock : they are shown as an integer part of the browser and cannot be disabled by any anti-advertisements plugins. 

Another sign that points out that you have adware on your PC is a randomly-opening browser window with the advertisements. It can be a doorway website – the specific type of page which consists of links to other websites and advertisements1. Anybody can purchase the place on such a doorway, so one of these links can be one that launches malware downloading. Such windows may appear any time, and because of well-known high hardware resources demand of such browsers as Mozilla and Chrome, your PC may suffer a lag spike.

Adware opened the browser window with advertisement
Browser window with game advertisement opened by adware

In the heaviest cases advertisements may fill your browser so much that you will not be able to see the content you are looking for. Of course, such a situation is only possible if you have several adware installed simultaneously, but this occasion is not so rare to miss it. Single adware will not show you so many ads, because when it becomes impossible to use your browser as usually, you’ll surely use antivirus software to clean it up.

How have I got this?

Adware is very easy to get if you have a habit to click on different pop-ups and allow the notifications from any websites. Since its appearance, adware is usually distributed as a part of a bundle with free software: besides the “main” program, you were offered to install several other applications. Another spreading method is fake advertisements that contain a link for adware downloading. All of them are actual even nowadays.

Pop-up advertisement
Pop-up ad offers you to install the browser plugin

In a specific case you may be offered to install an important update for Adobe Flash Player, or Chrome. Such a situation is possible only in case if your PC is already infected with browser hijacker. This malware is capable of controlling your browser, showing you the pages it wants and forcing you to use the search engine it wants. Hijackers have several similar functions with adware, however, in some situations it can be much more dangerous.

Consequences of adware presence

Adware is more annoying than dangerous. Watching the ads promoting you “the new online game about elves and orcs with 123 billions of users online” or “ultimate method to decrease your electricity consumption on 80%” may just distract you. But sometimes you may see the ads that offer you “the program which will surely help you to clean the malware off your system”. Remember: the producer of whatever will not ask the adware maintainers for advertising if his product is good and distributes well. That will be a great luck if the program you get by following such an advertisement is just a useless piece of program code, usually called “potentially unwanted program” or PUP. If you are not very lucky, you have a great chance to get a trojan virus, or the vandal program which will destroy your file system.

Some examples of adware are able to change your system’s registry and create a lot of different folders in different parts of your file system. Such adware will be literally impossible to remove manually, because registry changes forbid the removal of this program, while ramified file storing patterns creates a lot of troubles with removal. It is hard to find them all, and every of these parts are able to perform the self-restoration. Fortunately, such “hardy” adware is quite a rare thing.

How to prevent adware injection?

Do not click on any advertisements with questionable content. No one will offer you to get a free laptop, or to collect a prize in a lottery you didn’t take part in. To avoid displaying such promotions, use well-known anti-advertising plugins, like AdBlock. If the website asks you to disable ad blocker to see the content, think twice before doing it, because no one can guarantee that there will be harmless ads by Google or AdChoices. 

"You won the coupon" advertisement
The example of fake advertisement

Be very attentive while installing the free software. This advice is universal for preventing the installation of several malware types. Look for the “Advanced” tab in the installation window: it must contain options of allowance/forbid of installing the additional software. If it is, decline all additional software installation, even if that is something familiar – no one can guarantee that this version of the familiar app does not contain any additional functions, like spying or keystrokes logging.

How can I deal with excessive ads on my PC?

It is quite easy to remove it manually, in case if adware has a separate program which is listed in the list of installed programs. This case is not very often, however, it is reasonable to check the application list for something suspicious. In case if there is nothing dubious in your app list, open the Task Manager, then check the running processes. In the majority of cases you will see something like “AdAgent” or “AdvertsApp”. Adware don’t try to mimic the system processes, hence, it is easy to spot it in the Task Manager.

Adware in the Task Manager
Adware process in the Task Manager

Much more effective and much less time consuming method is making use of antimalware software. Microsoft Defender is able to deal with all of them, so, if you use Windows 10, that will make no problem to remove the annoying ads. But you have an outdated system, or haven’t updated your Windows for a long time – use Loaris Trojan Remover. It will wipe all adware out in less than five minutes, and provide a perfect shield for your computer.

  1. Information about doorway sites on Wikipedia

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