Emerging Threats

What Is Adware?

Adware, or advertising supported software, is software that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer. Adware programs will tend to serve you pop-up ads, can change your browser’s homepage, add spyware and just bombard your device with advertisements. Adware is a more succinct name for potentially unwanted programs. It’s not quite a virus and it may not be as obviously malicious as a lot of other problematic code floating around on the Internet. Make no mistake about it, though, that adware needs to come off of whatever machine it’s on. Not only can adware be really bothersome every time you use your machine, it could also cause long-term issues for your device.

Adware uses the browser to collect your web browsing history in order to ’target’ advertisements that seem tailored to your interests. At their most innocuous, adware infections are just annoying. For example, adware barrages you with pop-up ads that can make your Internet experience markedly slower and more labor intensive.

The most common reason for adware is to collect information about you for the purpose of making advertising dollars. It’s called adware when it’s on a computer, and madware when it’s on a mobile device, such as your smartphone or tablet. No matter what the adware or madware is, it’s likely going to slow down your machine and or even make it more prone to crashing.

Mobile Adware

There’s two ways a mobile phone or other connected device can become infected with adware: either through a browser vulnerability or through bad apps. Bad apps are malicious apps that can install malware on your device.

  • Similar to a computer, you can get adware through a browser vulnerability that can allow pop-ups ads. 
  • When a bad app is infected with adware, you can be bombarded by persistent ads.

How do you get adware?

There are two main ways by which you can contract adware on your system or device.

  • In one case, you can download a program that contains the adware—usually freeware or shareware—and it quietly installs without your knowledge.
  • The second method is via what is called a bad website. These websites can be infected with adware, which take advantage of a vulnerability in your web browser to deliver a drive-by download.

How to tell if you have an adware infection

Slow computer

If you notice that it’s taking longer than usual to launch programs and run them, or to load documents, images or anything else on your computer, then you may have an infection. Adware can slow down your device’s processor and take up lots of memory space, therefore causing a decrease in your computer’s overall performance.

Bombarded with Ads

It’s normal to get a few pop-up advertisements while surfing the web. It’s even normal to see ads similar to something you may have searched for previously. However, if you are bombarded with pop-ups, get ads that seem difficult to close, or are redirected to full page ads, then your device may be infected with adware.

Constant crashing

Are your programs randomly crashing? Your entire device freezing up? These symptoms are a red flag for adware.

Browser homepage changes

Adware is also known for making changes to your browser’s home page. It may redirect you to a new page that might then install more adware and possibly other forms of malware on your computer.

Slow Internet connection

Adware can slow down your internet connection because it is downloading massive amounts of ads from the internet.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may want to look into an adware removal tool such as Norton Power Eraser, which will help eliminate any adware and other malware your device may have.

How To Protect Your Devices Against Adware:

A smart strategy for protecting your computers and mobile devices is to install an internet security suite, such as Norton 360, and keep it up to date on each of your devices (tablet, laptop, mobile, desktop) and their operating systems. Be proactive in terms of wisely choosing the websites that you visit. If something seems slow, spammy or to lag, or to behave like it’s installing a program, leave the website immediately. Also, exercise caution when installing new apps. It’s best to never download apps unless they come from the official app store for your operating system. Even then, do a bit of Internet research before you make the final decision to download to understand what access you are allowing the app developer to your device. Never click on pop-up ads. The same goes for downloading attachments from or clicking on links in emails from people you don’t know. Whenever your machine asks if you want to update the operating system, your answer should be “yes.” A common way for hackers to compromise your machines is by exploiting old vulnerabilities that have not been patched by an operating system or app update.

Sure, there are dangers out there in the digital landscape. However, protecting your devices may not be as difficult as you think. Between installing and running an internet security suite and taking some common-sense precautions, you can help protect your devices against many types of malicious software.


Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Norton LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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