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Adware: The Dark Side of Advertising

April 15, 2020

Throughout your entire life you’ve been subjected to advertising. People have had to look at ads in newspapers, magazines, radio, television and now on the internet. You probably just turn your brain off to most of them at this point, but have you noticed some ads you’ve seen on your favorite sites be a little… too conveniently close to your interests?

Many sites now have software capable of tracking what you look at, essentially being a “fly on your wall” to better tailor advertisements to your interest. If you buy a shirt from a boutique’s website, you might see ads for that same boutique on Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, or any number of sites.

Most people accept this trade-off, but now some ad software creators have taken advantage of this trust – or at least tolerance – by turning criminal.

Adware is ad software that not only listens and collects data about you, but is actually able to download and install modifications to your browser that will infect you with malware.

Adware is hard to find because it will often be secretly bundled onto separate software you purchase or websites you create an account for. Adware creators pay for their malware to lay dormant in other content creators’ products, and since it’s nearly impossible to tell what software can have adware attached, it has become a major threat to even the most cyber security conscious employee.

How widespread is this practice? Way back in 2017, a particularly nasty piece of code named Fireball infected 250 million computers running Windows and macOS around the world. The con was run by a large digital marketing agency in Beijing – a far cry from the dingy basements in Russia that people think malware and viruses come from.

The symptoms of adware are pretty obvious to see. The most brazen is that some adware will actually change your homepage, but you should also look out for banner ads and popups showing up in websites you aren’t used to seeing them in and random text appearing as hyperlinks.

If you think you may have been infected with adware, there are many things you can do to rid yourself of the harmful code.

First is to think about what software you have recently downloaded around the same time you started noticing the adware, and uninstall it. Next, you should run a virus scan to clean your computer from any bugs it could have. These take a lot of time and will require you to restart your computer after it is completed so set aside several hours for this step. After this, make sure your browser settings are all reset to default and that your homepage has been restored.

Fortunately, adware isn’t a threat to be a repeat offender like ransomware. After the adware has been cleared from your network, all you have to do is avoid downloading sketchy software and you’ll likely never deal with it again!

To learn more about cyber security and how your firm can prevent adware, you can contact TOSS C3 24/7 at 1-888-884-8677.

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