Adware (ad-supported software) is software that is accompanied by automated ads. People download software (an application or program) and the accompanying adware displays ads to bring in revenue for the creator (or publisher) of the software. Adware is free in many cases and is incredibly common. You’re guaranteed to have encountered it at some point.
The ads and advertisements we encounter online are usually pretty blatant and more of a burden than a pleasure for app users. Still, companies keep doing it because they can make money from it.
What types of adware exist?
Adware comes in different forms. A large part of adware shows ads in the application. Often you as a user have the option to take a paid version, which means no more ads are shown (shareware). Another form of adware are programs’s that show ads during installation.
Is Adware bad for your computer?
Adware in itself does not have to be bad for your computer. Basically, the term adware only means that ads are shown during installation or while using the software. So legitimate adware doesn’t have to harm your computer.
- Google, with for example Gmail and Google Search, also shows ads in its services / software and can thus also be labeled as adware.
- In contrast, the term adware is also often used to indicate a certain type of malware that spreads unwanted advertisements and viruses. In addition, the ads may contain harmful components. Indeed, more than once, advertisements are misused to spread viruses undetected.
Difference between adware, malware and spyware
The terms adware, malware and spyware are often used interchangeably. Adware can be simultaneously malware and / or spyware. Nevertheless, it is important to know the origin of the term in order to properly describe the purpose of the program.
- Adware is a term meant purely for programs’s that feature advertisements. Adware is basically not malicious. Spyware, on the other hand, aims to secretly collect privédata from the computer user(s).
- This includes keystrokes, passwords, internet history and files. These functions are often hidden in seemingly safe programs’s. Malware (malicious software) is an umbrella term.
- It represents all software that aims to disrupt computer systems, take over computer systems (partially), display unwanted advertisements and act as spyware.
How to combat adware?
In general, you don’t have to stop adware from being installed. Often ads are put into free programs’s to cover software development and update costs. These ads are often not malicious and will not harm your computer. However, the ads may contain harmful components. Blocking online ads with adblockers and a VPN is therefore wise. Malware, viruses and spyware are programs’s that do need to be actively fought:
- You should avoid coming into contact with such software as much as possible by always downloading from the original source and avoiding illegal downloads.
- Install a virus scanner and keep it up to date.
- Let anti-malware program’s such as MBAM scan the computer every so often.
- Block ads with browser plugins like uBlock origin or Adblock plus.