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The best method for dealing with Adware is to avoid and prevent it. It is best to understand what it is and how it spreads.
What is Adware?
Adware programs are programs designed to cause your computer to display popup ads. Adware is NOT a virus and may or may not be detected by anti-virus scanning programs. It does not spread the same way as most viruses spread. I consider adware to be worse than viruses because of the fact that it is deliberately written so it cannot be removed.
Who writes Adware Programs?
Adware programs are written by supposedly legitimate companies. Most of the companies that create them are so low they almost make virus writers look like saints. This is because they attempt to get the program installed on the victim's computer without their knowledge and they deliberately design the program to prevent its removal. In one case an adware program we had to remove would try to respawn itself if you tried to kill its process. This was done to prevent its removal.
How do I get Adware?
Most people do not want adware deliberately installed on their computer systems. The creator will usually trick the victim into installing it on their computer system. There are several ways this can happen.
- The victim may download and install a free program such as a game program and the adware comes with the "free" program.
- The victim may download and run a movie or video clip form a web site. The site may download and run the adware program.
- The victim may be tricked into answering a question about downloading and running some software and the description of the software is misleading.
- The victim may visit a website that will take advantage of browser vulnerabilities or settings which will allow the infection to occur without the victim's knowledge.
How does adware affect my computer performance?
Adware can seriously slow down your computer system performance and cause instabilities for the following reasons.
- It is not "quality" software and is usually poorly written from a performance and stability perspective.
- It may spawn many processes to prevent removal and ensure an abundance of displayed ads.
- It will use part of your internet connection speed to display ads and thereby slow your legitimate traffic to the internet.
- It may download other adware software from the same company or other partner companies.
Is there a computer security risk with Adware?
Yes, adware poses a great security risk to your computer and any network it is connected on. This is because it can download and install other programs from the internet. I even found a hacker tool on one system that had adware on it.
There are some rules of thumb which should help avoid adware.
- Be very careful before downloading and installing any programs from the internet. Check your favorite search engine such as Google (especially in the Google groups section) to be sure other people are not having problems with it. If many people in group discussions are trying to remove the software, it is not likely to be safe.
- Avoid going to sites that may have questionable reputation, especially sites with an excessive amount of advertising popups. This will help prevent an accidental clicking on a popup which has been known to infect some systems.
- You may consider changing your internet browser settings so some software from websites is not run automatically. This change can cause a good deal of inconvenience since many sites use this type of software called ActiveX. This can be changed in Internet explorer by doing the following:
- On your browser menu, click on "Tools", and select "Internet Options".
- Select the Security Tab.
- Be sure the Internet Zone is selected and click on the "Custom Level" button.
- Set your Active X controls and plugins section as follows:
- Download signed ActiveX controls - Enable
- Download unsigned ActiveX controls - Disable
- Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe - Disable
- Run ActiveX controls and plugins - Prompt
- Script ActiveX controls marked safe for scripting - Prompt
Author: Mark Allen - June 14, 2004