By Melanie Robles

Adware is in my opinion one of the boldest types of malware on the mobile front — we can see that the actors are basically following the money.”
– Aviran Hazum

Keeping your home and business safe from cyber threats goes beyond installing an antivirus program. Malicious software is continually evolving; it can wreak all kinds of havoc once it makes its way onto a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Adware can be a particularly “sneaky” type of malware that you need to keep a vigilant eye on.

With that said, take some time to get familiar with the “Ninja” among malware. This will save yourself countless headaches down the line by protecting your business from this less-than-savory technology.

1. Adware Is a Type of Malware

Malware is defined as software that is specifically designed and created to disable or damage computers or computer systems without the owner’s knowledge. This might seem strange, since most people consider Adware annoying but not necessarily dangerous. However, Adware most certainly is dangerous. You’re about to find out why.

2. Adware Started Out Legitimate

The word “Adware” is derived from the phrase “advertising supported software,” and that’s exactly what it is. The software either brings up advertisements in your web browser or, less frequently, in an app that you download. Either way, it burrows its way into your system and stays there.

When Adware first appeared around 1995, reputable businesses used it as a recognized method of advertising. The internet was just taking off, and many companies saw Adware as the equivalent to commercials in print or on the television and the radio.

But it wasn’t long before Adware’s underhanded applications became apparent. The Adware vendors, who the respected businesses were paying to spread the adverts online, didn’t check the affiliates of the legitimate companies – and soon these illegitimate affiliates were spreading through the internet like wildfire.

Soon, companies withdrew their custom from Adware vendors and issued denials of responsibility for any activities on the part of the affiliates. Even today, it’s often hard to differentiate it from legitimate, online advertisements.

3. Adware Often Looks Harmless, but It’s Not

The fact that Adware looks so innocuous makes it all the more dangerous. Irritating yes, but harmful? Most people when they see an advert for the latest miracle weight loss pill will roll their eyes but not think anything more about it. You might wonder why you’re seeing the ad on a page that has nothing to do with that product, but not go any further. However, there are several ways Adware can damage your system.

Firstly, the software can slow processes down, hijack your homepage, use up your data and interfere with the basic functions of your device. In addition, as the software operates quietly in the background (without your knowledge) it can trawl through everything from your browser history to your private information.

Your searching and spending habits can be sold to other firms who want to advertise to specific target markets, and your usernames, passwords, contact lists and other sensitive information may be mined for use in criminal and fraudulent activities. In addition, hackers can often crack Adware codes, leaving your device more vulnerable to attacks.

4. Adware Comes in Every Shape and Size

You may have heard of IP Ninja. It’s a particularly widespread Adware that is notorious for changing default search engines and browser homepages and suddenly diverting or redirecting browsers. This is a good example of Adware, since it comes in almost every possible format and performs almost every possible function.

Even more adverts than in other Adware pop up with IP Ninja, and if you click on any of them, you’ll be redirected to malicious sites. Best Price Ninja, another component of the software, enrolls a virtual layer for banner advertisements or price comparisons. This allows hackers to display any content that they like – and it usually doesn’t originate from the site that you’re visiting.

Gaming domains, movie streaming websites and torrent sharing pages are all breeding grounds for IP Ninja. This is because they often piggyback onto free downloads. Since the Adware vendors pay the site operators or app designers, they grant them access so that they can keep providing these free downloads or free site access. Unfortunately, when your system is compromised, you’ll end up paying a steep price.

5. You Could Download Adware Without Even Realizing It

Sometimes, vendors manage to convince operators and designers to sneak Adware into the terms and conditions. Most people don’t read these before granting permission. So, you could easily agree to the software being installed on your device without even realizing that you’ve done so.

Reading through all the terms and conditions is arduous, but it’s much less so than dealing with Adware later. Take the time to read the small print and watch out for boxes that have been pre-ticked on your behalf. You need to know exactly what you’re agreeing to. If any terms state that you give consent for other software to be installed and run on your device, don’t go any further.

6. Macs Are Vulnerable, Too

While the aforementioned IP Ninja is pretty ubiquitous, it cannot infect Macs. Apple users have felt smug for some time, believing they were impervious to Adware. However, this is not the case. The first Mac Adware was seen in 2012; the number of reported cases has increased slowly but steadily ever since.

7. Adware Problems Are Relatively Easy to Handle

Thankfully, you should be able to deal with your Adware issue quite easily. They are annoying and harmful, but they’re not malicious in the way that other forms of malware are. And, they’re much easier to get rid of.

Trusted anti-spyware or antimalware can be installed onto your smartphone, tablet or desktop to scan your system, detect and delete existing Adware. The software should also detect any new advertising software trying to make its way onto your machine.

Above all, be cautious and don’t download and install anything (especially freeware) without checking its endorsements, terms and conditions very carefully first. In the case of Adware, the adage that if something seems too good to be true it probably is, definitely applies!