Do you see ads constantly popping on your computer screen that was not there before? Well, there are many ways that people can get viruses on their computers, but it is more common for them to be caused by what is called “adware”.
What is Adware?
Adware or advertising-supported software is a type of software that displays an unwanted program that is installed without the user’s knowledge or consent. In some cases, the adware may be bundled with other software as a secondary program and the user will not know that it has been installed until they notice those ads constantly popping up on their screen.
The advertisements are most commonly displayed within the browser using pop-ups, banners, auto-play videos, or in-text ads.
Some developers mostly use Adwares to create revenue for themselves.
While the ads may not seem harmful, they can be very dangerous for your device.
Let us understand more about why adware can cause problems for you below.
Why is adware a problem?
Below are a few ways in which adware can cause problems for you and your device.
- Track your activity – Adwares track your browsing history to display targeted advertisements to you. If your information falls into the wrong hands, it can be misused.
- Makes your device slow – Adwares may also cause your system to slow down due to its processing power and memory space. Once the adware is on your device, you will immediately observe its effects on your device and its speed.
- Slows your internet connection – Adwares may continuously ping the ad servers for advertisement data, slowing down your internet connection. These ads could use large media files that are on your device. It may also lead to an increase in your internet bill.
- Deceptive homepages – Often, adware changes your browser’s Homepage to a custom page with a search engine box. Searching for something can lead to pages showing misleading links and installing malicious software on your device.
- Constantly advertisements – You may see advertisements being bombarded on your device or browser one after another. These can be annoying and distract you from your work. It could be pop-up windows, large banners, or auto-play videos.
Signs you have adware on your computer
Below are signs which can help you in detecting if you have adware on your device.
1. You are being bombarded with advertisements no matter which website you visit. They also appear on your web pages. They weren’t there before.
2. The homepage of your browser has changed, or a new toolbar is added to your browser. You may also have some extensions or add-ons added to your browser.
3. You may be redirected through a different link than the one you clicked on or sometimes even taken to suspicious websites.
4. Your device may have slowed down, or your browser has started crashing.
5. New programs are installed on your computer without your knowledge.
How to protect yourself against adware
While there is no bulletproof method to prevent adware from getting installed on your computer, the below steps will help you safeguard your computer against adware.
- Avoid software from shady or untrusted developers – Only install software from trusted developers or companies. Their software is more scrutinized, and they will always avoid cheap tactics to make a few bucks. Their software is also going to be more secure and prevent any advertisers from malicious activities.
- Buy premium versions of software – Try to buy premium ad-free versions of software whenever possible. This will help prevent the adware problem altogether. The most common source for adware is free software. So it’s best to avoid software which displays advertisements on them.
- Install Ad-blocker in your browser – Ad-blockers block you from visiting suspicious links in your browser and prevent malicious scripts from running in your browser. This helps stop adware from getting installed on your computer. Ad blockers also prevent ads from being loaded on websites and help avoid any advertiser’s malicious activity.
- Antivirus – One of the oldest and best methods to avoid adware is to install antivirus software on your computer. In most cases, they will block the adware from getting installed on your computer. You can also run antivirus scans on your computer periodically to detect any adware. There are also many adware removal software built explicitly for detecting and removing adware from your computer. You can install and try this software if your antivirus program cannot solve the adware issue.
- Ensure your Windows OS updated – Windows releases security updates from time to time that target adware. It would help keep your computer updated so the operating system can detect any unwanted programs and remove them. Keeping your browser up-to-date is a good idea, since it is one of the ways bad actors can install adware on your computer.
- Do not open attachments from unknown emails – Email attachments are among the most common ways to install adware on your computer. Avoid opening any suspicious email attachments.
- Avoid shady or suspicious websites – close any website that you find suspicious or untrustworthy. The best way to avoid adware is to use common sense and follow your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, close the browser immediately. Also, avoid clicking on pop-up ads from any website. They are one of the easiest ways to target your device.
How do I remove adware?
While you have learned how to prevent adware from infecting your system, what if you already have the adware?
Below are tips to remove adware from your computer.
- Uninstall the adware – To remove the adware, you can uninstall the adware program. You can do it from Add or remove programs in the system settings. While this is the easiest method, few adware programs allow you to uninstall their programs so easily.
- Run a scan on your computer using Malwarebytes – Malwarebytes has a free version that you can use to run a scan on your computer and remove the adware. It does a thorough scan of your computer, including the hard drives and RAM.
- Remove addons from browsers and check the Homepage. Many adware installs addons and toolbars in your browser that track your online activities and redirect you to advertisement pages. It is imperative to get rid of them to protect your computer.
- They also change the homepage of your browser to their own. It is extremely harmful since it replaces search engines, resulting in malicious web pages.
Below are steps to delete adware from different browsers.
- Check the Homepage – Google Chrome
- Visit Settings -> You and Google -> On startup and make sure the home page is on something you had set. In case you find any suspicious pages, remove them and place them according to your preference.
- Visit Preferences -> Home -> New Windows and Tabs. Under Homepage and new windows, check if the Homepage is according to your choice and if not, then set it to something you want.
Check the search engine –
- Google Chrome
- Visit Settings -> Search engine and check if the default search engine is the one you had set. If it points to some suspicious or new search engine, it is best to change the search engine.
- Visit Preferences -> Search -> Default Search Engine and check if the default search engine is the one you had set. If not, you should change it back to the one you use.
- Check if any unknown extensions exist –Google Chrome
- Visit chrome://extensions/ in your browser. Here, check if any unknown extensions that you didn’t install are there. If you find any, then it is best to uninstall them from your browser. You can do so by clicking on the Remove button next to the extension.
- Visit about; addons in your browser. Under Manage Your Extensions, you will find all the extensions currently installed in your browser. If you find any suspicious or unknown attachments, then it is best to remove them. You can click on the three dots next to the extension and select the remove option.
- Check programs that run on startup – Most of the time, adware runs at startup. You can check if any adware is running at startup on your computer by right-clicking on the window’s button and selecting Task Manager. Go to the Startup tab and check if you find any suspicious programs on the list. If you find any, then it’s best to uninstall or disable them.
Adware is something to be taken seriously. Not only are they a massive drain on your computer, but they may be collecting important data about you. You can remove adware with tools, but some adware may require expert help.
The above article should help you understand adware a little better and look for signs if your computer is already compromised. You should also follow the prevention measures mentioned above to avoid any adware from getting installed on your computer in the future.