While browsing the internet, if you experience unintended advertisements even on your favorite, legitimate websites, which are generally ad-free, then it might be because of an adware program.
Adware is the term used for the advertising software that displays ads to the users while they are using applications or browsing the internet using browsers. They are mainly in the form of pop-ups or banners. Adware programs are often categorized under Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP) as users generally do not intentionally install them on their devices. The main intention of the adware is to generate revenues for its developer. However, it can be malicious too.
Cybercriminals are using Adware for malvertising. Through adware, users are lured into downloading and installing malware programs.
In this post, we will know how adware works and what’s its business model.
How Adware enters your device?
Adware can infiltrate your device in many ways. Mostly, it is because of victims’ negligence. Here are the top ways an adware program can enter your device:
The most common way for an adware program to infiltrate your device is by bundling itself with other programs that you intend to install. Picture this. You have downloaded a legitimate program for fulfilling one of your purposes. You launched the program’s installer to install it. Before installing the program, the installer asks for Custom Installation or Quick Installation. This is where most users are ignorant. They choose the Quick Installation without looking into what custom installation holds. When you select the quick installation, along with the main program, one or more side applications also get installed, which comes bundled with the main program installer. These side applications are mostly adware. If you choose Custom Installation, you will get the option to unselect the installation of the additional programs.
Another way used by cybercriminals to infiltrate adware is through a drive-by download. When you visit any infected website, it might exploit the browser’s vulnerabilities and secretly download the adware through a drive-by download. After the adware is installed, it remains hidden and spreads unwanted, annoying ads to users.
Web Extensions and Add-ons
Most users install web extensions or add-on in their web browsers to utilize more functionalities. Although official and verified extension providers such as Chrome Webstore make sure that all the web extensions present on their store are genuine, cybercriminals might still bypass some malicious extensions and make them available to install. The malicious web extensions can take control of the browser and bombard you with annoying ads.
Through Malicious Pop-ups
Pop-ups are a good feature for genuine websites to interact with their visitors. However, cybercriminals are exploiting this fantastic tool to conduct malicious activities. Many online attackers are using pop-ups to introduce malware programs in the user’s device who clicks them. For this, they design pop-ups with fake offers and intriguing headlines to lure internet users into clicking. Clicking on such infected pop-ups might redirect users to illicit websites or trigger the installation of malware programs like Adware, hijackers, Trojans, and others.
Downloading from Third-Party Sources
In anticipation of getting paid software and games for free or at a lower price, many users take the route of third-party sources. Most of these third-party sources are pirated and filled with fake and infected programs that appear legitimate. In greed, many users ignore the dangers of such infected software and download & install them on their machines. After getting installed, the malicious software program can introduce Adware and other malware to the system.
What can Adware do?
The primary purpose of adware is to display unwanted ads on your screen to distract you from work and get a click for generating revenues. However, it can cause much more harm than that:
- The continuous bombarding of ads can slow down your browser and eventually crash it. If you have a low-end system, the adware might even crash it by consuming all the system power in ad bombarding.
- Adware can sneakily install other intended programs on your computer. Those programs can be anything like a more dangerous malware such as trojan, ransomware, etc.
- Some adware programs are designed to cause unintentional redirection to promote a specific page or search engine.
- For displaying your ads, the adware program can hijack web browsers and take control of its settings.
- Adware can prevent other legitimate programs from running by consuming system resources like RAM.
- An adware program can highly slow down your internet browsing speed as it requires high bandwidth to deliver the ads continuously.
How does Adware work?
Here are the steps through which an Adware program conduct its work:
At first, it gets infiltrated into devices through the means mentioned above.
After getting installed, it gets activated in the background and starts working.
The adware program starts monitoring the user activities and collects information about browsing habits to bombard ads.
To display ads on browsers, some adware can hijack its settings and control it for ad-bombarding and unintentional redirection.
After displaying the ads, the adware developer hopes that the victim clicks on the ads in any way so that their primary purpose of generating revenue is fulfilled.
What is the business model of Adware?
Though Adware can be used for many malicious motives like crashing the system, infiltrating other malware programs, and others, the main motive of introducing the adware into your device is to generate ad revenues.
A massive amount of online revenue comes from advertisements. Google gets 95% of its income from online advertising. Companies often have online ad campaigns to push their products and services to potential customers. You encounter as much as 1,700 banner ads per month. As such, catching your attention is a top priority of ads.
After infiltrating your system with an adware app, the developer behinds it hopes for a click. They can gain money in the following ways:
- Pay Per View (PPV): get paid every time the user views an ad.
- Pay Per Click (PPC): get paid every time someone clicks an ad.
- Pay Per Install (PPI): get paid every time an adware program is being installed.
Apart from getting revenues in the above ways, the adware developer and distributors can benefit in other ways too. The developers can quickly make their programs noticeable and famous by spreading them as a freeware utility through adware. At the same time, the distributors earn a commission from the developers to bundle their programs with their own applications.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone but a huge annoyance for the users. All these are bearable until cybercriminals exploit this and spread malicious programs.
How to stay away from Adware?
Though Adware might not be malicious itself, it can be annoying and become a gateway for other malicious programs to enter the device. Here are the top ways to keep your device protected from an adware program:
- Keep installed an ad-blocker on your browser to avoid annoying banner ads. However, installing an ad-blocker also denies the legitimate websites that earn by displaying genuine ads.
- Never visit unknown third-party websites to download paid software and games for free. Torrents are one of the primary sources of malware spread.
- Don’t click on intriguing pop-ups and banner ads. Most of them are specifically designed to lure users into clicking them and initiate the adware installation.
- Keep your operating system updated with the latest version. Cybercriminals can exploit an outdated OS to spread malware like Adware, Trojans, and others.
- Similarly, keep your installed applications updated. An outdated application can be a potential backdoor for introducing malware into the system.
- Always keep installed a robust security application such as MalwareFox to secure your devices from every malicious threat. MalwareFox is specifically designed to tackle the malware programs like Adware, Trojans, Spyware, Ransomware, and others. You don’t have to take the trouble of finding malicious threats on your system; MalwareFox will do it for you efficiently.
YES, an adware program can highly slow down your computer by continuously using the system power for bombarding the ads.
Apart from bombarding ads, the adware programs can steal valuable information such as browser history, credit card details, login credentials, and more.
Adware generally generates revenue for its developers through display and pay-per-click advertising.