What is Adware, how to detect, protect and remove

what is adware

Are you flooded with ads whenever you browse the web? Is your computer slow and shutdowns without any reason? If this is the case, there’s a high possibility that Adware has already started infecting your computer or mobile device. Here’s how you get infected with Adware.

You go online with your trusted browser and see advertisements popping up. These advertisements slide in, pop up from the side, or insert themselves to interrupt your activity.

No matter how much you want to shut those windows, they buzz around like flies at a picnic.

That annoying phenomenon results from Adware, short for advertising-supported software. Just like your picnic food attracts the pests that come after it, the revenue generated by unbidden ads is what draws it to your device.

Unfortunately, Adware is the weapon cyber-criminals use to infect you with malware … they are more than pests … they are dangerous!

This article defines what Adware is, the types, and how to prevent adware attacks. And will show you what makes it such a lucrative business for hackers.

What Is Adware?

Also known as advertising-supported malware, it displays unwanted advertisements while a program is running on a computer. An adware virus is considered a PUP (potentially unwanted program), meaning it’s a program installed without the approval of the user.

PUP is a program installed without permission from the user. This program interrupts your browsing experience with excessive advertisements, banners, flashing pop-up windows, in-text links, and auto-play video commercials.

The developer earns money each time someone clicks on an advertisement displayed by Adware. Adware’s purpose is to generate revenue for its developer, and it does this by showing these ads.

How to Tell If You Have an Adware Infection

Adware is usually very obnoxious because it relies on hitting you with intrusive ads – the number one sign of an adware infection. That being said, pop-up ads aren’t enough to correctly diagnose an adware infection.

Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • A Slow or sluggish browser
  • Malfunctioning ad-blocker
  • Redirected traffic
  • Regular browser crashes
  • New ads and banners continually show up on websites
  • Changes to your homepage
  • New extensions, plugins, and apps that appear on your browser

Types of Adware

types of adware

It is commonly seen as simply obnoxious pop-ups but can take other forms. So it is critical to know the difference between harmless and harmful Adware.

The 5 most common types 

  1. Legitimate Adware

Legitimate Adware is when users knowingly download software and get something in return. They may either get a discount or free software to receive Adware. The ads help cover the software’s cost.

For example, some software is offered either free, as an advertising-supported version, or a paid version without advertisements. Users wanting an ad-free experience can buy the paid version.

  1. Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs)

PUAs, also known as unwanted software packages, include legitimate complementary software applications. PUPs, or, Potentially Unwanted Programs, are another term for them. Not all PUAs are harmful. However, some might display obstructive behaviors, such as showing pop-ups or tending to slow down their computer.

It can slow down a device’s functionality and possibly present security issues like spyware and other uninvited software.

  1. Legal Abusive Adware PUA

Legal and abusive PUAs intend to inundate advertisements. You can find excessive promotions in internet browser toolbars, packaged software, and other places. No further involvement of malware makes it legitimate.

For example, advertisements for wellness pills are standard in this type of security issue.

  1. Legal Deceptive Adware PUA

Although legal, it deceives you and somehow falls into this category. This type of PUA makes uninstallation of secure third-party software difficult.

Legal Adware uses this strategy, which is lawful if the developer does not put malware-infected advertising or software there. Unfortunately, this particular Adware may unintentionally contaminate your device with malware.

  1. Illegal, Malicious Adware PUA

This type of Adware refers to malicious Adware that is illegal to distribute or use. The PUA makes money by spreading malicious programs such as viruses, spyware, and other malware to machines. The malware hides within the Adware, the websites it promotes, or other software applications. The distributors spread this threat intentionally and may use aggressive tactics.

How does it spread?

Cybercriminals and hackers will try and trick you into downloading and installing Adware. Here are the 6 main ways they do this:

  • Ad pop-ups
  • Email
  • Infected code
  • Social media messages
  • The software you already own
  • Drive-by downloads (installing without your knowledge)

How to Prevent it?

To prevent it from being downloaded on your device, you must be careful of any websites that look shady. It would help if you also are cautious when downloading shareware or freeware.

Try to download these programs only from reputable websites that you trust. While browsing, beware of clicking on any advertisements or pop-ups.

If a piece of information says your PC is infected, you need to install an antivirus.


This is a scam that many people fall for. Also, you should always keep your device’s operating system up to date. Outdated systems are more vulnerable. Malware and viruses feed on this weakness.

To protect yourself from a potential adware download, you can also enable safety settings on your computer. These precautions help your browser block pop-ups and more. Scan each file with an antivirus.

This antivirus will provide real-time security against malware and spyware.

How to Protect Your Devices – 7 Tips

As with all online threats, practicing good cybersecurity hygiene is the best way to protect yourself.

7 tips to stop Adware

  1. Use a VPN
  2. Use antivirus
  3. Use an adblocker
  4. Avoid HTTP sites and never download anything when using them
  5. Run scans on all email attachments.
  6. Don’t click on suspicious links you receive through emails
  7. Update your operating system and apps regularly

Next Steps

We hope this helps you better understand what Adware is and how dangerous it can be for your organization.

Adware is just another way that cyber criminals and hackers can breach your company and cause you monetary and reputational damage.

If you have cyber security concerns and are unsure if you are fully protected, check out our cyber security landing page: Understanding Cyber Security

If you have more immediate concerns or needs, let’s have a cyber security conversation and see if we can help: Start A Conversation


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