The experience of going online to look for something or to complete a specific task and then being hounded by advertisements, either popups, those that slide in from the side, or those that insert themselves to interrupt your browsing experience, can be frustrating. In some cases, these advertisements are able to redirect you to shady websites and sometimes phishing websites that can result in your computer systems being hacked.
To achieve this, cybercriminals use special types of software called adware. Adware is software that is designed to throw advertisements on your screen. In most cases, adware software throws these advertisements on your web browsers, and any attempt to close them or get rid of them is mostly futile.
In most cases, an adware program is able to disguise itself as legitimate during the download process. However, once downloaded, it is able to start its operations immediately by serving advertisements.
Why Do Cybercriminals Use Adware?
Unlike other malware programs such as ransomware, which require expertise in programming and negotiations, adware software is, in most cases, deployed using the spray and pray technique. Therefore, cybercriminals do not need to research who their victims are in order to generate revenue with their software.
The process of income generation using adware is also easier than other types of malware because it involves displaying advertisements in the user interface of the software or on web browsers using methods such as popups and redirection.
Also, once the adware is installed on your computer, it can carry out all sorts of unwanted tasks. The software is able to analyze your location and the sites you commonly visit, read your cookies to personalize the ads it serves to you, and even track your browsing. Therefore, cybercriminals are able to collect a lot of data from their victims, which they can use to sell to third parties that are able to tailor advertisements.
Cybercriminals also use adware due to its huge platform. It does not matter whether their victims use Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser. They are able to detect these browsers and, with only one program, compromise them. Therefore, when infected, victims are not able to escape the ads serviced by these programs, optimizing the profits for cybercriminals.
How Does One Get Adware?
There are two main ways that adware is installed on a computer system. The first one involves downloading software from the internet. In most cases, the software downloaded is mostly freeware, shareware, or a cracked version of paid software. When downloaded onto your computer, the software quietly installs adware onto your computer and starts running ads immediately.
The second method is through malicious sites that download the adware without users’ permission. These sites take advantage of browser vulnerabilities to deliver a drive-by-download. After the program is downloaded, it starts collecting your data and serving advertisements.
Why Is Adware Dangerous to Veterinary Practices?
In most cases, adware programs target individual computer systems. Therefore, they do not have the functionality to move laterally throughout your network and cause havoc.
It is also important to note that adware programs are not designed to cause damage. They require users to be active on the internet. However, adware programs can be used for phishing and launching ransomware attacks.
For instance, adware programs can redirect users to malicious websites where ransomware programs are downloaded and installed in your computer system. These programs can also track your internet activity and give cybercriminals information they can use to compromise your veterinary practice. In fact, some adware programs also function as spyware, where they collect users’ personal information and internet browsing habits.
In extreme cases, adware programs are used to launch and execute man-in-the-middle attacks by redirecting user traffic through the adware vendor’s system. When used in this way, they are able to intercept even encrypted connections, so cybercriminals are able to collect, view, and manipulate traffic passing through the network. By using adware programs in a man-in-the-middle attack, cybercriminals can do virtually everything to your network, including installing malware and stealing your data.
How to Determine if Your Computer System Has Adware
There are many indications you can use to determine whether your computer has been infected by adware. Below are some of the telltale signs:
- pop-up windows with ads that are not easy to close.
- Advertisements appear in unusual places
- Web searches and clicking links redirects your computer to unusual sites that you had not requested.
- Plugins, new toolbars, and extensions appear in your browser despite not being installed by you.
- Your browser, and sometimes your computer, start to run abnormally slowly. In some cases, you may notice your browser crashing when you try to close the ads.
How to Remove Adware
If you suspect your computer has been infected by adware, you should consider running your anti-malware program. In most cases, a single scan will be able to remove the adware depending on the type of anti-malware you are using.
However, in cases where the program is not removed by the antimalware, you should consider removing it manually by first identifying the name of the adware program and then using your computer maintenance program to manually remove the program.
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