In a previous article, titled All About Spyware, I detailed exactly what spyware was, how it can harm you and your computer and ways to avoid getting spyware on your computer. Now I want to turn my attention to adware.
Many describe adware as the lesser of the two evils compared to spyware. And for the most part, that is general true. However, many forms of adware are just as destructive as spyware, and can cause you a great deal of time and aggravation trying to get rid of it.
Like my article on spyware, I want to start off by defining exactly what spyware is. According to McAfee Inc., the leader in spyware and adware protection solutions:
Adware is software whose primary function is to make revenue through advertising that is targeted at the person using the computer on which the adware is installed. This revenue can be made by the vendor or partners of the vendor. This does not imply that any personal information is captured or transmitted as part of the softwares functioning, though that is often the case.
A better but much longer (and my personal favorite) definition of adware comes from geekpatroloncall.com. They define adware as:
Adware, also known as an Adbot, can do a number of things from profile your online surfing and spending habits to popping up annoying ad windows as you surf. In some cases Adware has been bundled (i.e. peer-to-peer file swapping products) with other software without the user's knowledge or slipped in the fine print of a EULA (End User License Agreement). Not all Adware is bad, but often users are annoyed by adware's intrusive behavior. Keep in mind that by removing Adware sometimes the program it came bundled with for free may stop functioning. Some Adware, dubbed a "BackDoor Santa" may not perform any activity other then profile a user's surfing activity for study.
AdWare can be obnoxious in that it performs "drive-by downloads". Drive-by downloads are accomplished by providing a misleading dialogue box or other methods of stealth installation. Many times users have no idea they have installed the application. Often Adware makers make their application difficult to uninstall.
A "EULA" or End User License Agreement is the agreement you accept when you click "OK" or "Continue" when you are installing software. Many users never bother to read the EULA.
It is imperative to actually read this agreement before you install any software. No matter how tedious the EULA, you should be able to find out the intent BEFORE you install the software. If you have questions about the EULA- e-mail the company and ask them for clarification.
As you can see from these two definitions, adware is just as bad as spyware.
I offered five great tips previously on how to protect you from spyware. So here are five tips to protect your self from adware:
1. Buy a good, comprehensive software program that protects your computer. For this, I have to recommend the products that I use. I use McAfee Internet Security Suite and XoftSpy, which is a malware scanner. These products can stop spyware and adware dead in its tracks. If you already have adware or spyware on your computer, these products can find it and delete it for good (http://www.delete4good.com).
2. There is no such thing as a free lunch. When you download freeware or shareware, chances are that you are downloading adware with it. Many programmers will offer a free trial of their software that you can use. However, adware is built into the free program to bombard you with advertisements for the paid version of the freeware that you are using.
3. Certain types of websites are notorious for adware. Those types of websites include: peer-to-peer sites, free games websites, and pornographic sites. If you frequent these type of website, make sure your computer is protected (see number 1 above).
4. Make sure that your web-browser security settings are configured correctly. This can prevent adware or other malicious software from automatically downloading on your computer.
5. Never, never, never click on pop-up ads. I know that some pop-up are irresistible. But they are irresistible for a reason. Pop-ups are meant to get your attention. But if in the pursuit of your attention, they get you to click on them, you may get more than you bargain for.
The best thing to do is stop pop-ups from showing up on your computer in the first place. Most web-browsers come with a respectable pop-up blocker. If your pop-up blocker is doing a poor job of blocking pop-ups, Yahoo and Google offer excellent programs that work well. Theyre free and they come from a reputable source.
Protecting your computer has turned into a multibillion-dollar business. But, even the best spyware and adware protection is useless if you dont take necessary precautions. Doing just a little bit of research and taking a few precautions can greatly reduce your risk of being exposed to spyware, adware, viruses, trojans and other so called malware.
J. Barbour is a consultant for Weinman-Skaggs Consulting in Miami, FL. http://www.delete4good.com
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