Definition of Adware

Adware is a program module bundled with another program or part of a program itself that is designed to display advertisements. Adware programs are usually distributed at a lower cost (or no cost at all), because the main source of revenue is displaying ads, not the program itself. While many adware programs exist only to flood our computers with ads (a lot of them are installed in direct violation of existing laws), some of them are parts of legal or even helpful tools.

Well-known example of such software was the popular Opera Web Browser, which displayed a small advertisement window until it was registered. Although Opera has recently become freeware, adware-sponsored applications are still relatively common.

Most of the time, however, adware remains an unwanted and potentially dangerous kind of software, often bundled not with an excellent web browser, but with spyware keyloggers.

The distinction between adware and spyware or malware

Adware is often mistaken with spyware or malware. It is true that sometimes there is little difference between adware and spyware/malware, but most of the time it is clear enough what is what.

*To be a legitimate adware program, installation requires explicit agreement of the user,

*legitimate adware programs should explain what data they collect (if any) and to whom they send it during the installation process,

*legitimate adware programs must not install additional programs without providing a way to remove them from the system in case of deinstallation.

*advertisements displayed by the adware programs should not be disrupting to the normal work on the computer,

*legitimate adware programs do not download and install additional adware modules silently.

If all of those requirements are met, the program is a relatively harmless legitimate adware program (consumerware). The more rules it breaks, however, the closer it gets to malware and spyware. Mild adware usually does not compromise the security of the system, but some aggressive adware-like programs perform illegitimate actions. A common feature associated with these kinds of programs is downloading and silently installing other programs such as Trojans or keyloggers. This kind of behavior is characteristic to malware and is extremely dangerous. Such adware programs should be removed right away.

The point is that we usually have no idea which category the program represents until it is too late. That's why the utmost caution is required every time we are about to let adware install itself on our PC.

Protecting your system

With an increasing number of aggressive adware-like programs, a number of excellent utilities have been designed to fight with them. Good firewalls programs such as Outpost Firewall Pro or Norton Personal Firewall bundled with ad-blockers are part of the solution as they block illegitimate network traffic.

However, the best anti-adware tools are spyware scanners and removers.  The best anti-spyware solutions are such programs as STOPzilla or Spyware Doctor. They are able to detect all adware installed on your PC and usually assess the threat each adware program represents, letting you remove dangerous ones and keep those necessary to keep other applications running.

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