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Adware is basically software dedicated to displaying advertising. Adware can really slow down any business that depends on everyday use of computers. Adware promoters use some cunning tricks to get you to install their software on your system. Here’s what to look out for.
Adware is, by definition, something reasonable people don’t really want on their computers. That’s why adware can’t just come out and ask people to install it. It’s not a friendly type of software. And it is believed to be a very close cousin to spam. Often, the computer owner is completely unaware of it being installed. But not always.
When adware doesn’t want to creep in through an open window, it will try to trick you into letting it in through the front door. So, you don’t think you could be tricked? Don’t be too sure until you’ve checked out these most frequent ways people have been tricked into allowing malware to be installed on their machines.
Adware Sneakiness 1: Piggybacking
How it works: malware may come bundled with a genuine piece of software the user actually wants, such as a game or emoticon. The malware is simply labeled “companion software,” without any indication of what it will do.
How to fight it: the fact that adware so often comes bundled with “entertainment” software, most notably the file-swapping program Kazaa, is a very good reason to separate business from personal when it comes to computing. But adware can sometimes comes bundled with non-entertainment software, such as search tools or cracks of legitimate business software. Be very suspicious of any software that comes bundled with other software. Don’t install software that comes bundled with other software unless you know everything that the bundled software does. After all, if the bundled program has anything to do with the program you actually want, why couldn’t the software developer just get both programs’ functionalities into a single piece of software? Software developers are now very sensitive to malware concerns and will provide a lengthy explanation of just why the bundled software is necessary, in the cases when they actually do need to use bundled software.
Adware Sneakiness 2: Bait and Switch
How it works: since people are getting more and more apprehensive of bundled software, the program’s developers may simply label it as valuable software, for instance, a browser plugin that supposedly accelerates web browsing (but in reality only shows ads).
How to fight it: again, a suspicious mind is useful in avoiding malware. Ask yourself a few questions:
* What will this software actually do? Adware and adware-bundled software often come with very fuzzy claims attached. Sure, it says it will improve your browsing experience, but how? Often, this improved browsing experience just means a browsing experience with lots of advertising.
* If the software is so awesome, why is it being given away free? Normally, software is only given out free in two cases: if it’s OpenSource (designed by a community of developers and not proprietary–OpenSource software is always clearly labeled as such); or simply a come-on for a fuller-featured version of the software. If neither case is true, there’s a real chance the software is sponsored by adware.
Adware Sneakiness 3: Outright Lying
How it works: adware may even be labeled as something else entirely, like a well-known piece of software or an essential component of the computer operating system.
How to fight it: this is the trickiest adware of all, and requires extreme caution. You don’t want to start deleting any of your program files, much less your system registry entries, unless you’re absolutely sure it’s malware. Plenty of over reactive parasite hunters have shot their own machines to bits this way. This is one case where you want to be using an anti-spyware program, and if possible a second anti-spyware program to provide a second opinion.
Getting Rid of Adware
Adware is so problematic that trying to uninstall it yourself could be like a trip into the Matrix. Fortunately, there are good quality anti-spyware programs that undertake adware as well–after all many adware programs are also spyware since they monitor your internet usage.
True, it may feel like adding insult to injury to have to install more software to get rid of software you never meant to install in the first place. But keeping your computer free of adware is just one new cost of doing business.
A customer recently hit, by mistake, what they thought was an Explorer upgrade option. It turned out to be a pop-up appearing legitimate but really was not. It uploaded a product called Intelligent Explorer on their machine. What a nightmare!
We did some research on the web and found messages like this one from a BullGuard Antivirus Forum,
“PLEASE HELP!!! I HAVE A SPYWARE, TROJAN AND HIJACKER ON MY COMPUTER. I HAVE RUN BULLGUARD, CWSHREDDER AND AD-AWARE. ALL HAVE PICKED UP THE VIRUSES AND SAID THAT THEY HAVE BEEN MOVED/REMOVED BUT WHEN I LOG ONTO THE INTERNET THAT DAMN INTELLIGENT EXPLORER TOOLBAR IS SHOWING”
Another message from spywareinfo Forum goes something like this:
“Hey I’m having issues with something called Internet explorer toolbar – Intelligent explorer. I can’t find a way to remove it from my comp and I really don’t want to reinstall windows. I’ve used spybot, ad-ware, and cw shredder but nothing seems to work.”
It appears that Intelligent Explorer allows other software to be downloaded to your machine and this is where the problem occurs. What is even more unbelievable is that by downloading Intelligent Explorer, their license grants them the right to install software add-ins on your computer at their will. Take a look at what the software license for Intelligent Explore says (go to http://www.ieplugin.com/terms.html to read it all):
“You grant to us the right, exercisable by us until you uninstall the Software or this agreement is otherwise terminated, to provide to you the Service of downloading and causing to be displayed advertising material on your computer, through ‘pop-up’ or other display while you use your browser. You acknowledge and agree that installation of the Software may automatically modify toolbars and other settings of your browser. By installing the Software you agree to such modifications.”
The company, IBC incorporated, is incorporated in Belize. We really couldn’t believe this license!
One end user found highly objectionable pop-up advertisements generated by this software bundled with Intelligent Explorer in the form of extreme pornography.
They have yet to break this.
Intelligent Explorer is a plug-in, which can create a new home page, as well as start up and endless loop of pop-ups. You can remove the view bar, but then starting up Internet Explorer will cause it to reappear.
This is what we did:
We purchased a copy of a program called XoftSpy and it removed the software. It took two scans and a reboot to do it. This is not an advertisement for this product. They advertised it was free, which it was to run, but then we had to buy it to actually fix anything. It cost us $40 and we’re sure that there are freeware products out there as well, but that is what ended the nightmare for them. Other spyware products we have seen out there include spybot, NoAdware, Spyware Eliminator, Pal Spyware Remover, and Spyware C.O.P.