Cybercrime Exposed Part 2: When Adware Goes Bad – A Closer Look at Adware
With the ostensibly harmless nature of adware, we are constantly tricked into believing that they are nothing but online nuisances. But underneath, they are marketing-engineered software that could potentially carry malicious programs to target your browsing behavior and spy on your other online activities.
What is adware and why does it exist?
Upfront, adware are just annoying ads that pop up every now and then. They come in an assortment of freeware such as toolbars and plugins, icons, wallpapers, advanced search engines, and other lifestyle widgets and work in conjunction with these software and other programs to spy, collect data, and integrate itself into your web browser. While online ads originally exist on the context of yielding revenue based on impressions (frequency of visits on ads), adware could harm your online privacy and security. Most adware companies operate on the fringe of ethical practices and use underhanded tactics to ensure customer loyalty.
How does adware affect your computer?
Because adware covertly piggybacks on the freeware you download, you don’t know that your system is running adware when you begin to install these free programs. Adware can have various routines such as bombarding you with pop-up ads, leading you to harmful or fake websites, offering bogus adware removal or antivirus software or gaining full access to your computer. Adware could run in the background of your programs and as well of your computer, causing your network to slow down and become unstable. It spies on your browsing behavior and gathers private information about you to be sold to third parties or other cybercriminals. Adware could hijack clicks without your knowledge or without having to run the freeware you downloaded, prompting your computer to become unbearably slow and unstable. Additionally, adware also mines bitcoins which results in unexpected high electric consumption. Bitcoin mining gives remote attackers illegal commission from processing transactions, making you an indirect tool of cybercrime.
Top 3 Adware, 2Q 2014
This quarter, we’ve collated the top 3 adware that have been around and active for years based on the large portion of the total number of combined adware and malware.
This adware is downloaded from the Internet and can arrive as a file is dropped. It is used to boost marketing revenues by means of black hat SEO. This potentially unwanted program exhibits plenty of malicious traits and generally interferes with user experience. Cybercriminals can remotely access the user’s computer via malware and exploit systems vulnerabilities.
ADW_OPENCANDY can be acquired from the Internet and downloaded by the user. It executes dropped files, thus allowing malicious routines of the dropped files to run.
Just like ADW_INSTALLCORE, this adware can be downloaded from the Internet or could arrive via dropped malware. Like most adware, ADW_DOWNWARE is furtively bundled with malware or grayware packages and is manually installed by the user. It uses the Windows Task Scheduler to execute the dropped file. This adware deletes the initially executed copy of itself and does not exhibit propagation routines.
How can you protect yourself against adware?
Think twice before immediately downloading and installing any software, particularly freeware. Read everything rigorously before digitally signing up or agreeing to terms and conditions to prevent the download of adware. Make sure to routinely check up your computer and regularly scan your systems. Take basic preventive measures like using a security solution software that will enable constantly updated protection.
For more information on how to secure your system against the risks that adware may pose, watch our video below:
You can also watch the first part of the Cybercrime series, which tackles the security risks of phishing.