#WhatIs: What is Adware?

One of the most frustrating moments is when one is redirected to a advertising website that he or she did not visit. Adware is probably the one kind of malware that everyone knows when they see it. Hard not to when it’s usually all in your face.

Adware stands for advertising malware and it does just that: present unwanted advertisement using intrusive and at times dangerous methods.

Not all adware is outright horrible. At its best, it’s merely irritating. But at its worst, it can undermine your security settings to track your activities and display ads where it normally wouldn’t have access. These security breaches can then be exploited by more dangerous players. When this happens, the software is sometimes referred to as malvertising.

Adware is the name given to programs that are designed to display advertisements on your computer, redirect your search requests to advertising websites and collect marketing-type data about you – for example, the types of websites that you visit – so that customised adverts can be displayed.


If Adware does not notify you that it is gathering information, it is regarded as malicious – for example, malware that uses Trojan-Spy behaviour.
How Adware can impact you

Other than displaying advertisements and collecting data, Adware doesn’t generally make its presence known. Usually, there will be no signs of the program in your computer’s system tray – and no indication in your program menu that files have been installed on your machine.

There are two main ways in which Adware can get onto your computer:

Via freeware or shareware

Adware can be included within some freeware or shareware programs – as a legitimate way of generating advertising revenues that help to fund the development and distribution of the freeware or shareware program.

Infected websites

A visit to an infected website can result in unauthorised installation of Adware on your machine. Hacker technologies are often used. For instance, your computer can be penetrated via a browser vulnerability, and Trojans that are designed for stealthy installation can be used. Adware programs that work in this way are often called Browser Hijackers.

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