RESEARCH BLOG

Adware & Tips

Recently,   it became known that users who purchased Lenovo computers were targeted by Hackers using Adware, which raises serious questions in the information security area.

 

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First thing first – What is Adware and how could you recognize and dispose it?

 

In contrast to the latest storm at the US east coast, the storm created lately by the Adware software called ‘Superfish’ has not yet forgotten. What it actually an Adware and does it compromise your privacy?

 

The ‘Superfish’ software that can be found on some models of Lenovo laptops is what we call an Adware. In contrary to some stressful headlines over the last weekend, I would like to emphasize that Adware programs are not a virus and do not necessarily endanger the users. BUT, they constitute a potential security breach, through which your computer could be hacked, and your browsing habits could be tracked in order to collect personal information and even introduce really dangerous viruses and malware types.

 

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Naive advertisement or a virus in disguise?

 

Not all the adware programs are malicious. Their role is to display advertisements. They actually trace your browsing habits and areas of interest while browsing in order to display relevant advertisements. Apparently this sounds great – why drown in a sea of ​​random and irrelevant advertisements when we could get advertisements that might be really relevant to us? Well, in fact all the Adware domain is considered a gray area, nothing prevents them from showing Advertisements while installing Spyware on your computer while trying to get more information while breaching your privacy.

 

Today, sophistication and anti-detection techniques can be seen in many Adware, which shows that they are far from just innocent advertisements, and some even record your Google searches (or any other search engines) to personally match you with the Ads (or frauds).

 

What can you do?

 

Even the test which should reveal whether there is any Adware software installed on your computer may be a bit challenging – on one hand, not every commercial you see means that you have an Adware on your computer, on the other hand today the Adware software are more sophisticated and disguise themselves very well to avoid discovery.

 

Still, there are some signs that should trigger your red lights, like commercials that pop-up even when the browser is closed, or when you use the software installed on the computer itself and not from the website or when you are routed to other sites that are different from what you typed in the address bar of the browser.

 

Tips:

 

  1. Check your Bookmark Folder and your Favorites List- Clues to the presence of Adware on your computer may appear as new bookmarks or favorite sites in the browser. In addition, if the Home page is suddenly changed to something other than what you have defined – this is, apparently, done by an Adware. In this case, you should check your computer settings and check for installed or strange software that were installed lately, and if you find such software – remove them.

 

  1. Enable Pop-ups block in the browser – A lot of adware software are installed on your computer when you click on a Pop-up advertisement, therefore, be sure not to press these messages and avoid visiting dubious sites that display a lot of such advertisements, so you do not click on one of those by mistake. In addition, you can set overall blocking to such advertisements in your browser settings.

 

For example, in Chrome Settings, enter Content Settings under Privacy Settings. Look for Pop-ups, choose the option that blocks them and finally click “Done” to save the settings.

 

  1. Beware of free software – In many cases, the programs come bundled with various hidden adware component in those “free” programs, where the consent is buried deep in the ‘terms of use’ that users tend to confirm without reading when installing the software. It is recommended to avoid installation of free software from dubious or unknown sources, without at least trying to find feedbacks about the software from independent forums.

 

  1. Follow the installation process and conditions of use – Sometimes, when you install new software, you also get all kinds of unwanted extras – like toolbars and other vegetables. In many cases you can avoid unwanted installation if you notice and uncheck the checkbox that asks if you want the extras. In addition, a review of these Terms of Use can save frustration in the future – True that we usually do not even bother to read them, but you can at least do a search (using the key combination Ctrl+F) for words like “Privacy” or “Advertisements” (Ads) and make sure that you do not endorse the software to track your surfing habits.

 

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  1. Do not ignore the browser alerts – Browsers like Chrome and Firefox will warn you if you try to install any software on your browser extensions. Therefore, you should not ignore these warnings. Read the warning and if you do not recognize or interested in the installation – cancel it. There could be cases when you do not get such a warning. Therefore, you should periodically check the extensions menu (chrome is under More tools, Firefox under Add-ons) which add-ons you have installed on your browser and remove unnecessary extensions.

 

  1. Beware from free Anti-Adware software – The net is packed with software that present themselves as Anti-Adware, when in fact, most of them are Adware themselves, and often even worse than the Adware you might already have on your computer. There are good legitimate specialized software and adware removal that you should rely on, so watch out for these traps.

 

  1. Make sure your Anti-Virus updated – Make sure that your computer has an Anti-Virus software or a reliable, valid security suite that is updated with the recent threat signatures. Although many adware programs are trying to disguise themselves as legitimate programs, they are often classified as malicious or potentially dangerous and Anti-Virus software will warn you and even remove the threat.