From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Adware or advertising-supported software is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used.
Adware is software integrated into or bundled with a program. It is usually seen by the programmer as a way to recover programming development costs, and in some cases it may allow the program to be provided to the user free of charge or at a reduced price. The advertising income may allow or motivate the programmer to continue to write, maintain and upgrade the software product.
Some adware is also shareware, and so the word may be used as term of distinction to differentiate between types of shareware software. What differentiates adware from other shareware is that it is primarily advertising-supported. Users may also be given the option to pay for a "registered" or "licensed" copy to do away with the advertisements.
There are concerns about adware because it often takes the form of spyware, in which information about the user's activity is tracked, reported, and often re-sold, often without the knowledge or consent of the user. Of even greater concern is malware, which may interfere with the function of other software applications, in order to force users to visit a particular web site.
It is not uncommon for people to confuse "adware" with "spyware" and "malware", especially since these concepts overlap. For example, if one user installs "adware" on a computer, and consents to a tracking feature, the "adware" becomes "spyware" when another user visits that computer, and interacts with and is tracked by the "adware" without their consent.
Spyware has prompted an outcry from computer security and privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center . Often, spyware applications send the user's browsing habits to an ad-serving company, which then targets adverts at the user based on their interests. Kazaa and eXeem are popular file-sharing programs that deliver target ads to their users.
A number of software applications are available to help computer users search for and modify adware programs to block the presentation of advertisements and to remove spyware modules. To avoid a backlash, as with the advertising industry in general, creators of adware must balance their attempts to generate revenue with users' desire to be left alone.
Well-known adware programs
- 123 Messenger
- 180 Solutions
- Bonzi Buddy
- Comet Cursor
- Direct Revenue
- Ebates MoneyMaker
- Opera prior to 20 September 2005
- Smiley Central
The Eudora e-mail client is a popular example of an adware "mode" in a program. After a trial period during which all program features are available, the user is offered a choice: a free (but feature-limited) mode, an ad-supported mode with all the features enabled, or a paid mode that enables all features and turns off the ads. If the user choose the ad-supported mode, Eudora becomes adware, although according to Qualcomm the program does not collect any information about user activity.
Programs have been developed in order to detect, quarantine, and remove adware as well as spyware. Among the more prominent applications are:
- Ad-Aware by Lavasoft
- CounterSpy by Sunbelt Software
- Spybot Search & Destroy by Patrick Kolla
- SpySubtract by Intermute
- SpySweeper by Webroot
- Spyware Doctor by PCTools
- XoftSpy at []
These programs are designed specifically for antispyware detection, and as such, will not work on viruses.
Best practices for general security on the Internet, especially when browsing the World Wide Web (where a large portion of adware is installed from via security holes and social engineering), include the following:
- Keeping up-to-date with security patches and operating system updates from Windows Update
- Using an alternative Web browser (e.g. Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, Opera, et cetera)
- Installing ad-blocking software (Trend Micro Internet Security and Norton Internet Security both support this feature; advanced users can use the MVPS HOSTS file. For users of Firefox, there is the Adblock extension, which can prevent harmful adds.
- Computer insecurity
- Antivirus software
- Adware and Spyware at the Open Directory Project
- Anti-Spyware Coalition