What is Adware? Definition, Types, Examples & How to Prevent it?

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On December 13th, 2023
Reading Time 10 Minutes Reading

Definition: Adware is often referred to as advertisement-supported software. It is nothing but unwanted automated software developed to flood users’ computers with advertisements, banners, and other pop-ups.

Most adware is found in computer devices but can certainly make its way to other smart devices such as mobile phones, etc. Now that you know what an adware is let’s move on to the next section and discuss some examples.

Adware Examples

The primary function of adware is to take control of your browser, track your online activities, display deceitful advertisements, and redirect you to suspicious websites. Here are some of the names/examples of adware by year.

  • Gator (2002): It was notorious for its pop-up ads. This adware often tricks users into downloading and installing itself with other software. It’s also identified as Claria.
  • CoolWebSearch (2003): This is an adware example that will give you a detour. In other words, it will redirect your browser to other websites full of advertisements or even malicious software.
  • Vundo (or Virtumonde, 2004): This adware is a disguise of Trojan Horse and is known for showing pop-up ads with the prime intention of promoting rogue security software.
  • 180 Solutions (2005): This adware spies on users’ activity on the internet and browsing patterns to display targeted ads. The software was frequently installed on users’ systems without their consent.
  • Zango (2006): Previously it was known as 180 Solutions. Zango was an adware program that used to display unwanted pop-up ads and installed unwanted software without users’ consent.
  • Ask Toolbar (2011): This was a renowned adware example (browser toolbar) for altering users’ browser settings to display advertisements. It was frequently packaged with other software.
  • Fireball (2017): This malicious adware, which had its roots in China, infected millions of computers all over the world and hijacked browsers, turning them into zombies that produced ad money.

Different Types of Adware

Adware comes in various forms, each with its unique characteristics. Some of the types of adware include:

  • Legitimate adware: It is an online ad that doesn’t contain malware.
  • PUPs: Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) are software that automatically gets installed on your device.
  • Browser hijackers: They can change your browser settings without your knowledge or consent. Typically, this adware has the ability to affect both the homepage and default search settings.
  • Device-specific: Adware for Macs and Windows computers may look different since different devices and operating systems use different forms of adware.
  • Mobile Adware: This type of adware can get into people’s mobile phones through different app downloads. It can seem harmless but once installed, it can be potentially harmful.

Is Adware Harmful?

Technically it is unwanted software and not a virus. So, it may not be as harmful as trojans, worms, ransomware, and rootkits. Sometimes it is used by individuals to generate revenue for its developer by automatically displaying online advertisements in the user interface of the software & which is considered legitimate and legal.

However, hackers also use adware to succeed with their malicious intent. They use this malicious software for invasive spying and data collection purposes which can be very harmful to victims.

So, based on the intention and usage, this malware can be helpful or harmful.

How Does Adware Work and How Do They Enter Your Device?

Mainly adware can get onto your device in two ways. First, in the form of shareware or freeware. That means when you download a program, it quietly installs adware without your knowledge or permission since the developer signed up with the adware vendor. 

Every time the ad is displayed or clicked the ad, the program developer can make money.

Then, the second way is subtle. In this case, when you visit a website whether trusted or scratchy, it can be infected with adware. Furthermore, if any vulnerabilities are there in the user’s web browser, it takes advantage of the loophole & starts collecting your information, redirecting you to malicious websites, and bombarding you with advertisements in your browser.

Signs of Adware Infection – Be Alert! You Might Have an Adware on Your Device

Adware is designed in such a way that it naturally reveals itself. And spotting it is not very difficult. Here are some common behaviors your device will show if it’s infected with this malware.

  • Performance and speed would significantly decrease.
  • Even when you are not online, pop-up advertisements will constantly bombard you.
  • You may receive ransom requests or urgent warnings from unidentified apps.
  • Your functionality would significantly decrease (sometimes adware hinders access to your tools and device settings)
  • New browser toolbars and add-ons would suddenly appear, most likely without your consent.
  • Your equipment would keep on crashing.

When infected, smartphones frequently experience comparable issues. Adware is probably to blame if:

  • Your phone takes a long time to load apps or common operations.
  • Your battery runs out quickly.
  • The final day of the month brings with it surprisingly large data use costs.
  • Your smartphone would get numerous ad pop-ups and fresh tabs open.

what is adware?

Adware & Its Relation with Cookies – Understand Its Nature

Usually, this malware is injected via websites and cookies are an important part of any website.

Cookies generate a unique number for your device to retain important information for you while also recording information on users who visit the site, such as their preferences, session time, and any data entered on forms. Simply put, tracking cookies are tiny text files that websites send to users’ computer browsers to monitor their online activity. By storing login information, preserving viewed goods and adding them to shopping carts, and even providing customized adverts, they are made to enhance the online user experience.

Adware tracking cookies, on the other hand, are one dangerous way that cookies can be utilized. All cookies contain personal information, therefore rogue adware tracking cookies can access sensitive information undetected and exploit it to your disadvantage. Adware developers frequently sell your information to other bad actors.

What is the Behavior of an Adware?

Adware frequently appears as obtrusive pop-up windows and banners, but it has a variety of other actions as well:

Some varieties of adware behave similarly to spyware by tracking your online activities and mobility in order to personalize advertisements for you.

Adware can function as a middleman, redirecting your actions via them so they can share advertisements with you.

Adware consumes your data, and each pop-up download depletes your allotment.

Running adware consumes electricity, slowing down your computer and degrading the functionality of your gadget.

How to Remove Adware from Different Devices? Learn the Techniques

The best treatment for adware is prevention. But mistakes do happen, and knowing how to get rid of this malware from your computer can simplify your life and protect your data.

First off, whether maliciously implanted with rootkits or just in your stored files, adware typically inserts itself into a file that has been downloaded with or without your permission.

1. How to remove adware from Windows?

  • Shut down all running software & close the opened browsers.
  • Then, go to “Windows Task Manager”.
  • After that open “Processes” to see a list of files currently running.
  • Next, look for any suspicious files running in the background.
  • If you find any unwanted or suspicious file then right-click on it and select “End Task”.
  • Then, navigate to “Control Panel” and “Uninstall Program”.

2. How to remove adware from Android?

  • Close any open browser tabs and stop any background programs that are running.
  • Access your application manager by opening your settings.
  • Next, select the “Running” tab and “Force Stop” any currently running programs.
  • Tap the “clear cache” and “clear data” options, then choose any recently installed or unknown apps or files from your phone.
  • For clearing your browser history too, simply: Go into the browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, etc.) and tap the ‘Options’ button.
  • Then, select “Settings” and tap on the “Privacy and Security” section.
  • You may remove your browsing history and clear your cache data here.

3. How to remove adware from Mac Device?

  • Open Activity Monitor from the Launchpad.
  • Identify the suspect applications and Force Quit them.
  • Navigate back to your applications and drag the App to Trash.
  • After you have completed the previous steps, make sure to restart your Mac and then empty the trash to complete the process.

How to Prevent Adware? Learn Best Practices

Use caution and follow safe computer procedures. That involves downloading and installing any new software—especially freeware—after verifying. Before accepting the terms and conditions, read them carefully like a lawyer, and if anything seems to be granting permission for adware to be loaded, cancel the download. 

Avoid torrent websites & unauthorized downloads, and never ever open an application from an unknown source, even if it appears to be from a trusted email contact.

Last but not least, opt for a trustworthy cybersecurity service even if the adware is not removed after doing the other security measures mentioned above. Scan your devices periodically and keep yourself updated with the latest technology.

Key Takeaways

The most dangerous cyber hazard users are likely to come across is adware because of how prevalent it is. But, this does not automatically make them harmful adware that needs to be removed right away. Several reputable software programs use an ad-based strategy to finance growth.

Adware, however, can also obstruct the use of devices and direct traffic to malicious websites in order to plan extensive cyberattacks. Your initial line of protection should consist of anti-adware, ad blocking, and anti-virus software. In order to permanently fend against adware dangers, users must gradually educate themselves on safe internet browsing techniques and how to tell trustworthy websites from scams.


Q- What are the risks associated with adware?

Adware can provide a number of dangers, such as privacy invasion (collection of user data without consent), performance degradation of a device, exposure of the user to dangerous websites, and increased susceptibility to other viruses.

Q- Can adware affect mobile devices?

Adware can, in fact, harm mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. It can take the form of unwanted app settings modifications, invasive adverts, or even the download of dangerous programs.

Q- How to protect against adware?

To maintain the security and performance of your device, it’s important to take some steps to protect against adware. Such as: Using antivirus software, Keeping your device & software up to date, Carefully reviewing permissions, Using a Pop-up blocker, regularly scanning your device, avoiding opening suspicious attachments, Using extensions or add-ons that block ads, etc.

Q- Are all of the advertisements on my computer considered as adware?

No, not every advertisement appears because of adware. Even while adware creates advertisements, the internet frequently features legitimate advertising, which you will come across when visiting websites and utilizing free services like social media.

Q- Does adware have any legal implications?

Certain variants may be deemed immoral or unlawful, particularly if they participate in deceitful activities or breach privacy regulations. Jurisdictions have different laws and rules concerning adware.

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