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Adware are free software programs or apps that are advertiser supported, particularly those that display ads outside of the normal, expected experience or track your activity for advertising purposes.
In the era of ad-driven mobile apps, it can be hard to determine what is adware and what is simply a free app with ads. Adware is anything that goes beyond the expected ads experience. For instance, we expect to see ads when we visit websites, but some toolbars that work with your web browser may track your browsing history and flash targeted pop-up ads on your screen. That falls under adware. When you use a free app on your phone, you expect to see an advertisement along the top or bottom of the app screen. If the app displays additional advertisements outside of those areas, excessively uses pop-ups, or requires suspicious permissions, such as unnecessary access to your GPS location, that’s adware.
While adware is usually safe, some may contain spyware. Before installing adware, review the end user agreement to verify if the software collects information about your web surfing habits and what it does with this information.
Frequently Asked Questions
I didn’t install this adware. Where did it come from?
Adware is big business, and even free programs that are not adware may try to get you to download adware during the installation process. For instance, when you download certain types of free software, you may be asked if you want to install a toolbar, security program, or other unrelated application to your computer as well. These additional programs are typically adware, and you should always decline them.
How can I get rid of adware on my computer?
If you suspect your computer is infected with adware, try installing a spyware scanner, such as Ad-Aware. These programs are specifically designed to alert you to spyware, but they will also notify you if they detect less-invasive adware on your system. You can also check your installed programs list for applications you don’t recognize. Just make sure to research programs before removing them, so you don’t wind up removing something your computer needs. You should also check your web browser’s add-on list, and remove anything you don’t use.
How can I keep adware off my mobile device?
Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise (like your employer tells you to), you should only download and install apps from a trusted app store, such as Google Play or Apple Store. When you download an app, it will display a list of access requirements. Read those carefully and make sure the app isn’t requesting access that it doesn’t need. If it is, search for a similar app that requires less access. If an installed app is bombarding you with advertisements, or you suspect it is collecting information about you, uninstall it. You don’t need that kind of garbage clogging up your phone!