Learn How Advertisers Use Adware To Secretly Invade Your Privacy
Adware based advertising has become one of the most widely used, yet most criticized, ways of promoting a product or service.
And even though adware is under heavy attack by Congress and US Law enforcement, adware ads continue to proliferate.
(If you haven't yet read our introduction to spyware and adware, check out this issue of Internet ScamBusters before you continue reading this article.)
Adware in its pure form
The original idea behind adware was actually beneficial for consumers. Believe it or not, at first, adware actually intended to rid you of unwanted ads instead of bombard you with them!
Its primary purpose was to determine what you liked or didn’t like, and through your browsing habits, find out what you wished to see -- and what you didn’t.
That way, advertisers didn’t waste their time or resources sending ads to people who were not going to consider them. They could focus their resources on people interested in the subject of the ads.
Adware permitted people to see products they really liked or could actually interest them. Irrelevant products would eventually become extinct.
But unfortunately, the technology that enabled advertisers to do all of this also had a huge potential for abuse. And that is how adware became infamous.
How truly harmful is adware?
There are several dangers involved with having adware installed on your computer. Some may be less harmful than others, but all are likely to cause you losses of some sort; be they system related, monetary or time issues.
Adware is responsible for lost productivity.
The most common problem with adware is the insane number of pop ups and junk mail it produces.
Adware providers have abused their original intentions, and have begun to make advertising on adware-infested computers so voluminous that people are spending more time sifting through the garbage than getting actual work done!
Lost productivity is, perhaps, adware’s most common pitfall.
Adware slows down a computer.
The technical downfalls of adware are many. Most adware leads to these problems:
(1) Adware overly consumes bandwidth, making your legitimate online activities take much longer than normal. The amount of information being sent back and forth from your computer to remote adware sites is so numerous that it decreases Internet speed dramatically -- especially if you use a dial up connection.
(2) Adware robs your hard drive of precious space. Adware programs are constantly downloading ads onto your hard drive in order to feed you advertising, even when you are offline. These files are usually hidden within system or program files to avoid detection and removal.
(3) Adware overworks your CPU. The amount of CPU usage on an adware infested computer is dramatically higher than on clean PCs. Adware programs are always active and overwork your system resources.
The social engineering aspects of adware
Most people are tricked into installing adware infested programs onto their computer. This happens through the use of giveaways, free games, free software, free utilities etc.
The most successful adware programs incorporate social engineering strategies to trick or psychologically compel people into installing their programs -- either directly or bundled within another program itself.
Anti adware initiatives: private, legislative and law enforcement efforts
There are several anti adware bills being decided on by Congress. A hotly debated bill is the SPY ACT (Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass).
The SPY ACT has generated both praise and criticism. The FCC for example, has agreed with opponents of the bill such as Yahoo and Microsoft, that laws already exist which enable law enforcement to adequately target malicious adware offenders without the need for new legislation.
Microsoft opposes the bill because it claims there will be an unnecessary burdens placed on legitimate software providers at the cost of a few criminals which are probably not under US jurisdiction anyway. Most nefarious adware creators and spammers usually operate in a far off country that won’t cooperate with US Government initiatives anyway.
The FCC has begun filing civil law suits against adware related companies in the US. This is causing many adware developers to change practices currently regarded as dishonest or fraudulent to avoid prosecution.
In summary, we highly recommend that you pay attention and not allow adware to be downloaded on your computer. We also recommend that you use spyware software removal programs to detect and remove adware. For more information, check out the other articles in the Internet ScamBusters Anti Spyware Resource Center.