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1. What is adware?

    Adware, or advertising-supported software, is software that generates ads that install themselves on a computer when a person downloads some other program form the internet (Baltzan&Phillips, 2009). According the Wikipedia website, some types of adware are also spyware and can be classified as privacy invasive software. Adware has been criticized by web users for sometimes including codes that track users' personal information and passes it on to the third parties without the user's authorization or knowledge (What is adware?).

2. What does adware do?

    Adware is originally used as legitimate revenue source for companies who offer their software to web users for free (webopedia). Web users who wish to download free software can get these programs from free providers; in exchange, these program providers will have their sponsoring advertisements show on the program users' computer screen when the downloaded program is in used. These sponsored advertisements usually run in a small section of the software interface or as pop-up ad on program users' computer desktop, and they will disappear once the web user has finished using the program (webopedia). By letting these sponsored advertisements share a small section of the computer screen, web users can enjoy using software for free. If they want to get rid of all the advertisements that come along with the downloaded program, all They need to do is to purchase the software, then  use the registration key to have all the sponsored ads disabled. The article on webopedia.com uses the example of one of the popular e-mail programs--Eudora to illustrate how adware is used: Eudora e-mail users can either run Eudora in the sponsored mode, in which an ad window will display in the program with up to three sponsored toolbar links, or they can purchase the software so that that will not be bothered by the ads.

    The original design of adware program solely acts as a tool of advertisement. However, some adware programs get aggressive and become annoying spyware which will track program users' personal information and provide these information to third parties without the users' permissions. This type of adware programs enters web users' computer when they are surfing the internet. They hide inside different downloadable programs, such as peer-to-peer share files. Sponsored advertisements will automatically show up once the user downloads and opens these infected files. Even worse, these adware programs will plant tracking cookies, key loggers, or perform intrusive hard drive scans (Ponder, n.d.), track user's personal information such as web surfing behaviors, pictures, or even sensitive information such as online password and credit card numbers, then passes the information to unauthorized parties.

3. How to detect and remove adware programs?

  According to JD Moy's article on how to detect and remove adware program, there are "symptoms" that can indicate a computer is at risk of adware. These symptoms include:

            - The computer is running slow or even crashes.
            - There are random pop-up ads keep on showing up on the computer screen    
            - The homepage changed without user's knowledge
            - The computer has been used for downloading music, games or other online programs or files

    There are many programs have been developed to help web users to detect and remove adware, and most of the antivirus software can perform this job as well. According to Wikipedia.org, programs like Ad-ware, Malwarebytes's Anti-Malware and Spybot-search & Destroy are more popular among users:

- Ad-Aware is an anti-spyware and anti-virus program developed by Lavasoft, which can detects and removes malware, spyware and adware on a computer. Besides three paid-for products, Lavasoft also provide free versions of Ad-Aware for web users to download.

- Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (MBAM) is a program that is designed especially for the detection and removal of malware, which includes adware. This program does not provide anti-virus service.

- Spybot-search & Destroy (S&D) is a spyware and adware removal program which is compatible with MS Windows 95 and later version of Windows. It is currently released as freeware.


Wikipedia - Adware, Peer-to-Peer, Ad-Aware, MBAM, S&D

ArticleSnatch - JD Moy

What IS - Adware

Webopedia - Difference Between Adware & Spyware

eHow - Ponder, J.