Free comes with a price: adware can take over your device
Know what to expect from free apps and how to protect against annoying pop-ups, spyware, and malware that can sabotage your devices
Who doesn’t like free stuff? Getting software that you don’t have to pay for is great. Unless you do have to pay. In fact, some so-called free software can cost businesses and individuals not only cash, but also precious time and energy that users need to spend trying to remove such programs from their computers.
Recent news reports, for example, warned users that they should get rid of adware apps Mintcast 3.0.1 and Shell&Services, which not only display unwanted pop-up ads, but also switch off safe browsing in Firefox. Of course this opens up your computer to all kinds of online threats. Called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) in security lingo, such apps usually come attached to freeware packages and the user often has no idea that they have been installed on the computer.
From annoying pop-ups to dangerous spy programs
‘Adware’ is term that some use to refer to all advertising-supported software. For security experts, though, adware is a type of malware that once knowingly or unknowingly installed on a computer shows unwanted ads that hinder productivity and can be massively annoying and frustrating.
A particularly nasty form of adware is called spyware. It basically spies on the computer user’s activities and allows the software’s author or third parties to access private user data.
Anyone can fall victim to malicious adware
According to a 2013 report from Microsoft and the IDC (PDF) based on interviews with IT managers and chief information officers throughout the world, 22 percent of respondents said they installed software that caused their systems to be overrun by pop-up ads.
And some ridiculously cheap Android devices made by small Chinese manufacturers can come with preinstalled adware which is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to get rid of.
Probably the most infamous piece of malware that may be found on some low-cost tablets from little known companies is Cloudsota, a trojan that installs adware and other types of malware on the device and removes user-installed antivirus apps. Tablets that can display endless pop-up ads are on sale on online stores like Amazon, and dozens of thousands have already been purchased, according to ibtimes.co.uk.
Protect your devices with a powerful security solution
Getting the latest system updates and using a firewall certainly helps block nasty adware. Bitdefender, the industry-leading IT security provider, includes powerful anti-adware tools in its products. Its antivirus solution detects potentially unwanted applications. Bitdefender also offers free adware removal tools for PC and Mac.