You may not know how to term it but we’ve all experienced the annoyance of adware on browsers most of the time we access the internet or after we download software. Adware denotes those insistent adverts that pop up on your screen or sneakily download and run on your computer. Thus, this explains the use of the term Adware as a short form of advertisement ware.
These pop-ups and downloads, however, don’t just occur in vain or for the fun of it. Instead, there is a lucrative and very rational motive behind it. And what’s worse is that Adware that bombards your computer occurs in an extremely legal manner.
Adware, like other forms of survey, is used to examine your activities to gauge your interests and patterns. This, in turn, will bombard your computer with more product advertisements that target or appeal to you. Along with its annoying streaks, Adware is surprising highly profitable and useful to its developers.
Unlike, malware developers, Adware developers earn thrice as much. And during this occurrence, the generation and propagation of adware cannot even be tracked or gauged to know the proportions released yearly.
How Do Adware Developer Monetize It?
Adware developers make profits by combining their programs with legitimate businesses and products. This practice is termed as a commercial PPI monetization scheme. According to researchers from NYU, the monetary scheme is so lucrative with a single company pulling in up to 400 million per year.
The Adware developers generate third party applications with unwanted software such as adware and browser hijacking programs which are combined legitimate applications. This exchange is done as trade with payment from the PPI business. Thus, when you install a package such as chrome, for example, it ultimately comes with the combined Adware.
A good example of such malware that comes with the bundled package is the Google Redirect Virus. We have all come across those fake warnings on our browsers – a flashing pop up warning, for example, warning you of the impending danger of fatal malware attack whilst advertising a powerful anti-virus protection option which normally turns out to be bogus. If clicked, the pop up takes you to more Adware which results in their swarming your computer.
Funny enough, our ignorant habits on the internet and our non-tech savvy vigilance allow easily allows for such programs to exist. We consent these unwanted programs to enter our computers. Have you ever come across a downloaded screensaver or something similar on your computer with a “terms and conditions” pop up.
This is a virtual consent form that allows the program to be installed on your computer. However, if you take the time to read the fine prints, you will find a section about the unwanted part of the program – the Adware.
What the consent form does is to allow the download of Adware legitimately without there being any illegal consequences. However, in a realistic world, this is you simply downloading and installing legitimate software and malware into your computer.
According to reports for NYU, the Pay Per Install (PPI) monetization scheme is a well-established and sophisticated business. PPI business often establishes and operates through networks of affiliates. Like insurance companies, PPI business has brokers who furnace deals that are combined with the popular legitimate applications such as Google Chrome.
These bundled programs are then put on offer in high traffic sites where they are most likely to be clicked on. The brokers are then paid off their “commission” just as insurance brokers – sometimes as high as USD$2 per install by the PPI businesses. This business sometimes even occurs without the knowledge of the legitimate program manufacturer – that their program is being bundled with unwanted software.
Adware Function Overview
When you click on the program, it installs and runs on your computer. During the run, the program conducts a thorough search and examination on your computer. Over the search, the program determines which Adware can run on that specific computer.
Additionally, it also goes further to investigate which antivirus and anti-malware protection the computer uses to determine how the Adware can navigate the protection! Imagine, the developers are so good, that they create Adware and scareware that can bypass antivirus and antimalware protection.
According to researchers, PPI affiliates create download and software packages that are so strikingly personalized that they ensure positive results by maximizing their chances of the payload being delivered. The operation is complemented by the fingerprinting that the program does to your personal computer. By conducting a thorough search on the computer and its malware protection program, PPI affiliates can create packages that closely relate to the user of the computer.
Furthermore, the sophistication of PPI business affiliates also allows them to bypass countermeasures taken by legitimate software owners such as Google to prevent this activity. Google has been known to take steps to prevent Adware activity by tracking the websites known to feature such software offers.
Google then updates its safe browsing protection on chrome browser to warn users when they stumble upon such pages. However, parallel to the efforts done by Google, PPI business affiliates also improve their tactics to navigate such user protection warnings and find ways to deliver their unwanted software.
PPI business affiliates still hold this power due to the consent form that is given to them during the installation of the bundled software. So how does one at least take measures to reduce the likelihood of such attacks? As the fine print on your insurance policy, always read, understand and be vigilant and smart about everything before you let them be installed on your computer.
And if it’s suspicious, the best way to go about it is not to download it. And for the non-tech savvy, it doesn’t hurt to research more about such emerging topics to understand more on how to keep yourself and your computer safe. You don’t need to know to code to know how to be vigilant and smart on the internet.